These thoughts were worst around half way, when it would have been easy to abandon as the course is a squashed figure of eight, and the end seemed a long way away. But as one foot followed another the distance gradually reduced and I knew I could finish and by doing so find some consolation: prove to myself that I could at least carry-on. Important because I have always believed that all the benefits of running flow from the simple act of keeping going. Consistency is everything.
So I finished and rested and as the feeling of physical weakness receded my spirits started to lift. On Saturday I read this poem in the Guardian and for some strange reason they lifted even more. I know that the metaphor of the marathon is one of the most common in the language (and applied to almost everything) but as I read it here it became inverted: I was the marathon man and the metaphor was the ageing poet. When I thought of 'the first flower in the world' or the 'original bird' I thought not of verse but of the excitement of those early days of running when everything seemed fresh and clear.
My continuing project is to try to maintain that sense of clarity. And this poem brought me back to my purpose. It also reminded me that the only way to see the flower and hear the bird is to be outside, with your senses opened up.
Oh and I also like the idea of being a rowdy at deaths door for whom the last moment is not too late
Some Older American Poets
Borders Bookstore, White Plains, NY
Tired of the accomplished young men
and the accomplished young women,
their neat cerebral arcs and sphinctral circles,
their impeccable chic, their sudden precocious surge,
their claims to be named front-runner,
I have turned to the ageing poets – the marathon men,
the marathon women – the ones who breasted the tape
and simply ran on, establishing their own distance.
Home after another funeral they walk by the pond
with a sense of trees thinning and cold in the air,
yet thrill to the dog's passionate slapstick,
his candid arse-up in the debris of last year's storms.
You sprightly mortals, you rowdies at death's door,
for whom the last moment is not too late to begin!
I can't get enough of you, bright-eyed and poetry mad
in the fields next to the cemetery, where you drop to your knees
before the first flower in the world, where you lift your heads
to that bare cry among brambles, the original bird.
Frank Ormsby from Fireflies.
Published in the Guardian 17th October