Thursday, January 6, 2011

Running in Literature: A Passage from "The Secret Garden"

Have you ever read "The Secret Garden"? I picked up the book out of boredom today and I came across a really great passage that relates to running. I know... It's all about running, right? Seriously, though, I think it's a beautiful description of what running can do to revive the spirits when you're feeling gloomy.

Here's the backstory: Mary Lennox is an ugly child whom nobody likes. Her own parents didn't even like her. Neglected all her life, she turns out to be a sour little girl. A real brat. When her family is killed off by an outbreak of cholera, Mary is sent to live with her reclusive, wealthy uncle on his big estate out on a desolate moor in England. While staying there, she roams the expansive gardens. As she's wandering, she starts to run. Here is the description of her exploration:

...She gazed out of the window across to the huge moor which seemed to spread out on all sides and climb up to the sky, and after she had stared for a while she realized that if she did not go out she would have to stay in and do nothing--and so she went out. She did not know that this was the best thing she could have done, and she did not know that, when she began to walk quickly or even run along the paths and down the avenue, she was stirring her slow blood and making herself stronger by fighting with the wind which swept down from the moor. She ran only to make herself warm, and she hated the wind which rushed at her face and roared and held her back as if it were some giant she could not see. But the big breaths of rough fresh air blown over the heather filled her lungs with something which was good for her whole thin body and whipped some red color into her cheeks and brightened her dull eyes when she did not know anything about it.

Isn't that a lovely description? So simple, so true. Anyone who is a runner can relate. You know the feeling. You know what it's like to have the wind blowing through your hair, to pump your legs and have your heart racing. You feel alive. You might not even necessarily enjoy the run. It may be tough as hell. You legs could be hurting; your lungs could be screaming.

Mary sure isn't enjoying it much. She's just running to stay warm. There have been many times when I have gone out for my daily run even though I was not feeling up to it. But, you somehow always ease into the activity. You loosen up and realize what an exhilarating thing it is to be alive and moving. The experience is transformative. It certainly was transformative for little Mary. The experience of running along the garden walls helped awaken a passion in her she had never experienced before in her life. How many of you have been transformed by running? How many of you have had this experience that Mary is having?

Just had to share the goodness...

If you would like to read "The Secret Garden," you can find the entire novel here.


  1. one of my most favourite books (and movies) gerard ... and yes, agree with dave, very true.