I had come across many running quotes over the years, but none have stuck with me more than running guru George Sheehan’s, “Running is a runner’s work of art.” It describes the sensation a distance runner feels in the middle of a two-hour run with perspiration flowing from every pore in their body, the rhythmic pant of their breath in and out of the lungs, endorphins streaming from their brain and every cell in perfect harmony. Distance running is considered a sport—I would make a case that it is a performing art.
Recently, I’ve been crossing paths with traditional art that, to me, captures the spirit of the runner. It all began with murals I would pass on morning runs through the streets of Philadelphia, and then spilled over into other mediums—a collage, photographs, paintings and then yes, other performing arts. Suddenly it dawned on me that it would be cool to run a series on the “Art of Running,” only this series wouldn’t be about intervals and splits.
Since this is a running blog, I thought it would be appropriate to begin the series from the ground up—with artistic sneakers. I discovered a program that occurred in Philadelphia a few years ago where students went the extra mile and created custom sneakers. The Mural Arts’ Big Picture project was inspired by local students’ interpretation of Mahatma Gandhi’s words, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” The students designed and painted sneakers infused with vibrant expressions of their personalities.
In December of 2009, the students wore their painted sneakers on a walk-a-thon around City Hall to deliver their message about the importance of art in the lives of young people. Some people wear their heart on their sleeves—these students wore their art on their feet. You can read about the project and view the entire collection of sneakers, seventy-three images by photographer Christopher Gato, by clicking here.
The “Art of Running” series will appear periodically between the usual running entries. If you have suggestions or would like to submit running-themed art for the series, either post a comment or contact me by email.