The Running Muse

       a cultural gymnasium for the curious runner

flame toes 2.3

By The Running Muse, Apr 17 2015 07:23AM

Runners these days come in all shapes and sizes, living a range of lifestyles and roles, but I think most people were still surprised to see tubby transvestite comedian Eddie Izzard running all those consecutive marathons, or to read that bad boy uber-rapper Eminem (below) enjoyed running over 16 miles a day (2 x '8 Mile', I like to think).

I myself confess to a childish thrill on learning that avant-garde novelist James Joyce won hurdling trophies, that his fellow Irishman, Abraham ('Bram') Stoker, author of 'Dracula', was an Athlete of the Year in Dublin, or that an overweight man with mental health issues won every Olympic event one year at the ancient games (until I discovered that he was also the most powerful man in the world at the time, the notoriously capricious Roman emperor, Nero).

But there are some recent historical and artistic figures I just couldn't visualise running at all, even when told that they did. As mentioned a few posts ago, Adolf Hitler is one of those, even though it was his job at one time (as a despatch runner). Below are five others, three of whom had reputations as hard drinkers, while the other two have been referred to as either terrorist leaders or freedom fighters, depending of course on who you ask and your own point of view.

All are men, for some reason. Discuss.


In 1985 Israeli F-15's bombed the headquarters of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation in Tunis, killing 73 people, but their target, the portly PLO leader, Yasser Arafat, escaped death because he'd left the compound to go out jogging that morning.

He lived to see one of his personal security guards, Majid abu Maraheel, who himself had been shot in the arm by Israeli border guards in 1991 while out on a training run, compete in the 10,000 metres at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta as part of the first Palestinian team to compete in the Olympics. He came last in his heat in 34 mins 40.5 seconds, but received a rapturous standing ovation for the 74 seconds he was alone out on the track on his final lap.

In this 2004 photograph, Arafat is lighting a flame outside his Ramallah office as a symbol of his commitment to a ceasefire truce during the Athens Olympics of that year, echoing the ancient Greeks' cessation of hostilities to enable athletes to travel and participate in the games, which in those days were just one part of a large religious festival.


When the 39-year-old Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, a legendary drinker and smoker, died in New York in 1953, he had a newspaper cutting in his wallet which included this photograph of his triumph, aged 13, in the 1928 Swansea Schools one-mile race.

The publication of his first collection of poems was itself the result of a newspaper contest. His '18 Poems' included the arrestingly titled 'When, Like a Running Grave', a tortuous musing on the way 'time tracks you a cinder death'. (The word 'cinder' here, besides conjuring up an image of funerary ashes, also recalls the cinder running tracks of his time).

His centenary in 2014 saw the creation in Swansea of the Dylan Thomas Mile in his honour. They of course should have called it the Llareggub Mile after the name of the fictional Welsh village where his most famous work, Under Milk Wood, is set. (Llareggub is a name best understood backwards.)


Mao Tse-tung, the revolutionary communist founder of the People's Republic of China, was a great advocate of running, and he particularly recommended his own regimen of exercising in the nude twice a day, according to his appropriately named biographers, Pantsov and Levine (mercifully, no photograph exists of this, so the fully clothed action pic below will have to do).

'Long distance running is particularly good training for perseverance', he wrote in his 1917 'A Study of Physical Education', a statement of the obvious, perhaps, but one he thought needed saying. One presumes that he practised what he preached, but when he later became a communist, he little knew how that maxim was to be tested to the limit.

'A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step' is another quote often attributed to him, but this is actually from the Tao Te Ching, a classical Chinese wisdom text, and Mao actually said 'a thousand li' (as written in the Tao), not miles - one 'li' was a traditional Chinese distance now set as 500 metres, but as late as the 1940's, it had apparently varied depending on the effort required, so that a trip up a mountain was fewer li than the journey down!

His exhortations to persevere would come to the fore as he led the 1934 Long March, an 8,000-mile survival trek by 100,000 communists over treacherous rivers and mountainous terrain, all the while under constant attack by Chiang Kai Shek's nationalist forces (only 30,000 survived it).

His band's survival condemned millions more to die during Mao's own subsequent 'reign of terror', in which he would use the language of running to denounce whole classes of people as political enemies, calling them imperialist or capitalist running dogs, for instance, and regaling even moderates with that Confucius saying about the man who runs in the middle of the road getting run over by chariots going both ways ('stay safe - be an extremist' seems to be Mao's unorthodox take on the ancient philosopher's wisdom).

4. Norman Mailer

In 'The Fight', Norman Mailer's riveting account of Muhammed Ali's legendary 1975 'Rumble in the Jungle' world heavyweight boxing title fight with George Foreman in Zaire, the hard-drinking writer relates how, at 51, he went out on a 3 a.m. 5k training run with Ali a few days before the bout.

'That running takes more out of me than anything I ever felt in the ring', Ali himself had said, and, sure enough, after a couple of miles, Mailer couldn't keep up and found himself alone in a forest. Emerging on to a deserted road in pitch dark, he suddenly heard a nearby lion that roared 'like thunder, and it opened an unfolding wave of wrath across the sky and through the fields'.

He couldn't see a thing except for the lights of Ali's compound in the distance. Expecting the lion to leap on him at any moment, his life flashed before him, and he was already imagining both the headlines and his obituary. Pumped full of adrenaline, however, he chose flight over fight, picked up the pace and eventually arrived back safely, at which point it was Ali's turn to roar when he heard Norm's story, pointing out to him that he had just run past the local zoo.


'I train every night on stage', said Joe Strummer, lead singer of punk rock legends, the Clash, after completing one of his three city marathons in the 1980's. He had been his school cross-country champion, and it seems he relied solely on that base fitness and all that relentless thrashing around at gigs to get around the 26.2 miles.

He certainly wasn't a fan of putting in the training miles, judging by the account he gave to an American interviewer of his build-up to race day: 'Drink 10 pints the night before the race and don't run a single step at least four weeks before the race. It works for me.' A variety of cigarettes and distinctly non-performance-enhancing drugs also featured.

He entered his first London marathon on a whim at the last minute, running resplendent in a Clash 'Take the 5th' US tour T-shirt with its skull-and-crossbones motif depicting Uncle Sam. His girfriend, Gaby Salter, failed to complete the race, but both finished the Paris Marathon the next year.

He heard London calling again for his final run in 1983, when he was part of a Sun newspaper team running in aid of Leukaemia Research. Whether his time would have been faster or slower than his 4hrs 13mins by sticking to the Runner's World 16-week marathon training plan, only the running muses, well, some of the other ones would know.

By The Running Muse, Apr 13 2015 08:44PM

'All I know is you've got to run, running without knowing why, through fields and woods. And the winning post's no end....'

So says the narrator at the beginning of the 'The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner', the 1962 film based on Alan Sillitoe's short story about Smith, a resentful young inmate of a bleak borstal prison in the class-ridden England of the late 1950's. Through running, he finds a way to flip two fingers at the establishment values being foisted upon him.

This is a tale of running as autonomy, as wresting back control (successfully, it would seem, as our narrator is Smith himself), but this is no running 'Rocky'. When he is given the opportunity to train for a prestigious cross-country race against the local public school, Smith's solo runs through the surrounding countryside give him the space and clarity to reflect on the wretched circumstances of his life and the social mores of the time - but his defiantly 'barmy runner-brain' still chooses rebellion over rehabilitation.

At one point he acknowledges the way running gives him time to collect his disparate thoughts: 'to say that last sentence has needed a few hundred miles of long-distance running' - which may be why one reviewer suggested that Smith's account was 'not so much written about running, but by running'.

The film stars Tom Courtenay in his first film role as Smith, and Michael Redgrave as the reformatory governor who, as a former runner himself, sees athletics as part of the rehabilitation regime for his teenage delinquents. Smith is his team's best chance to win the race, thereby enhancing the governor's own reputation.

For Smith, however, running means self-esteem, not esteem for the institution, and he relishes the freedom to be himself, not just a 'racehorse getting credit for his owner', a commodity. He actually wants this kind of loneliness, 'because in the end, you're on your own, like a long-distance spectators, you have to deal with life on your own'.

Our working class anti-hero trusts no-one and has always resisted attempts by any of his supposed 'betters' to tell him his 'proper' place (as John Lennon put it, 'as soon as you're born, they make you feel small'). He delights especially in subverting the governor's self-serving expectations of him, for which his only weapons are his natural talent as a runner and his cocky repartee:

Governor: 'What's your name?'

Smith (sullenly): 'Smith.'

Governor's assistant: 'Say "Sir" when you address the governor!'

Smith: 'Sir Smith.'

I can just hear Lennon saying that.....just as I can imagine Smith onstage telling the royal family to 'rattle your jewellery' in time to the next song, as Lennon did a few months after this film was released, months which saw the ushering in of a much less deferent era.

Here's the scene when Smith is first given the freedom to run outside the prison wire - he exults in his aloneness as he runs free through the landscape to the exuberant sound of a jazz trumpet (jazz was first heard as incidental music in a film score just a few years before in 'A Streetcar Named Desire'):

Not the most efficient running form, was it? Decent cricket bowling action, though.....

We are in 'angry young men' country here, a catch-all label used to describe writers such as Sillitoe and John Osborne who were disillusioned with the orthodox values of the 1950's and the hidebound institutions hopelessly out of sync with the modern world. These 'rebels with a cause' brought a fresh, iconoclastic immediacy to their depiction of the current social alienation and damage within real lives, mostly working class ones.

British cinema would follow suit (inspired also by the French 'New Wave' with its 'vérité'), and the two strands would come together in the producers of this film, Woodfall Films, formed by director Tony Richardson and playwright John Osborne (of 'Look Back in Anger' fame).

(Spoiler alert!) At the end of the film, Smith is winning easily, savouring the countryside around him in the knowledge that the defiant gesture he is about to make will mean the end of his freedom for a while. He stops with a smile and a sneer just before the finish line, thus allowing himself to be overtaken and to feel glad that 'I'd got them beat at last'. It's back to the reformatory for him, a them-and-us world that needs revolution, not reform, according to Smith: 'I'd put 'em all up against a wall and let 'em have it', he says of all figures of authority.

You'd think he would have enjoyed beating the public school toffs in a race rather more than thumbing his nose at the governor (just as my childhood comic hero, Alf Tupper, 'The Tough of the Track', used to hunt down those posh AAA's types, just to 'show 'em').....but the 17-year-old Smith is no collective class warrior, more of a reactionary, isolated bundle of resentments.

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner has been performed on stage, and text from the book was used decades later as the cover of anarcho-punk band Chumbawumba's 'Just Look at Me Now (Borstal Boy Mix)' single. Their lead guitarist and vocalist, Boff Whalley, is a serious fell runner and has recounted his experiences in his excellent book, Run Wild, while his band's rare vinyl album, '101 Songs About Sport', is a collection of short, raw and witty musical thrashes ('tuneful' would be overstating it), each expressing solidarity with sporting rebels, underdogs and those who stand up, with one of those fingers on each hand up, to corporate influences. The stories in these songs, which we will be returning to in a later blog, are priceless. Smith would certainly approve.

Quite what he'd say to one of the biggest of those corporate influences, Steve Wozniak, I don't know - the founder of Apple credits his independent thinking to his schoolboy reading of this story - but I'm going to leave you on a deafening high with a great montage from the film, accompanied by perhaps the book's most unlikely fans, the heavy metal rock group, Iron Maiden, with their lung-bursting song of the same name:

By The Running Muse, Mar 21 2015 01:32PM

To celebrate today's launch, The Running Muse is excited to present the world premiere of singer-songwriter Laura Sheeran's 'Run', the first of our annual commissions of original works of art with a running theme. The very word 'music' comes from the Greek muses who inspired literature, science, dance and music, and The Running Muse is the latest addition to that pantheon!

We had asked Laura more in hope than expectation whether she would be interested in responding musically to any aspect of the running experience, and she came back to us with this beautiful running track, recorded with three of the most talented performers in Ireland. She threw a bit of behind-the-scenes chat in for good measure, and even helped design our logo for us.

This work is nothing like those running tracks you may be used to listening to while out jogging, the main goal of which seems to be to mimic the rhythms of a runner's footfall or to motivate you lyrically. This is music about running, but not necessarily music for running to. It's very different to the pounding soundtrack of Run Lola Run, for instance, although both works could be classed as electronica (see Film page).

Conversely, the more measured electronic rhythms of the film, Chariots of Fire, accompany slow-motion scenes of group running.....and now 'Run' seems to move even further away from the need to suggest the cadences of footfall, summoning up instead the rhythms of breathing, heartbeat and blood flow, as different parts of the body accommodate to the demands being placed on them.

From the beginning, this particular listener also hears the wind mingling with his own breathing from the start, as he laces up his shoes and contemplates a run through the hills. For some, there is a monastic aspect to running, a runner alone in nature but not lonely, an on-your-own stillness moving through the world, but Laura zooms even further out with her lyric here: 'Run free through spacetime....'. As the body warms up and adjusts its own tempo and harmonies, so does she, and an inner rhythm emerges at the heart of all those moving limbs.

Her lyric also links to a fascinating ancient running conundrum, Zeno's Paradox, which continues to shed light on our understanding of reality, no less (see Philosophy and Language page).

Anyway, see how you respond to it, maybe close your eyes and imagine yourself at the beginning of a run through a particular landscape.........

And here's a video clip of Laura herself, chatting a little about the piece....her experience of running is limited to running to and from work as a teenager, but she has nevertheless created a wonderful running soundscape here.

Laura Sheeran is an Irish musician, a singer and songwriter who will be releasing her new multimedia album, 'Spellbook', in 2015 on the Flaming June record label. She describes her music as 'gothic dream pop', and also performs as Glitterface in 'alien synth-pop act' Nanu Nanu, along with Marc Aubele.

Their album, 'Neptune', is also released this year, so look out for them on this summer's festival circuit, and their Live at Unit 1 Studios video series highlights some of the best independent music coming out of Ireland......and maybe you've heard of Laura's famous cousin, Jenny Pasquill, who ran 20 marathons in 20 days in 2011, then an unofficial women's world record.

' Run' was written and arranged by Laura Sheeran

Vocals: Laura Sheeran, Linda Buckley

Cello: Kate Ellis

5-string violin, acoustic viola: Cora Venus Lunny

Processed strings: Marc Aubele

Maschine MK2 programming: Laura Sheeran

Mixed and mastered by Marc Aubele in at Unit 1 Studios, Dublin

© Laura Sheeran 2015

Cora Venus Lunny showreel

By The Running Muse, Jan 26 2015 06:35PM

"I am in Hell!", the infamous rebel yell of Fletcher Christian on H.M.S. Bounty, articulates a feeling only too familiar to long-distance runners as the body mutinies against the demands being placed on it. Each runner's brain has to manage the howling protests of the body it governs, and marathons are certainly run as much in the head as on the feet. Hell must be endured, its demons conquered.

If you're going through hell, they say, keep going and come out the other side, but what if you're going through Hell? The running conditions there would surely make the oppressive heat of the Marathon Des Sables seem like a balmy spring day, but, strange to relate, running in the lower chamber of the afterlife has a small but rich literary heritage, not only in the horror genre, but in at least two of the greatest works of the Western canon. Perhaps tellingly, there are no chronicles of any such races being held in Heaven, Paradise or any other pain-free realm.

'Hell' is the English word used to translate the Biblical names for the abode of the dead ('Hades' in New Testament Greek, 'Sheol' in Hebrew), but the idea of Hell as a pit of suffering, despair and punishment has more in common with Tartarus, the part of Hades reserved for the wicked in Greek mythology. These original 'nether regions' would go on to suffer a terrible linguistic fate - they became a euphemism for the groin area, chapsticked or otherwise.

The abstract concept of hell invoked by runners to describe their agony refers to this place of eternal torment, so it is no surprise that many of today's most gruelling obstacle races - typically run through freezing rivers, hills of mud and walls of fire - have names such as Hellrunner, Run Through Hell and the delightfully oxymoronic Santa's Hell Run. Well, here's the daddy of them all........

The medieval Florentine poet Dante witnesses plenty of Hellrunning on his spiritual journey to the very heart of darkness. In his 'Inferno' (the Italian for 'Hell'), this quest is chronicled as a kind of guided therapy for his midlife crisis, but as he arrives in Hell's foyer for his first session, he is greeted by the ominous entrance sign 'Abandon hope all ye who enter here' (above), beyond which he sees the fate of the Uncommitted, the neutral souls who sat on the moral fence doing nothing in their life, either for good or for evil.

Their rather harsh punishment is to run naked for all eternity in the hottest part of Hell in pursuit of a meaningless banner which never stands still. Like them, it stands for nothing. These were life's opportunists, but they have only earned themselves the constant attention of stinging wasps giving them a literal prick to the conscience (and presumably motivation to keep on running towards their perpetually retreating finish line).

When Dante later comes across an old teacher of his in a desert of fire reserved for the 'sodomites of the Inner Ring' of Upper Hell, he accords him great respect, writing that even here his mentor

'was like one of those who run for the green cloth at Verona,

and he seemed not the loser among them,

but the winner.'

This is a reference to an annual Lenten footrace, the Palio di Verona, the prize for which was a green banner, 'il drappo verde'. It is still run as a 10k race today, although the participants are no longer naked - and the men's winner receives a cock as his reward.

Speaking of which, those of you caught short during marathons will be surprised to learn from Dante that many of the cubicles of Upper Hell are reserved for the 'incontinent' (they're not toilets, though, since Hell is 'damnation without relief', according to Rowan Atkinson). Now you might think that making the incontinent wander forever on burning sands is a bit over the top as retribution for a weak bladder, but the word refers more generally here to sins of uncontrolled passion and excess, such as lust, wrath, gluttony and greed - and it is the Flatterers who end up in a river of faeces, in their own bullshit, perhaps.

Other running sinners include extravagant spendthrifts who are chased and savaged by vicious dogs through the Wood of the Suicides (below), thieves being pursued by snapping serpents, and pimps and seducers, who must constantly flee from horned demons goading them with whips.

One of the winged demons, however, is more at home here and runs through his workplace like some kind of fell-runner

'with nimble feet so swift up every crag,

his fierce, dark face split by an evil grin.'

The fallen angels of John Milton's Paradise Lost are altogether more playful in their running. As they wait for The Lord of the Flies to return to Pandemonium (the capital of Hell) from the Garden of Eden, they decide to pass their leisure time competing with each other and 'in swift race contend, as at th'Olympian games'.

They even came to compete in an away fixture in the rather less cheery but much more recent account of Hellrunning in Clive Barker's thrilling short story, 'Hell's Event' (also a graphic novel). It tells how 'Hell came up to the streets and squares of London....icy from the depths of the ninth circle' to threaten the future of humanity - by entering a team in the London Marathon, no less. (Barker's reference to ice quotes Dante, whose Satan is immobile in a lake of ice in the very centre of Hell, which rather subverts the meaning of the phrase 'when Hell freezes over'.)

In this darkest of running fables, the agents of Hell see democracy as just a new cult ripe for takeover, for 'without the human urge to compete....Pandemonium may well have fallen for want of citizens'. They unleash some seriously Manichaean action during the race when the marathon runners, like Dante's thieves, find themselves being pursued by hideous, hissing creatures, albeit disguised at the start line.

The only rule for the good guys is 'don't look back', the age-old maxim from running coaches, capricious gods and Bob Dylan that has often been ignored, notably by Lot, Orpheus and Bob Dylan, but even they did not suffer the extreme consequences meted out here. At least we runners are free to face our mid-race demons without sanction......that's democracy for you.

In terms of runners' hell and an understanding of the solitary runner's mind, perhaps the best horror story is David Clayton Carrad's 'Competition', a tense, atmospheric mystery set in a remote part of coastal South Carolina. A pre-dawn jogger is musing philosophically on the pitfalls of competitive running, as opposed to running for its own sake, when he sees a car's headlights ahead, engine idling. The ensuing nightmare has the protracted sense of menace of Steven Spielberg's 'Duel', with the denouement being played out along a narrow causeway exactly 10,001 metres the dark, of course. Hell is indeed murky.

Many of the above trials will be familiar to modern runners - stinging wasps, vicious dogs, burning sands and impatient cars on a country road - but hell for them is mostly experienced between the ears, the runners' underworld..........and even 'swift-footed Achilles' was reduced to 'the ghost of a great runner' in the underworld, according to Homer. Some of those entering races today may be thieves, be seducers or be incontinent, but it is only the Uncommitted in training who will receive certain punishment on race day, for they will truly feel in Hell.

'Devils and Monsters: Runners in Literature to 1600', from Running in Literature (2003) by Roger Robinson, Breakaway Books

'Hell's Event' (1985), short story by Clive Barker in Books of Blood, volumes 1-3, Sphere Books

Illustration from is from the graphic novel version, Tapping the Vein: Book 4 (1990, Titan Books), drawings by Steven E. Johnson, Alan Okamoto and Jim Pearson

'The Wood of the Suicides', illustration for The Divine Comedy by Gustave Dore, wood engraving print

'Competition' by David Clayton Carrad, from The Year's Best Horror Stories X (1982), ed. Karl Edward Wagner; it originally appeared in Running Times magazine in June 1981

I am grateful to John Llewellyn Probert, horror writer ( and surgeon (who presumably doesn't advertise too many details about his literary life to his patients), for his suggestions regarding running stories in his particular specialty (horror, that is, not urology)

I have been unable to find the original source of the top image (the Uncommitted at the gate of Hell)

By The Running Muse, Dec 15 2014 09:12AM

Ever heard the one about the bipedal octopus? The running bipedal octopus? No, this is not a joke from a Christmas cracker - at least two types of octopus use just two of their eight legs for locomotion along the sea bed in shallow water, while the other six are used to create camouflage as a mat of algae or a floating coconut.

Across the animal kingdom, the evolution of bipedalism has conferred a range of enormous benefits, from freeing up other limbs for feeding, carrying, fighting, etc., to thermoregulation and flying. Not the least of these is the greater speed it can afford in the predator-prey arms race. So, four legs bad, eight legs good........two legs better?

Bipedal running may have obvious advantages for your PB, but for your great-great-(150,000 greats)-great-grandparents, it meant their survival and your existence. As the environment changed, our ancestors in the jungle couldn't rest on their evolutionary laurels - each had to ' wonder how I keep from going under', and, luckily for you, their response four million years ago was to emerge on to the savannah grassland where an advantageous erect stance evolved, otherwise you would now be clambering around your local 10k with Nike gloves to the ground.

In this extraordinary clip of an eight-hour persistence hunt by men of the Kalahari San, David Attenborough explains how upright, hands-free, sweat-cooled, large-brained endurance runners can track and cooperate in silent pursuit of an apparently faster animal. The hunt culminates in a final solo chase and a poignant ceremonial tribute to the hunted.

'Hunter and hunted are both at the end of their strength, and neither can go on much longer', says Attenborough, but it may be that the modern runner's feelgood factor, that pleasurable feeling of pushing the body in spite of, or maybe because of, the stress it engenders, is tuning in to a primitive hormonal heritage.

Below are two 3,000-year-old examples of San rock art depicting such a hunt. Ground ochre earth pigments or charcoal would have been mixed with blood, animal fat, urine or egg yolk and applied with the fingers or some kind of brush. The images are thought to be the products of shamanic ritual, a religious magic in which controlled representations of a hunt or a battle attempt to help ensure a successful outcome. This mindset perhaps has a modern echo in the visualisation techniques used by sports psychologists working with elite athletes today.

Primitive art has provided inspiration for many modern artists. Figurative elements in their work are often clipped down to their essential underlying forms, some of which may then be selected for emphasis. Compare those rock images, for example, with the two sculptures below - Gary Scott's elongated Paralympian Sprinters, and Alberto Giacometti's similarly stretched Running Man, which he presented as more of an About-to-be-Running Man (Giacometti maintained that he did not sculpt the human figure but 'the shadow that is cast').

Back in the real world of flesh and bone, evolution also shapes and selects elements for emphasis, but there have been costs to the development of an upright stance in humans - the extra weight bearing down through just two limbs causes problems for the joints of the lower back and knees - but they are outweighed by the benefits, as you can see in this hilarious clip of how y'all'd fare on a quadrupedal Sunday run, for instance. It shows the current men's world record for '100m on all fours' - the winner has twice as many limbs working the track as Usain Bolt does, but his time is over 60% slower.

Anyway, the next time a cheetah clamps its jaws around your prize rabbit and races off like a Ferrari, give chase like a Trabant - you should be able to run it to a standstill after about 5k. How you then ask for your Flopsy back is up to you, but both critters will be in awe of your 5k tempo run on just two legs.

Video clip from 'Food for Thought', episode 10 of The Life of Mammals (BBC, 2002) with David Attenborough

San rock painting at Malilangwe, Zimbabwe

San rock painting in the Drakensberg Mountains, South Africa

Paralympian Sprint sculpture by Gary Scott, plaxtin, 30cm x 40cm x 30cm, 2012

Running Man sculpture by Alberto Giacometti, painted bronze, 57cm x 27cm x 12.5cm, 1950

'Fastest 100m on all Fours' clip from Guinness World Records Day, 2014

Previous posts:

Any other runners out there who think there is much more to running than physical exertion?


Well, you're not alone - ever since the earliest cave paintings, the meaning and pleasure of the running experience has been explored by writers, painters and composers, by philosophers, film-makers and dramatists.


Comedians have laughed at it, scientists have analysed it, and historians have chronicled its cultural resonance. The Running Muse will be nourishing your runner's soul with stories from all of them.


Even the sweatiest of ancient Greek gyms were also places of intellectual endeavour, so welcome to a new blog for the thinking runner, a miscellany of musings on running in culture that will be navigating the existential wonders of putting one foot in front of the other.


Painting and sculpture 

 Picasso's 'Running on the Beach (The Race)'

 'Once, the fastest runner was a woman....'

 'It's like a jungle sometimes....'


 Run Lola Run

 The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

Philosophy and Language

 'This is "motion towards", isn't it, boy?....'

 Running in Language (Part 1)

 Running in Language (Part 2)

 The Philosophers' 10k


 Dictating the Pace

 Fast Times on the Ocean of Storms

 Five Unlikely Runners

 Runner, I married him

Music and Theatre

 It Ain't Over 'Til the Fit Lady Sings

 World Premiere of Laura Sheeran's 'Run'

 'Rift' by Natalie McGrath

 Jokers in the Pack


 Waugh Games

 Running through Hell

 Running Food


Current posts (this page):

 Joyce Carol Oates' short story, 'Running'

 It's raining - do you run or walk?

 Picasso's running minotaur

 W.H. Auden's 'Runner'

 O sinnerman, where you gonna run to?


Running quotes (13)

Recommended books (13)

'First day of Hurricane Sandy. Five miles easy .......I can't hold on to my thoughts in this wind.'

        - Thomas Gardner, Poverty Creek Journal

Running Quote of the Month

See more on this and previous quotes (13)