Keats and Eliot may get some readers’ hearts a flutter, but my favorite poet has always been the brilliant children’s lyricist Jack Prelutsky. Classic ’90s verse Something Big Has Been Here holds a special place, but the poem that really gets me is a 24-word ode to a penguin-relative, the auk.
“An auk in flight is sheer delight, it soars above the sea. An auk on land is not so grand — an auk walks aukwardly.”
Change a few words, and that clever couplet can also describe runners and the stark differences between when we’re healthy and when we’re not.
“A runner on a run is loads of fun, she glides up the park toward home. A runner at rest is not her best – she’s godawful at sitting still and just letting her sore old muscles heal on their own.”
(You’ll be shocked to learn I didn’t win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for that little ditty.)
It’s true though. When I’m feeling limber and light and healthy and strong, running is an absolute pleasure that leaves me feeling wholeheartedly in my element. At my very best, I can log an entire Central Park loop and feel like I’m flying.
But when I’m sidelined with an injury – like with this recurring knee pain during the past two weeks – I become downright aukward. Suddenly unsure of my abilities, I start to second guess every decision I make: Can I still cross train? Am I icing too much or too little? Will these two weeks of scaled back training detail my marathon?
And the clincher: What do I do with all this free time?
I was confronted with that question this past week, and luckily, I found something to keep me entertained and off my achy legs: a wonderful book. (Of course, some of my extra hours spent prone on the couch this past week also went to binge watching the gloriously ridiculous Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp because I am a human with needs.)
The book was Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a thoughtful and powerful novel that got me recognizing my prejudices about race in America in a new way. Every sentence was a joy and – thankfully for my rested and now healed knee caps – I was able to spend all the hours I might have mistakenly spent on my feet curled up reading instead. There’s nothing like a good book to force you to recover.
In case you’re injured too as marathon season approaches and looking for some reading material, here are a few other picks from the last several years that I found entertaining enough to keep me holed up and off my recovering legs:
- Euphoria by Lily King: Read it in Book Club, loved every second, and not just because I’m secretly harboring a wish to go back in time and become a 1920s anthropologist.
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: I’m sure you’ve all read this by now, but I’d be remiss to leave it off because it’s so, so beautiful.
- The Secret History by Donna Tartt: An oldie but goodie, especially if you went to college in New England (and secretly murdered one of your classmates, Imeanwhat?)
- Life After Life by Kate Atkinson: This, and the sister book released this summer, God in Ruins, tugged at my heartstrings. Hmm. Maybe I should see a doctor and have those tied up.
- The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker: Also a few years old, but a coming of age book I never stop thinking about.
- Rules of Civility by Amor Towles: A step between fine modern fiction and beach-reading smut. It’s a load of fun.
Read all of those and loved them? Shoot me a message and I’ll send some other ideas your way. Read all of those and hated them? To each his own. Can’t read? Then I am very impressed by you getting all the way to the bottom of this post. You are a gentleman and a scholar.
What are you reading this summer that I should put on my next recovery list?