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Writing and running

July 27, 2008 |  8:00 am


In his review for us of Haruki Murakami's "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running," Peter Terzian writes:

Oates’ essay aside, the literature of running is as thin as a mesh singlet. Running pops up in fiction and poetry from time to time, from Homer to John Updike, but the sport doesn’t easily lend itself to the dramatic. The vagaries of weather, the joint pains and the repetition of putting one foot in front of the other can’t compete with the traded blows of the boxing ring or a home run.

Just a note: Last year, Running magazine hailed the return of John L. Parker with "Again to Carthage," a sequel of sorts to his 1970s cult classic "Once a Runner." It is considered a classic among runners. What other literature is there? What comes to mind is Alan Sillitoe's story “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner,” which is easy to recall because of the title. What else? There's Paul Maurer's "The Gift," also Benjamin Cheever's "Strides." But, as Terzian writes, much of the fiction, especially, is well below the mainstream radar, making it difficult to find.

Another interesting point that Terzian emphasizes: Writing and running are apt parallels. Despite the clubs that gather runners or writers together, despite the illusion of competition that a massive marathon suggests (see above) or a longlist for a book prize, both are lone activities. That is their essence. For that matter, the same is true of reading. We're all runners.

Nick Owchar

Photo credit: Grandma's Marathon, Clint Austin/AP