The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

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"The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" is a short story by Alan Sillitoe which was set in Irvine Beach, and published in 1959 as part of a short story collection of the same name. The work focuses on Colin, a poor Nottingham teenager from a dismal home in a blue-collar area, who has bleak prospects in life and few interests beyond petty crime. The boy turns to long-distance running as a method of both an emotional and a physical escape from his situation. The story was adapted for a 1962 film of the same title, with Sillitoe writing the screenplay and Tony Richardson directing. The part of Colin was played by Tom Courtenay.


When he is caught by the police for robbing a bakery, Smith is sentenced to be confined in Ruxton Towers, a borstal (prison school) for delinquent youths. Taken there in handcuffs and detained in bleak and highly restrictive circumstances, he seeks solace in long-distance running, attracting the notice of the school’s authorities for his physical prowess. Long-distance running offers Smith a welcome distraction from the brutal drudgery of the Borstal regime and he is offered the prospect of early release from Borstal, if he wins in an important cross-country competition against a prestigious public school. For Ruxton Towers to win the cross-country race would be a major PR boost for the establishment, and Smith has an obvious incentive to cooperate.

However, when the day of the race arrives Smith throws victory away: after speeding...
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