Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Jack Kerouac, the Ultra Trail Runner

  “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” 

Jack Kerouac's birthday is today, and the quote above is perhaps his most famous and beloved. Who couldn't read 'On The Road' and not feel the flame of passion inside their hearts get doused with gasoline, and thus burn like a roman candle exploding like a spider across the sky.

On The Road was the bible that young folks put in their back pocket and carried with them. It was comforting just to have it near. I had my own tattered paperback version with the orange, glowing sun. Young people looking for adventure were inspired by Keroauc. Those who wanted to be unhindered by social convention understood his lifestyle. His work is a case where form equaled tone equaled content, because just the frenetic beat of the prose made you want to move.

He was also perhaps the voice for  naive, grossly idealistic youth who yearned for something and expected it to be fulfilled, even if it couldn't be named.  But oh, to be naive and grossly idealistic again and see such promise on the landscape. For many of us, 'On The Road,' by Kerouac turned into 'The Road,' by Cormac McCarthy.

As many artistic folks with these types of yearnings, Jack became a terrible alcoholic, and this is what killed him.  I have decided that if Jack had decided to be a ultra trail runner, he'd be alive today. 

The need to travel, always looking for adventure down the road, feeling connected with the universe under the vast American sky, cataloging each new stop, feeling his brain and spirit buzz with spiritual joo-joo juice along the way  - isn't that what a trail runner is? 

Show me an ultra trail runner, any one of them, and I will show you someone who is mad to live, desirous of everything at the same time, who rarely says a commonplace thing, but burns, burns, burns like a firework in the sky. Consider these Kerouac quotes, and decide if there wasn't a runner in Jack:

“There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.”
Jack Kerouac, On the Road: The Original Scroll

My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them.”
Jack Kerouac

“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”
Jack Kerouac, On the Road 

Jack had all the makings of a trail runner. 'On The Road' could have been by trail as much as by car, and if Jack felt the buzz of a long trail run, chasing after Dean Karnazes instead of Dean Moriarty, his lack of control in his passion for running would have had much less dire consequences, and left us with many more novels to ponder.


Cait the Arty Runnerchick said...

nice tribute post, here. excellent choice of quote. :)
i think it's no coincidence that artists fall into some kind of addiction...it's gotta be some kind of the way the brain is hardwired. i dunno if it comes back to having insecurities, or what. it's like the more brilliant u are, SOMETHING in the world makes u compelled to self-destruct in some way. of course not always, but it seems to happen a lot. and now i go off rambling...lol

jennifer graham said...

Arrrgggggh.... as an alleged professional writer, this is the kind of quote that sends me back to bed moaning about how I can't write, never could, and I might as well clean stalls for a living. great post nonetheless, and I will be getting this book right away.

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Suzy said...

I read your post without blinking in case I missed something. You pretty much totally rule, and I feel like I might be the female version of Jack. I kinda want to beat my chest and take off for the jungle. LOVE this. Need to read that book, like, yesterday.

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