what i talk about when i talk about running

person running in the hallway
Photo by Michael Foster on Pexels.com

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…

Much Love

Rachel xx

6 thoughts on “what i talk about when i talk about running

  1. Margot Kinberg

    Oh, that’s both eerie and fantastic that he got your name right, Rachel! And thanks for the insight into what it’s like to run (and ultra-run, actually). It’s fascinating to know what goes on in people’s minds when they are swimming, running, cycling, etc… to keep them going.

    1. patientandkindlove

      Your mind can go to some pretty exotic places after twenty hours of moving forward. You’ve just got to be careful that you don’t go down a dark tunnel, because they can be hard to get out of.

  2. clcouch123

    Wow, the poem is both instructive and enthused! I’m drawn to all the outer and the inner details. Running is a one-by-one pursuit, but it’s also done in community.

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