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Two for One Workout

29 September 2011
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Last night’s interval session was performed to a soundtrack of Kazuo Ishiguro’s “A Village After Dark”, read by Ben Marcus on the fabulous (and free) New Yorker Fiction Podcast.

It is an eerie tale, set in an “airtight world”, as Ben Marcus put it. I ran my 1200m intervals on a loop of surburban streets in the dying evening light. As I ran, the sentences of the story crossed the Crouch End roads like swooping telephone lines, catching me in their imaginary web. At the close of my final interval the story ended and the discussion began, but the web I had weaved still held me as I headed slowly up the hill back home.

I love listening to short stories when running, and the ones I love best are those where I have to work hard to understand them, where I have to take part. Where meaning drifts in the space between the words, waiting to be found. This was one of those stories. I savoured the delicious feeling of uncertainty, of teetering on the edge of confusion and clarity. I think that feeling might be a secret door into the unconscious mind. I felt it at the end of the film Mulholland Drive. I didn’t know why it made sense, I couldn’t explain exactly what happened (and I didn’t want to), but I knew it was right and I knew it was great.  Sureness and confusion, safety and danger, all experienced at the same time.

I’m not going to make an analogy with running here. Running is sometimes a complex combination of mental and physical effort, but last night’s effort was purely physical. My mind was working on other things and the disconnection was almost total. My body was running, my mind was listening and my brain was putting together a story about memory, about death, regret, guilt, self-loathing, or just a small village after dark.

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