This column, written by Muddy, originally appeared in our March/April 2015 issue.
Running may be poetry in motion, but for me writing is a constant struggle. Expressing succinct thought via the written word is like trying to complete fifteen miles at marathon pace during a training run. Neither are easy and at least one of those two things has never been done by me. I struggle with syntax and semantics, each word more difficult than the next 400 in a track workout. It’s terribly difficult yet rewarding. Given this, it is always uplifting and invigorating to stumble across any literary piece that strikes a chord with my inner being, especially if it pertains to a specific aspect of my daily life.
Recently I was engaged in a less than enlightened conversation with a coworker who proclaimed, “You know, running is going to break you. It’s going to wear you down. Essentially, it’s killing you.” Rather than respond to that I simply smiled and walked away. However, out of frustration, I later plopped in front of a computer and formulated a general search along the lines of ‘killed by what you love doing.’
Lo and behold, I stumbled upon a quote that is largely attributed to one Charles Bukowski (although Kinky Friedman and Van Dyke Parks have also been connected to it) that soothed my soul. No matter who wrote it (though Bukowski is the leader in the clubhouse due to his poignant and realistic poetry, alcohol-fueled prose, and eye opening novels), the scribe must have been a renner because it’s clear that he nailed our lifelong situation. In the excerpt that follows, the author waxes philosophically on life and offers guidance on how to approach and endure it:
Usually I don’t jump to conclusions or make major assumptions, so I’ll ask this question: Was “Buk” (or Kinky or VD Parks) a runner? Be the answer yeah or nay, the words fully embody all that is running. Apparently the unmotivated masses that are not on the Level feel that running is breaking and killing us. Yet I, along with all of you, find this self-imposed death sentence acceptable.
Find what you love and let it kill you.
Most of us can recall our introduction to running. Did we find it or did it find us? Either way, we’ve found one another and now enjoy it as it “kills” us.
Let it drain you of your all. Let it cling onto your back and weigh you down into eventual nothingness.
If you’ve run, every really run, you see the correlation here. Leave it all out there and let it drain you of all life forces. Workout after workout it clings to our backs (and legs, chest, arms, etc.) and weighs us down. Whether racing all out (no matter the distance) or whittling away at a monster week of training, running does indeed weigh us down. Our athletic passion does often feel as though it grinds us down into nothingness… but damn it feels so good.
Let it kill you and let it devour your remains.
Once again when we are hunched over, covered in sweat, shaking, peering dizzily over the precipice that is bonking, on the edge of vomiting, on the verge of death by exertion, it feels as though something (running) has devoured our remains. Running eats our souls, yet it fortifies us while devouring our spirit. We let it kill us daily.
For all things will kill you, both slowly and fastly, but it’s much better to be killed by a lover.
And here perhaps is the best part. We know running is breaking us, grinding us down. Yet at the same time it is making us stronger, fitter, smarter, invigorated, competitive, motivated, infallible. It is here, with this final line of the correspondence to some mysterious friend, that the author gets it just right. Everything is killing us: food, lack of sleep, intake of chemicals (whatever they may be), stress, chromosomal wear and tear, breathing—everything! Isn’t it so much better to be killed by a lover?
I love you running. Break me. Eat my soul. Be my love and kill me.
Muddy is a regular columnist for this prestigious publication.
To read more from our March/April 2015 issue, click here.