I’ve just read Footnotes by Vybarr Cregan-Reid. It’s a wonderful book about running, about why we run, about who we are when we run, and about the landscapes that we run through. It’s an adventurous book too as it ranges over diverse topics and unusual running related texts. Perhaps it is fitting that there is a real sense of exploration which runs like a rich seam through the narrative of a man moving his feet in an attempt to understand both himself and the world around him. Highly recommended.
Not surprisingly Footnotes references Thomas Hardy, specifically Tess of the D’Urbervilles. As Cregan-Reid roams the landscape he thinks back to Hardy wandering the countryside; the poet at large. It prompted me to reread the novel too. It’s not quite as I remembered it, although as Footnotes points out, things never are as we remember them once we move through them and look back.
I don’t really run for the landscapes though. For me, each footstep has the potential to change our lives if we approach each run, or each book, with an open mind. That is the point of running and that is more than enough. The landscape itself is almost always inconsequential and I often struggle to recall where I’ve been. I’ve run on Dorset’s Jurassic coastal paths, and through New York’s Central Park. I’ve been lost in Greece and I once nearly passed out trying to run in the Caribbean. I remember little about those runs. For me, running is symbolic. Where I run doesn’t matter as much to me as it might to Cregan-Reid. And that’s fine for both of us. As Hardy notes in Tess, “Beauty lay not in the thing, but in what the thing symbolized.”