I run because life is short and there are no moral imperatives save only these: to the weak you owe solidarity, to yourself you owe change. My father in his youth raged against the “bowler hat”, by which he meant the prospect of a life predictable from day to day, a life structured always around the same few relationships, a life overwhelmed by the routine of work. He saw that possibility and he rebelled equivocally against it. I share with him that restlessness. A life of movement, he grasped, and I agree with him, is a life fulfilled. A sedentary life is a life voluntarily diminished.
Running has taken me to places that I would not otherwise have seen, it has made the familiar wholly exciting and new. It has taught me a discipline in myself that was all the more powerful because it was embedded in my chest, arms and legs. It has taken me away from the person that I might otherwise have been.
I will be old; I do not doubt that I will be alone. And in that moment, when I look back at my life, I demand the right to reminisce fondly and regret nothing.
[from my book Lives; Running]
Thanks to the eagle-eyed reader who has spotted this. In the book I write:
“As a boy, Coe was sent away for a weekend to train with David Hemery, the Olympic gold medallist in the 110 metres hurdles. Much of the talk was given over to the joys of athletics and the potential for each runner to realise his or her ambitions. Then Hemery paused. With emphasis, he said, ‘You’re all going to get injuries, and the true worth of an athlete will always come to the fore when he is injured.’”
Hemery, of course, won gold in the 1968 Olympics at the 400m hurdles…
A concerned reader of the book asks: “I read the entries about your sons and their injuries. I spent my childhood falling down stairs and twisting my ankles . I gave various inherited weaknesses and also I couldn’t see straight. So I felt much empathy with them. In your book your son mentions ‘when I was born in a cafe ‘. Is this a misprint or for real?”
Answer: it is not a misprint; the boy (who was 2 when he said it) genuinely decided that he had been born in a cafe. The boy was wrong.
When I run I escape the commodification of life. I dislike the way our social existence is organised, so that merely to live requires you to constantly purchase and consume. Anyone who has had to wait for a few hours in an unfamiliar town will know the frustration of shuffling from one café to another, all the time purchasing little more than a roof over your head for a few minutes at a time.
Sport is a particular culprit. To join a gym, you have to pay a subscription. To watch football, regularly, you should really have a season ticket with your favourite team, or a subscription to satellite television (either will set you back several hundred pounds), or at the barest minimum a much-favoured local and a team playing regularly enough in the right competitions (but few do). Bit by bit, free sport is being removed from television and radio. I am fed up with sports that I watch as a spectator but in which I am not allowed to participate.
To run, all you need is a pair of running shoes (and it is years since I last bought a new pair). The activity itself comes satisfyingly free.
[from my book Lives; Running]
This shows the first copies of Lives; Running, hot off the printing press and now available to purchase. The photo was taken on my desk in chambers; you’ll have spotted, I’m sure, the pink tape in the background.
Bookmarks have kindly agreed to sell it at the Marxism festival. For any readers of this blog who would like to find me there I’ll be at Alan Kenny’s Olympics talk on the Friday, and then speaking myself on Saturday morning and then around the rest of Saturday and bits of Sunday. Hope to catch up with some of you there!
When I run, I feel my legs unstiffen and stretch. I run to luxuriate in the co-ordination of my legs and chest. Like a person meditating, I run to let my head empty of all pressing thoughts. I run for the sudden, temporary exhilaration as I let my knees pick up and my body moves faster, to its goal.
When I was a schoolboy and I ran, I felt that my body was free with the effortlessness of a perpetual-motion machine. Had someone asked me to run from one end of the country to the other, or had I been asked to run an ultra-marathon through a vast, empty desert, neither task would not have seemed, I would have only wondered how long it would take me. I knew with absolute certainty that I could run any conceivable distance simply by allowing my pace to slacken and my body to keep going.
Even today, reminded as I am when I run of the weakness in my joints and tendons, the exercise makes my whole body buzz in joy. The effort of work lightens, my skin feels loose. I am taken back to other times and I become young once more.
[from my book Lives; Running]
[Lives; Running can be ordered from Bookmarks bookshop]
I received a message from my publishers Zero Books on Monday indicating that the hard copies of Lives; Running are now in their warehouse. As I’ve indicated before, the book can also be pre-ordered, either from Bookmarks bookshop (which actively promotes radical books) or from Amazon (which doesn’t). This is the stage then when I’m hoping to interest friendly publications in a review. Assuming all works out, I’m hoping it will be reviewed in publications like Morning Star, Red Pepper, Socialist Review, Tribune, etc etc, as well as in the running press. (I’m not suggesting that I’ve lined these up in advance, only that they are the sorts of publications who might be interested).
If you’d like to write for publications like those, or if you have any links already to these or any other magazines or websites who might be interested, please drop me a line at davidkrenton[at]gmail.com. I should be able to get reviewers an electronic version this week, and hard copies pretty soon.
Here again is a post I’ve published before explaining why I wrote the book.