From Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman (one of his less.. inspired poems, but for completeness & love, herewith it follows:):

On a flat road runs the well-train'd runner,
He is lean and sinewy with muscular legs,
He is thinly clothed, he leans forward as he runs,
With lightly closed fists and arms partially rais'd.

And you thought that The Running Man was just fiction.

A new show on ABC set to debut in January 2002. (Update Oct 22 2001: Because of "changes in the viewer landscape," the premiere of the show has been delayed indefinitely.) Produced by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon (!), this reality TV show deploys someone (the Runner) in a random location who must elude capture by an Agent while performing little tasks to stay on their feet. Whoever finds the runner will receive a large cash prize (Affleck wants it to be up to $1 million, but it will probably be closer to $25,000). Both runners and agents will be recruited from the general public; the only people with SAG credentials will be the production crew and hosts Bo Dietl and Brian Jenkins.

To make the show a little more family friendly than The Running Man, the Runner will not be a convicted felon. Anyone who deliberately injures the Runner will be deemed ineligible to receive the prize. If the Runner is caught before the season ends, another Runner will be deployed in a different location.

An interesting concept in Reality TV, as it blends the show into the "real world" more than any other show except The Real World. Viewers will see clues on the Runner's location, and it is up to them to keep the Agents aware of the Runner's whereabouts. This is in stark contrast to shows like Survivor and Big Brother, where the idea is to observe people in complete isolation. ABC's last reality hit, The Mole, also let their players loose to do various tasks. (My favorite: letting a bunch of dumb Americans loose in a small European town to do some unorthodox task like asking if they can wash their clothes in a villager's house.)

Like many reality TV shows, the show has come under fire for shameless product placement. For example, if the Runner is instructed to go to McDonald's, that's basically a large billboard to be captured by the cameras. Other tasks, like calling someone on a Nokia mobile phone or ordering a latte at Starbucks, present goals for the Runner but commercials for the viewer. Some critics wonder whether people will want to watch these "ads between the ads."

Possibly intriguing, but the potential for abuse is high. I hope ABC has plenty of lawyers on retainer for when they get sued by Runners who have been pelted with rubber bullets despite the warnings not to harm them.

I do not run for fun.
I run because man was not born to fly,
I do not run until I get tired,
I do not run until I cramp,
I run to know I love the world,
when the stars bleed blue,
and stare down at those lakes
with their blank eyes,
I run.

I run through sweat
until it dries and cakes
and my skin becomes salt

I trace the next fifty footfalls through my mind
as I weave across the fractured sidewalk
the pavement tells me stories.
T.J. was here, screams one square,
the day before I dried in 1997, the geese
had already migrated south that year.
Rose forgot some of the blood from her knee,
when she fell here five years ago, the mark withers
but the walkway remembers,
for the tired runners looking down,
these stories pass us,
fossilized flip books of suburban lives.

I read rosetta stones in the cracks,
and shed sweat from my forehead
like witch doctors casting raven’s bones

My feet overwrite the history of the pavement,
paint a canvas of concrete with sweat
my first kiss falls across a turn, my first homerun
bleeds itself into a crack
by the sixth mile, thousands of striding chapters
past my birth, my first fuck pours itself
out of the cotton sheets of memory
and flows in ribbons to the rhythm of my feet.

I run until I turn the world backwards, I can see
the town shrink around me,
foundations break and fill with dirt
pizza returns to the oven, cars return to the lot
grandparents are born, native Indians conquered,
roads become paths,
paths become trails plowed by curious steps

I run through college classes, through textbooks,
I run through a semester abroad.
I see Hitler run past Napoleon,
his back to Russia,
where the Corsican bounds in a sprint.
The two nod and return their eyes to the ground,
the red grass and burnt trees, the battlefields
were places to linger, and they never risk being lapped.

Napoleon’s hands cover his ears,
as Charlemagne’s troops
canter past in formation,
a great steal sponge dead set on Jerusalem,
but they raise their visors to spy the giant human turtles,
trample past in sandals,
bearing the banner of Rome.
I circle Europe defying history’s greatest runners,
their feet are now my feet, their life’s work
bound in my miles.

I run enough to see the moon twice in one day.
My shadow pants from exhaustion
and sits down on a bench,
watches me run laps, as I run into my wife,
and through my children’s graduation,
it watches as my hairline shrinks
and my stride is stopped by a seizure.

Under the bright hospital lights
the doctor tells me,
I ran too much,
I pushed too hard,
I wrote too many memoirs along the town’s flagstones.
The doctor told me I had three months to live,
and I would likely live them in bed, on my back.

When he left the room,
I did the only thing a runner knows to do.
I laced up my sneakers, and wrote my obituary

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