Poems By Runners

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Running is a sport for everyone. (Jim Urquhart/AP)
Sometimes the scenery is the poetic part of a run. Other times it's the act of running itself. (Jim Urquhart/AP)

I won't run unless something big and scary is chasing me, so I would not seem to be a receptive audience for a collection of poems about running. But such a collection came across my desk the other day, and it's full of bright moments.

Bearers of Distance, published by Eastern Point Press, is not a exactly a collection of verses by runners, because all the runners are also poets who've seen their stuff featured in magazines with titles like Oranges and Sardines, Cimarron ReviewTimber Creek Review, and so on.

But on to the moments. Martin Elwell, who says of himself that he fell in love with running after picking a sport to lose weight four years ago, has lost 160 pounds. No wonder his poem is titled "More of Less of Me." No wonder it features the lines:

"the less

of me

the more of me."


In a poem titled "Picnic Point, 5 a.m.," Willa Schmidt takes on a more universal theme. The first six lines of her poem describe a dawn run. The poem ends,

"A lone runner

races through the half-light,

fleeing the hunter, time."

According to the note at the bottom of the page, Ms. Schmidt is 71.

Cari Oleskewicz has written a poem titled "Girls Track," in which she invokes "this crowd assembled in ponytails … off to see geese and football players."

What she has to say in the final half-dozen lines of her poem will be familiar to most readers inclined to honestly recall their adolescence:

"better things were waiting

if only we could get to them

faster and fiercer

with heaving gulps of borrowed air

and potent legs of might.

some in packs and some in pairs

and some ran all alone."

There are poems in this collection that invoke the pain of running, too, and the exhaustion and the sacrifice, and in some there is the self-congratulation that makes some poems about righteously exercising impossible to read without groaning.

But in the best of the poems in "Bearers of Distance," the writers don't take themselves or their running too seriously. Perhaps the champ in that regard is David Poston, whose poem is "The Kiss." It goes like this:



the gun fires

she says

kiss me

so I do



of runners






until everyone

has run


This segment aired on November 6, 2013.

Bill Littlefield Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.



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