Ian Heffernan




The Running Club

This morning not their normal urban route:
The busy paths beside dual carriageways,
The quiet in the longer avenues,
The brief, ill-thought-out streets where people tend
Their flower beds like grudges and the cars
Are parked along the pavement on both sides.

Instead the dip and lift of country lanes,
Uncertain tarmac, little muddy pools,
A loneliness of clearings, half-attempts
At tracks which jink away between the trees,
And, early in the run, a hidden bridge
Adjacent to the point where two streams meet.

They pass in groups and then in single file.
One checks his watch, another’s spectacles
Are covered with the scribblings of light rain.
These runners represent the mind engaged
In settling inner debts, but doing this
Through physical activity, which means

The press of blood in artery and vein,
The solemn rasp of breath, warm knots of sweat,
The grimaces and intermittent farts.
For thirteen miles or so they pay their debts.
They see a crash between two builder’s vans,
A girl outside an isolated pub,

Two rabbits dart across a drainage ditch,
A roadkill badger stretched out on its side
(A black-brown turd protruding from its rear).
The world flows backwards from their tight-strung frames,
Their bleak ascesis strengthens with each stride,
The sound of their own footfalls goads them on.



Ian Heffernan was born just outside London, where he still lives. He studied at UCL and SOAS and works with the homeless. His poetry has been published recently in the High Window, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Cha, Antiphon, South Bank Poetry, London Grip, Under the Radar, FourXFour, the Moth and elsewhere.

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