a cultural gymnasium for the curious runner
As an enthusiastic but limited runner taking part in my first marathon, a hot and hilly one along the original route from Marathon to Athens, I passed the burial mound of 192 Athenians who had fallen almost exactly 2,500 years before at the Battle of Marathon. It made me wonder what role my beloved running had played in history or in the arts.
By the time I reached the statue of Pheidippides in Rafina, I had only managed to recall a few running lyrics, astronauts running on the moon and a story from Irish myth. As I entered the Panathenaic stadium in ecstatic delirium, I had added just a snippet of Aesop, a Nike ad and an excerpt from 'Zulu'.
On my return home, I looked for books about running in culture, to no avail. I found little in running magazines beyond how to run well, even though I had learned from them that the experience of running is often as much in the head as in the feet, as much in the imagination as in the body.
And so, as I chanced upon any reference to running, however tenuous or metaphorical, I would scribble notes into my red Silvine exercise book, which would grow over the years into a miscellany of artistic, philosophical or utterly incidental allusions to running. Internet search engines began to throw up a few pertinent books and articles, and I would discover running in the most unlikely of places, such as in opera or mathematics. I devoured every page.
These gave both inspiration to my running and the hope that there were indeed other runners out there for whom a PB or losing weight wasn't the be-all and end-all. Given that my usual running friends weren't really interested in these arty-farty tales anyway, I decided to share my scrapbook musings here at The Running Muse, a blog for....well, tramps like us.
Our motto is 'festina lente', 'hurry slowly', so come for a run along the road less travelled......or, as the Bard put it, 'Jog on, jog on.....'
Yep, he really did.
The Running Muse is a weekly blog about running in culture. It is aimed at runners, but it also hopes eventually to inspire new works with a running theme, including its own commissions, and to develop a forum for discussion of the broader aspects of running.
Running magazines and websites concentrate overwhelmingly on how to run well - on the training, nutrition, sportswear and psychology - and they do it very well, but running also has its own art, history and philosophy. These can bring enjoyable insights, context and meaning to the running imagination, and this feeds into the running experience.
The working title was 'The Running Poets Society', and although it was a labour of love, it had grand plans. The website content was planned around the organisation of runs along routes that had some kind of cultural resonance, such as those where Coleridge had walked in the Quantock Hills or where Renoir had painted on the banks of the Seine, followed by a talk about the artist over a hearty lunch.
It may still be that the Running Muse's planned discussion forum throws up small informal groups who could get together to do that, but the practical aspects of an organised run proved formidable and costly, especially regarding the 'duty of care' Health and Safety responsibilities.
The feedback about this working title, which had been inspired by the film, 'The Dead Poets Society', but had used 'poet' in its broadest sense (from the Ancient Greek 'poiein', to make or create), suggested that it might give the impression that it is a kind of club for....well, poets who ran.
'The Running Muse' was chosen instead, partly because it was hoped that the content would inspire both runners and artists, but mostly because it is really just my own 'musings' on the running stories I have come across.