On one of the hottest nights of the year a couple of hundred people meet up to run round a sun baked patch of ground in north London. It's the Assembly League race on Tottenham marshes - 'marsh' may conjure up images of moisture and soft ground but this is more like the dry grasslands of the tropical savannah. To add to the discomfort most of us do not realise until the last lap that what was supposed to be a roughly 5K race is actually an extra 800m long. A finish line of lungs gasping for breath and dry throats in urgent need of water or something stronger, the sting of our own salt in our eyes. Still once the immediate pain recedes we remember that we are happy to be here, a pleasant stroll back along the canal and somewhere a pub is calling… ah that summer feeling.
Jonathan Richman's song of that name reminds us of some of the joys of summer – ‘the cool of the pond, the smell of the lawn', sun, water, ripening fields, desire… yes and running not as a duty but as a pleasure: “when you run for love not because you oughta”. OK not everybody enjoys running in the heat, but compared with dragging yourself out of bed on a cold, wet morning for a training run there's no contest is there?
But he also reminds us that that summer feeling can include a strong current of melancholy. Summers don’t last for ever, holidays end, passionate moments can be fleeting. We will always be drawn back to the memories of summers past and Richman suggests that even in the midst of these pleasures we are aware that one day we will be looking back on them with longing: "that summer feeling is gonna haunt you one day in your life".
Nostalgia plays tricks with us too, the summer glow can make us misremember, even terrible school days can seem okay: “Some things look good before and some things never were... You pick these things apart, they're not that appealing”.
There’s nothing wrong with that summer feeling. It’s one of life’s great pleasures but it can become pathological if we are not careful. If we don’t want our summer reminiscences to be tortured by regret we need to seize the moment – “if you wait until you’re older, a sad resentment will smolder one-day“. So run while you can, even if it means a long journey to the other side of the city for a poor time, summer's always almost gone!
The best version of 'That Summer Feeling' is on the 1992 Jonathan Richman album, 'I, Jonathan' (unfortunately currently unavailable on Spotify)
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