As I sit here in the cottage, rain hammering on the skylights, and two of my favourite tunes, Arlo Guthrie's "In My Darkest Hour" and Mark Knopfler's "A Night in Summer Long Ago" playing in the background, I came to think of a book I've been thinking about ordering, and the truth its title has to tell about the serious runner.
I'm talking about "The Lonely Breed" written by Ron Clarke and Norman Harris in 1967 about some of the world's greatest distance runners (including Pavo Nuurmi and Jim Hogan, aka Jim Cregan). Ron Clarke would be some authority on the subject: The Australian runner set 17 world records, nearly died during a 10000m race of altitude sickness, won numerous races albeit never an Olympic Gold.
If there ever was a better title to describe the fanatics among runners, then I don't know of it. Those lonely runs on the track, when you zoom around almost meditatively, obsessively noting split times, listening to every muscle signal, honing your running style. The quiet nights arranged with the single purpose of having enough peace to successfully squeeze in a recovery run.
But more than that, and what truly makes the "Lonely Breed" resonate with me, is the loneliness you must seek to truly excel in this sport. It's more of a spiritual loneliness than a physical one, it's the knowledge, that if you had to, you would chop away the branches of your life until only running remained: The moulding of your life to a single pursuit. It's thinking this thought, and rather than shy away from it like most normal people, knowing that nothing, no matter how important it would seem to others, could steer you off course.
This feeling is as lonely as it is empowering for how can you feel afraid at the start line of a race when the thought in your mind is "I would do anything..." and knowing that it's not just a pep-talk, but the truth....