From Homer's The Iliad to A. E. Housman's poem about an athlete dying young, there's no shortage of literary depictions of running. "Move, as the limbs / Of a runner do," writes W. H. Auden. "In orbit go / Round an endless track." There's also a long tradition of writers leaving their pens or screens behind to stride along roads, tracks, and trails. Jonathan Swift, according to Samuel Johnson, would "run half a mile up and down a hill every two hours" during his 20s. Louisa May Alcott ran since her youth: "I always thought I must have been a deer or a horse in some former state," she wrote in her journal, "because it was such a joy to run." Despite this correlation, The New Yorker's Kathryn Schulz recently lamented how few books capture the mindset of the runner in descriptive terms, citing Thomas Gardner's new collection of essays Poverty Creek Journal as the best exception.
从荷马的史诗《伊利亚特》到A. E. 豪斯曼描写一位运动员英年早逝的诗歌，文学作品中从不缺乏对跑步的描述。诗人W. H. 奥登这样写道：“动起来，如跑步者/摆动四肢/沿着无尽的跑道/一圈圈奔跑。”作家们也常常扔下钢笔，或者离开电脑屏幕，奔跑在大大小小的路上，这种传统由来已久。塞缪尔·约翰逊曾说，乔纳森·斯威夫特20多岁时“每两个小时就要沿着一座小山上上下下跑半英里”。路易莎·梅·奥尔科特从年轻时就开始跑步。“我总觉得自己上辈子就是一只小鹿或者一匹马，”她在日记中写道，“因为我跑起步来是那样快乐。”尽管文学与跑步的缘分如此之深，《纽约客》撰稿人凯瑟琳·舒尔茨最近却撰文遗憾地称，能够以描述性语言准确捕捉到跑步者心境的书籍真是太少了。不过，她特别提到了托马斯·加德纳的新散文集《贫溪日记》，认为他写得最好，是个例外。
Freedom, consciousness, and wildness: Running offers writers escape with purpose. When confronted with "structural problems" in her writing as the result of a "long, snarled (纠结的，混乱的), frustrating and sometimes despairing morning of work," Joyce Carol Oates would ease her writing blocks with afternoon runs. For Oates and many other writers, running is process and proves especially useful for the type of cloistered (隐居的), intensive work they do. But in many ways running is a natural extension of writing. The steady accumulation of miles mirrors the accumulation of pages, and both forms of regimented exertion can yield a sense of completion and joy. Through running, writers deepen their ability to focus on a single, engrossing (使人全神贯注的) task and enter a new state of mind entirely—word after word, mile after mile.
While on sabbatical (休假) in London in 1972, a homesick Oates began running "compulsively; not as a respite (暂缓) for the intensity of writing but as a function of writing." At the same time, she began keeping a journal that ultimately exceeded 4,000 single-spaced, typewritten pages. "Running seems to allow me, ideally, an expanded consciousness in which I can envision what I'm writing as a film or a dream," she wrote. Oates still runs along "a country road that goes up a hill" where she feels "there will be ideas waiting for me ... If I just sat in a room it wouldn't be the same thing." Don DeLillo also relished the transporting (使欣喜若狂) effects of running after his morning writing sessions: "This helps me shake off one world and enter another. Trees, birds, drizzle—it's a nice kind of interlude (插曲)."
Whether their reasoning is practical or spiritual, many writers run with ritualistic devotion. The short-story writer Andre Dubus "ran for the joy and catharsis (感情宣泄) of it," but like Oates and DeLillo, his running was also deliberately timed. Dubus kept a log book that detailed his daily exercise output and writing word count. His method came from an interpretation of Ernest Hemingway's dictum to stop a story mid-sentence, perform physical exercise, and then return to the work the next day.
Why do writers so often love to run? Running affords the freedom of distance, coupled with the literary appeal of solitude. There's a meditative cadence (节律) to the union of measured (有节奏的) breaths and metered strides. Writers and runners both operate on linear planes, and the running writer soon realizes the relationship between art and sport is a mutually beneficial one. The novelist Haruki Murakami, a former Tokyo jazz-bar manager who would smoke 60 cigarettes a day, started running to get healthy and lose weight. His third novel had just been published, but he felt his "real existence as a serious writer [began] on the day that I first went jogging." Continual running gave him the certainty that he could "make it to the finishing line."
Murakami's sentiment reminds me of the LSD—long, slow distance—of my college track days. My coach sent us on long afternoon runs without prescribed routes, simply giving us the directive of time. Once I built a tolerance for distance my runs became incubators for writing ideas. The steady, repetitive movement of distance running triggers one's intellectual autopilot (潜意识的行为状态), freeing room for creative thought. Neuroscientists describe this experience as a feeling of timelessness, where attention drifts and imagination thrives.
Oates enjoyed this mental freedom and "special solitude" while running during her youth. She went through orchards, "through fields of wind-rustling corn towering over my head, along farmers' lanes and on bluffs (悬崖，峭壁) ... These activities are intimately bound up with storytelling, for always there's a ghost-self, a 'fictitious' self, in such settings. For this reason I believe that any form of art is a species of exploration and transgression (超越)." Exertion frees this fictitious, creative other, enabling the mind of writers who run to wander without inhibition. Writers tap into this ghost-self whenever they construct narratives and characters; writers who run have the benefit of a first draft on foot.
"One of the luckiest things that can happen to a writer," Reynolds Price notes, "is the gradual acquisition of the sense that one is doing it just for the sake of doing it, that it's become a kind of lonely long-distance running which nonetheless has its own huge rewards." Price is correct that this acquisition is gradual. The former United States Poet Laureate Kay Ryan captures the complicated feelings of both writers and runners: "I like to run. Actually, I don't really like to run but I've done it for a million years.”
Writers, like runners, often like the idea of their pursuit more so than the difficult work. The appeal of a running regimen (养生之道) is how the miles not only condition the body, but free up a space for the creative mind. Which is perhaps why some writers, like Malcolm Gladwell, find themselves returning to running after a long absence. Gladwell, who recently completed the Fifth Avenue Mile in New York City in 5:03 minutes, sees the utilitarian impact running has on his projects: "I very explicitly use this time to work out writing problems."
After my college running days ended, I chose sprints over distance, gained some pounds, and looked more like a fullback (后卫) than a half-miler. Yet I missed those long, aimless runs, when the act of running was one of discovery, not dictated by the set distance of a track. I now run down open rural roads, and, against good sense, straddle (跨立于) the center yellow lines that yarn to the horizon. Since I've returned to distance running, I've changed the way I think about writing. Writing exists in that odd mental space between imagination and intellect, between the organic and the planned. Runners must learn to accept the same paradoxes, to realize that each individual run has its own narrative, with twists and turns and strains.
大学里跑步的那段日子结束后，我就放弃了长跑，选择了快速短跑，结果体重增加了好几磅，看起来再也不像一个半英里赛运动员，而像一个足球后卫。然而，我还是怀念那段可以漫无目的地长跑的日子，不受跑道固定距离的限制，奔跑的过程也是发现的过程。如今，我奔跑在空旷的乡村道路上，道路中间的黄线无限延伸，一直通到天的尽头，而我就任性地骑着线跑。自从我重新开始长跑，我改变了自己对创作的看法。创作存在于一种奇特的思维空间里，既要驰骋想象，又要发挥才智，既要师法自然，又要细心筹划。跑步者也要学会接受同样的悖论，要明白每一次跑步都是一个独特的叙事，迂回曲折的道路犹如情节曲径通幽，拉伸绷紧的肌肉犹如紧张刺激的叙事格调。(译注：此处twists and turns and strains具有双关含义，既可以指跑步，又可以指创作，strains既可以指绷紧拉伸，又可以指作品的情调、笔调等。)
Writers and runners use the same phrase—“hit my stride (逐渐进入状态)”—to describe the moment when exertion and work become joy. Writers stuck on a sentence should lace their sneakers and go for a jog, knowing that when they return, they will be a bit sweatier, more tired, but often more charged to run with their words.