All runners, without exception, we have a dialogue
That runs as we do. Sometimes angry, sometimes funny
And sometimes just downright weird, reminding us
Of our own little oddities, our mental defects, as it were.
I get mad. Like really mad, turning over old events
Like tiny rocks that burn the fingertips. These thoughts
Are better left alone, but I love the burn, the hurt.
Lately, I have tried to change the pattern,
Think of things that happened in my day,
Creating stories from the objects on the floor and in the trees.
The teddy bear, tangled in the spindly branches of
The gooseberry bush, looking old and tired of this life,
His fur all tattered, did he run away? Or was he thrown?
Or was he dropped by accident? Missed so dearly by
A little boy, comforted with useless words.
And then there’s cups from Burger King discarded on
The pavement like a shiny tile. There is no Burger King
In this crappy little town, so just how far it’s traveled to
Reach my pounding feet, is known by God alone.
And that woman on her phone, who’s she talking to?
Unaware of me, I guess that it’s a lovers’ tiff,
He forgot to bring the milk and bread last night
And now she’s pissed; she wants him out, or else.
I wonder what the other runners think, when they bound past me?
Have they made another story for the crumpled mask,
The Kit-Kat wrapper on the floor, or the smiling man
In the Screw Fix uniform? I hope they have,
And I hope they’ve made a story just for me…
There is a famous book by Murakami called ‘What I talk about when I talk about running’, and although I’ve not read it I have a good idea how it must go. And that’s because I run a lot and I reflect on life and make up stories in my head as I go along. If you are a long distance runner, you have many hours to fill and so this constant talking to yourself is important for your sanity.
When I first started ultra running, I wasn’t sure if I was the only person who did this until I was running my first hundred miler and I had to pull out at 54 miles.
I had been running at the same speed as a guy who I didn’t know for almost the entire race and he decided to pull out at the same time, so his girlfriend offered to give me a lift back to the finish to get my bag. We hadn’t spoken much during the race, so the car ride was the first time we got to know each other.
He asked me what my name was and when I said ‘Rachel’, he practically yelped with delight. He said he had been making up stories about the people he had been running alongside, giving them names and jobs etc. He had decided that my name was ‘Rachel’ and he was so pleased with himself for getting that right.
I thought this was pretty cool, and it showed me that I’m not the only one making stories up about where a Burger King cup might have come from…