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Running — the pragmatic and the ecstatic

[ by Charles Cameron — .. a runner moves between prose and poetry, mere winning and the runner’s high ]
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The pragmatic:

The ecstatic:

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The pragmatic tells you what most running is like: the ecstatic tells you how you feel when you hit “runner’s high — here’s one athlete’s description of winning, where winning itself becomes the least interesting aspect of the race:

The starter gave us instructions, and the gun went off. I ran a few steps into a dimension I didn’t know existed.

Suddenly I seemed to be up in the rafters of the arena, looking down at my race far below. I could see the black framework of the high catwalks vaguely around me, the cables, the great spotlights, the blazing brilliance of the tiny track so far beneath me, and myself running in the midst of the others in my race that was on both with me and without me.

And in the total silence of this incredible vantage point, a voice said tome clearly, in a kindlysort of way, “Well, Grace, thisis what you always wanted.”

And then I was back down in my race again, winning it, setting a new U.S. record. Afterward, exuberant, curious, and a little wistful, I asked some friends who were there, “Didn’t anyone clap or cheer or anything?” I didn’t remember hearing the crowd at all.

“Sure they did! Everyone was yelling and screaming. Didn’t you hear them?”

No. I hadn’t heard anything. Except the voice. I don’t even remember anything about the race itself except for what I saw from up there.

That’s Grace Butcher, from Garth Battista, The Runner’s High: Illumination and Ecstasy in Motion. And the “high” doesn’t have to include an out-of-body experience, though I had that myself one day when I was very young. It’s just a matter of transcendance, of what the Buddhists would call “gone beyond” without further specifying..

Life as poetry.

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