“I don’t think people read poetry because they’re interested in the poet. I think they’re read poetry because they’re interested in themselves.” – Billy Collins
I remember reading Running & Being on the beach about fifteen years ago and the light bulb going off. Running guru, Dr. George Sheehan, was the first author I had ever read who described the feeling I experienced during every long run I had taken my entire life. He put it perfectly when he wrote, “Running is a runner’s work of art.”
Runners who savor an endurance run, say an hour or two in the countryside, perspiration dripping from every pore of their body, mind clear and free, know that the guru was right. And his sentiments are reaffirmed with each successive run. There is no lack of artists who have made similar observations.
Take Joyce Carol Oates, author of over forty novels, who wrote, “If there’s any activity happier, more exhilarating, more nourishing to the imagination, I can’t think of what it might be. In running the mind flees with the body, the mysterious efflorescence of language seems to pulse in the brain, in rhythm with our feet and the swinging of our arms.”
Poet Sharon Olds describes poetry as coming from the lungs, and says, “Poetry is so physical, the music of it and the movement of thought.” She said that over the years, she has noticed that ideas for poems will come to her when she’s dancing or running, and that these ideas seem to come to mind with the act of breathing deeply, with the intake of oxygen. She said, “Suddenly you’re remembering something that you haven’t thought of for years.” Her advice to young poets is this: “Take your vitamins. Exercise. Just work to love yourself as much as you can — not more than the people around you but not so much less.”
I’m not as eloquent as the literary greats, but I know that running and writing are so intertwined in my life that I’d be at a loss for words if someone stole my running shoes.