General Note
When blurbing one’s books, it is customary to reprint the blurbs of other writers whose arms may have been twisted, or to quote critics, who—for whatever reason—admired a book at the moment of publication. Instead I thought I’d retype some passages. Let you decide for yourself. Radical idea?

Of course retyping made me itch to edit and maybe re-write, but then isn’t this a little like chess: once you’ve taken your hand off the bishop, you’re supposed to live with the consequences. So I’ve resisted, except in the introduction to The Letters of John Cheever. Here I cut deeply. I wanted to get quickly past my own angst and give at least a glimpse of the letters.

Strides

Running Through History With an Unlikely Athlete 

(Rodale Books; 2007)

 

“Everyone is an athlete. The only difference is that some of us are in training and some are not.”
—Dr. George Sheehan
 
*
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Chapter 1
 
The Fat Man In Green Pajamas
“Expect Poison From Standing Water.”
—William Blake
Pheidippides is said to have run the first marathon. That was in September of 490 BC. He brought news that the Persians had been defeated. Athens was saved. Civilization was saved. “Rejoice!” He said, “We conquer!”
 
Like wine though clay,
Joy in his blood bursting his heart,
He died—the bliss!”
 
This bliss is what I’m after.
 
Although mortality is part of it. I was moving in a pack of runners 20-odd years ago on a sidewalk in White Plains, New York, after a half-marathon. Spotting others in singlets and with the distinctive post-exertion matted hair, we’d wave our bony fists. “Good race!” we’d shout.
 
“Good race!” they’d shout right back.
 
A funeral cortege appeared suddenly on the street beside us. The contrast between this ominous procession and our own towering spirits silenced the pack and made us—for an instant—ashamed. Then one of the runners waved his fist at the hearse. “Good race!” he shouted.