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Showing posts from June, 2011

A long and self-indulgent post that has very little to do with running and which raises more questions than gives answers, sorry about that.

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I've been working my way at intervals through David Foster Wallace's The Pale King. The book, like much of his writing, is a meditation on the ways in which we keep ourselves from encountering reality, our selves, and each other. DFW's writing is simultaneously penetrating and distancing. He shows us directly the pathos of reflective thought--how it is always reflective, never direct--always skimming over its object. His work sits squarely in the genre of postmodern meta writing because he takes the constant indirection of experience as his direct object of inquiry. But unlike other postmodern authors in which indirection becomes something like a game having stakes only for the art-world, for DFW indirection is a concrete strategy for his characters; it is a learned habit, one that protects them from experience, sheltering them in a state of interiority that is somehow both fecund and infertile.


To read DFW is to realize simultaneously the infinite possibility of thought …

Half-Steppers, etc.

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I dedicate this blog post to all running buddies, near and far.



Training partners are a special commodity. I've run with hundreds of people in my life. People faster than I am. People slower than I am. People who don't even consider themselves runners. With strangers too. I'm a runner, and so it's just natural that I end up running with other folks.

But out of those hundreds of people there are a handful that I would call running buddies. You runners out there know just how hard it is to find that guy or girl that you just click with. There are so many things that can go wrong, that it's the rarest of things to actually find someone to train with who suits your temperament. Most runners fall into at least one of the following categories, making them more or less unsuitable for that special "running buddy" designation.

[F-bomb alert for sensitive readers.]

1. Half steppers. You know who you are. Or probably, you don't, or you would knock that shit off.…

Still Running

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I'm a sucker for writing on Roger Federer, and this piece by Brian Phillips on the autumn of Federer's career did not disappoint. Phillips' main theme is the epoch of athletic life that has the quality of "still." He notes that Federer is still great, but the "still" marks a kind of twilight quality to his game, which gives his performance an extra resonance.

I've been running and racing now for 20 years, which is hard for me to believe. As much as I wouldn't like to admit it, I've been using the category of "still" to define my own running for the last couple of years. I ask myself: can I still run as fast as I could? Can I still get even faster? Can I still carve out time, effort, and energy for racing at the level that I would like to race?

This weekend, for instance, I was happy with my race despite the fact that I ran 30 seconds slower than last year and a minute slower than 5 years ago. Why was I happy? Well, I ran down a 19 …

The Loneliness of the Long Distance...

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The loneliness of the long distance runner is a metaphor for the loneliness of life as such. Runners or not, we all travel paths that cannot be retraced or fully communicated. The image of the lonely runner speaks to us because it reflects a broader fact of life. Even among friends, spouses, parents, pets, and children, a life is always lived alone, from beginning to end.

William James puts the thought like this in his Principles of Psychology:
It seems as if the elementary psychic fact were not thought or this thought or that thought, but my thought, every thought being owned. Neither contemporaneity, not proximity in space, nor similarity of quality and content are able to fuse thoughts together when are sundered by this barrier of belonging to different personal minds. The breaches between such thoughts are the most absolute in nature. What James writes here is true; the breaches between my thought and your thought, those streaming and ethereal flows which we denote as mine and you…

The Juridical and the Dietetic: Reflections on the Ethos of Running

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In Foucault's History of Sexuality, he looks to Greek sexual practices to make a distinction between two forms of ethical discipline. The first thinks of morality and ethics as a matter of interdictions, judgments, and transgressions. This conception of ethics is essentially juridical: a set of laws or rules that organize behavior according to principles that one ought not transgress or that one ought to live in accordance with. To do the good, to live well, is conceived in terms of more or less rigid moral laws that are policed by the appropriate moral authorities: usually a clergy of some sort who has access to the true meaning of a sacred text and uses that text to diagnose pathological or degenerate behaviors. The goal of this sort of ethics is to identify deviations from the good life and to reform those deviations.

The second form of ethical discipline is less interested in transgression and reform and more interested in managing the body to produce health. Foucault calls th…