Jan 27, 2014 “Break, Break, Break”

Thanks to a timely gift from a friend, I got to read a great book on running this week, Born to Run. Some of you have heard of it. The final chapter had an inscription from Herb Elliott, an Australian world champ, olympic champ, and record-breaker in the mile. From 1957 to 1961, he was undefeated in the mile and 1500 meter races. But his quote, would you believe it, was about poetry and spiritual strength, not running. Apparently he had a kind of crazy coach, who put his charges through harsh running conditions, monitored their all-natural diets, and encouraged them to read the “great books.” Elliott had a particular fondness for Tennyson (1809-1892). “Poetry,” he said in a 1958 Sport Illustrated story, “can make you a better man by giving you an appreciation of beauty and an awareness of things around you. It seems today that you’ve got to be an intellectual to be able to get back to nature.”

I’m not sure what he meant. But anyway, here’s a Tennyson poem about the rough inspiration of nature. The title of this poem is sort of what I think about my knees when I go out to run on sub-30 degree days. -ed.
BREAK, BREAK, BREAK
Break, break, break,
         On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
         The thoughts that arise in me.


O, well for the fisherman’s boy,
         That he shouts with his sister at play!
O, well for the sailor lad,
         That he sings in his boat on the bay!


And the stately ships go on
         To their haven under the hill;
But O for the touch of a vanish’d hand,
         And the sound of a voice that is still!


Break, break, break
         At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
         Will never come back to me.
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