...There is no all-pervading Proustian madeleine in Lelyveld's workaday prose. Yet salted through this short work is the smarting of an unpretentious lamentation: ''If this were a novel,'' ''If I were using these events in a novel,'' and so on. Flickeringly, the writer appears to see what is missing; and what is missing is the intuitive, the metaphoric, the uncertain, the introspective with its untethered vagaries: in brief, the not-nailed-down. Consequently Lelyveld's memory loop becomes a memory hole, through which everything that is not factually retrievable escapes.
It must be true that the best writing conveys a sense of the mystery of its subject. The question is: is there anybody writing about running who is able to convey its mystery - why it is so compulsive? why it gives you a sense of being? why it has a structure and a sense of purpose? Most of what I read is very functional - very nailed-down. This is fine because we need to know the science of what we should be doing, what has the best effect and how we should organise ourselves. However it gives no sense of why you should be running and the way it can make you feel connected. I need that as well.
There are some examples: Long distance information by Julie Welch is wonderful book. It intertwines a memoir with running. It is both about taking up exercise late in life and the way it enabled her to come to terms with the ghosts of her childhood and her career. It does not directly address running but running is the catalyst and by showing this she says more than any number of how-to guides.
The other writer I come back to is George Sheehan. On why he runs he says:.
Through running I have learned what I can be and do. My body is now sensitive to the slightest change. It is particularly aware of any decline or decay. I can feel this lessening of the "me" that I have come to think of myself,,,Running has made this new me. Taken the raw material and honed it and delivered it back ready to do the work of a human being. I run so I do not lose the me I was yesterday and the me I might become tomorrow.
In this essay he recounts an encounter with a shingler. One of them is doing useful work, making something, the other is running but they are both 'doing good'. I love this because it leaves hanging in the air the idea that although your running does nothing to make the world a better place, it is still doing good.