An Apt Metaphor for Running in an Engaging Style

Shawn Hacking writes from the heart in his book, Running: A Long Distance Love Affair. The affair he describes is no longer the hot and urgent passion of the young, but mellower with the acquisition of age and, perhaps, a touch of wisdom.

Running: A Long Distance Love Affair is a quick read, humorous at times, questioning at others, with the strong voice of an author who can tell a story. Built as a series of short chapters, mostly in chronological order, Hacking takes time to anchor each piece in time, both as a runner and in the calendar. The latter he does with a nifty decision to provide a sound track for his book, building a music list a new addition for each chapter. As someone who grew up in nearly the same generation, the memories evoked brought more than one smile.

Funny enough, my daughters would recognize a lot of the tracks and own some of the music.

As with other runners, Hacking came to it from another sport. He first began to run to get into shape for football. He doesn’t mention if he ever played—I know several folks who did both in high school. He did, however, excel right from the start as a runner. By his junior season, he was breaking meet records, and aiming for state records, no mean feat.

Running: A Long Distance Love Affair alternates from the biographical to the reflective. Stories of Henry Rono get offset by a look at the late George Sheehan. As Hacking readily admits, Rono’s belief in the strength gained against the hill held more sway to him than Sheehan’s admonitions to find the play in running. I remember, imperfectly I’m sure, Sheehan commenting on beginning to run to get fit, and then to race. And when the races were over, he discovered that he was a runner again, before asking, in his final days, “Was it enough?”

Younger runners don’t have these questions, but Hacking’s book nudges up to some of these same thoughts. Yet, he manages to capture the beauty of running young and strong, when glory seems possible and the body is indestructible, at the same time. This juxtaposition, intentional or not, brings out the nature of the love affair and how apt the metaphor of running to a love affair truly is.