Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Sat, 16 Sep 2006 06:20:26 -0400

Music in My Ears

RUNNING COMMENTARY 641

Learn that I teach running classes and coach marathon teams, and you'd think I ran with these groups. I don't, for lots of reasons.

The main one is that almost all of these runners are younger than I am, some young enough to be my grandchildren. Only a few run at a pace as slow as mine.

My job is to set everyone off, watch their gear while they're gone and cheer their return. Which means I spend lots of time -- most of an hour for the University of Oregon classes, several hours for the Marathon Teams -- standing and waiting.

These runners sometimes ask, "What do you do while we're out running?" I tap the device beneath my jacket or shirt and say, "Listen to this."

A student once asked, "What's that, your pacemaker?" In a way, yes, but not the way he meant. It's a music player.

I'm one of the world's oldest iPod users. The music library in my computer numbers almost 2000 tunes and keeps growing. I can program my own iPod playlists for the workday and travel time instead of trusting a DJ to do it.

Songs run through my head whether music from an outside source is playing or not. Always have. And for as long as I have written, I've shared snippets of songs with readers.

Early selections appeared in my books as epigraphs, the theme-setting quotes at the start. Authors often chose poetry, but my choices were song-poets.

For the LSD booklet, I used words from Simon & Garfunkel's "59th Street Bridge Song" (aka, "Feelin' Groovy") to promote slower running:

"Slow down, you move too fast,
you got to make the mornin' last.
Kickin' down the cobblestones,
lookin' for fun and feelin' groovy."

My book Run Gently, Run Long took these lines from Bob Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" to emphasize lessons learned from my most serious running injury:

"The highway is for gamblers,
better use your sense.
Take what you have gathered
from coincidence."

In Run Farther, Run Faster I quoted Jackson Browne's "Your Bright Baby Blues" to describe (and somewhat mock) the mindset of a racer:

"I've been up and down this highway,
far as my eyes can see.
No matter how fast I run,
I can never seem to get away from me.

"No matter where I am,
I can't help thinking
I'm just a day away
from where I want to be."

Musical openings ended with that 1979 book. But song lyrics never stopped running through my head. Lately I've started sharing them again with readers.

Words and music accompanied the DVD slide shows made for my latest two Marathon Teams. The first was from Napa Valley, run on a rainy and windy day.

The singer-songwriter is Keb' Mo' (the stage name of Kevin Moore, a blues performer who writes positive songs in a genre that usually celebrates life's miseries). A line from his song "Let Your Light Shine" seemed most fitting for Napa:

""Let your light shine, let your love show,
It's a short ride down a long road.
When the rains come and the winds blow,
Let your light shine wherever you go.

"Step on up, step into your greatness,
don't be afraid.
There's a place you'll rise up to,
no one else can do what you do."

The Newport Marathon Team bonded better than any of the three before it. So my choice the DVD's theme song was James Taylor's "You've Got a Friend." Its key lines:

"You just call out my name,
and you know wherever I am,
I'll come running
to see you again.

"Winter, spring summer or fall,
all you got to do is call.
And I'll be there, yes I will.
You've got a friend."

My first 2007 column for Marathon & Beyond featured Paul Reese, the youngest old man I'd ever known when he died at age 87. That piece quoted the Bob Dylan song "Forever Young":

"May your hands always be busy,
may your feet always be swift.
May you have a firm foundation,
when the winds of changes shift.

"May your heart always be joyful,
may your song always be sung.
May you stay forever young,
and may you stay forever young."

I've never heard, or read, a finer wish for runners than this from someone who has never run and wasn't writing about running.
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