This, the first podcast on The Phraser, is an interview with Arthur Knaggs, author of Chasing Laces. The book, written in 2019, is in the words of the runners he interviewed last year, before COVID-19 reached the UK.
By Arthur Knaggs
Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. (Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running)
“You don’t get anywhere by magic, but only by putting in the required number of steps, one at a time and in the correct sequence. You can’t run the last lap of a mile until you’ve run the first three. There is a truth, a beauty and a symmetry in this that is inviolate. Every step counts.” (Bernd Heinrich, Why We Run)
London. An athletics track. Evening. Clouds hang fat and heavy in the sky above Parliament Hill. There is a low-key festival atmosphere that grows as the light fades.
Dr Parker is a Lecturer in Physical Activity and Health. She is also a runner. A slim woman, in a blue t-shirt, Dr Parker spoke with great enthusiasm and knowledge about a sport that she loves. Injuries have prevented her from running competitively but, as she came to tell me, for her running means much more than running fast.
Running is a huge area of research, but the science behind it is a little bit wobbly, so I might not have very definite answers to some of your questions.
Running with the Mums
Cathy told me to come running with the Newton Mums. So I went to the gate at the entrance to the park and waited with her. I was surprised by how many different abilities turned out for the same group. Sarah only took up running two months ago. Georgie ran with her collie attached by a harness to her hips, and it flew off the front. Jackie had just run a half marathon. Harriet was Jackie’s mother.
The pack split early. Some girls were fast, others wanted to run at a slower pace. I was sure that we would get lost. This, however, is part of the Newton Mums’ plan. They have a “loop and scoop” policy. At pre-determined points on the trail, the fastest runners turn around and jog to the back of the group where they start again. It is an excellent way to run. Nobody holds back. Everyone finishes together.
Amy didn’t see me when she walked in. She walked up to the counter, checked her phone and went to stand outside. When she talked her eyes sparkled. She laughed often and loudly. She came most alive when she talked about the pain of running.
I’m a university student, in my final year studying Nutrition Dietetics. I live up in Lancashire but I’m down here for university. I’ve been committed to running since the start of this academic year, so October, but I got into running last year on my placement at Bournemouth.
I worked in a hospital and I was involved in patient care. It was so stressful.
Sarah was thin. She wore a thick cotton shirt which hung loosely on her frame. Her trainers were muddy and well worn. At very little notice, she had agreed to make time to chat but I would have to come to the English department. She was working on a group project and didn’t have much time.
I don’t mind the recorder – if you had a camera, I’d have a problem with that but audio is fine.
Chania sat down quietly, a slim woman with light hair. When she started speaking, her words came out in a torrent. I barely asked any questions. Each memory prompted another and her story tumbled out in a great, overwhelming rush. There was so much to say.
I started running five years ago in my early forties. In hindsight, I probably should have started in my twenties. I started because I have two children and they are both very active. My eldest, Harry has Down’s Syndrome.