Guest Blog post by Nicholas Mazza — Health and personal development aspects in combining recreational running and poetry reading/writing are summarized.
The focus of this activity is on the combined use of running and poetry. The distance, speed, and frequency of running is adjusted to the physical and mental health of the individual. Similarly, the reading and writing of poetry is adjusted to intellectual development/abilities of the individual.
The overall method:
1. Select poem (or stanza from longer poem) to read and recite before running
2. Run predetermined distance. Recite poem/lines before and/or during the run as preferred by the runner.
3. Pay attention to own body and steps taken but also attention surroundings and anyone encountered during the run.
4. Shortly after the conclusion of the run, write through poetic form, about the experience. This could come in the form of a pre-structured poem such as: Running is the color….. ; a two-line story such as…; poetic stems such as…; or free form.
Mazza’s (2017) RES integrative practice and research model will be used as an organizational framework for this article. The model contains three domains:
Receptive/Prescriptive(R) involving the introduction of a poem/song/story into the therapeutic or educational context. The Runner’s Literary Companion edited by Garth Battista (1996) is an excellent source for inspiring stories and poems about running. Poems can also be searched and retrieved from the Poem Hunter https://www.poemhunter.com/
, Poetry Foundation https://www.poetryfoundation.o
, and Poets.org Teach this Poem https://poets.org/search?combi
Expressive/ creative (E) with a focus on written, spoken, and performed communication. For example, poetry, journals, stories, letters, and movement/dance. Many runners keep their own journal to not only record their mileage but to express their thoughts and feelings. Focused expressive writing can serve as a safety valve to express difficult feelings, provide a sense of order and control, and promote group interaction.
Some specific techniques include:
Prestructured sentence or poetic stems (e.g., If you knew me……); Clustering, whereby one can free associate (similar to brainstorming) images and feelings related to a central word (e.g., ‘‘running’’); Sensory poems, a prestructured exercise to create a poem based on the senses (e.g., Losing sounds like..).; and Acrostics, whereby one starts each line with a letter from a particular word (e.g., Finishing); Dyadic poems whereby two individuals create a two line poem; and Collaborative poems whereby each member of a group or family has the opportunity to contribute one or more lines to a poem.
Symbolic/Ceremonial(S) involves the creation of metaphors, movement, storytelling, and rituals.
Running a race is very much attuned to the symbolic/ceremonial component in that it can become a metaphor for life and part of storytelling.
1. Both running and writing provides an element of control to the individual.
2. Vehicle/outlet to express feelings.
3. Integrates affective, cognitive, and behavioral experiences.
4. Enhances observational skills.
5. Affirms both being alone relationships with others (e.g., encounters with others on the run, sharing experiences).
6. Demonstrates the importance of pacing
7. Demonstrates the satisfaction of reaching a goal.
8. Provides an opportunity for mastery.
9. Potential as a spiritual experience.
Presence and being attuned to one’s body, mind, and spirit is central to running and good health.I write and run to be alive, keeping in mind the importance of sharing and being thankful to others. No one makes it alone. Sometimes we write to survive. Sometimes we run to survive. Perhaps at the most unexpected times, we run and write to remember, to cope with life transitions, and to find meaning in life.
Mazza, N. (2012). Poetry/creative writing for an arts and athletics community outreach program for at-risk youth. Journal of Poetry Therapy, 25, 225-231.
Mazza, N. (2017). Poetry therapy: Theory and practice, 2nd ed. New York and London: Routledge.
Peeke, P.(2016). Why the marathon is a metaphor for life. http://blogs.webmd.com/pamela-
April 27, 2016 WebMED
Battista, G. (Ed.) (1996). The runner’s literary companion. New York: Penguin.
Heinrich, B. (2001). Why we run: A natural history. New York: Harper Collins.
Parker, J.L. (1990). Once a runner. New York: Scribner.
Nicholas Mazza, Ph.D., is Professor and Dean Emeritus at the Florida State University, College of Social Work. . Dr. Mazza holds Florida licenses in psychology, clinical social work, and marriage and family therapy. Dr. Mazza is the author of Poetry Therapy: Theory and Practice, 2nd Edition; and editor of a 4-volume series, Expressive Therapies (published by Routledge). He is also the founding (1987) and current editor of the Journal of Poetry Therapy. Dr. Mazza, a marathon runner, is the founder of the College of Social Work Arts and Athletics Community Outreach Program for At-Risk Youth established at Florida State University (FSU) in 2011.
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