Alex Lockwood

the inspiration behind Alex Lockwood’s short story, ‘Running Hard’

I was originally led to write my piece ‘Running Hard’ inspired not by Turing, but by running. I write about running because it’s a major part of my life; I love both the solitary nature and the camaraderie of long distance running. I love the battle with obstruction and limits. And I love the pleasures and disciplines the sport (or lifestyle) gives to so many people. Put your shoes on, tie up your laces, and go. It is the ultimate accessible spiritual journey, every time you step out the door. When I discovered it was also a major part of Turing’s life — and that he was so good at it — and there was the opportunity to say something else, other, about another great runner, was then the inspiration to submit a piece.

And Turing was good. He was a 2:46 marathon runner whilst a Fellow at King’s College Cambridge. He came fifth in the British trials to run at the 1948 Olympics, missing out by just two spots at representing his country. And there is a Turing Trial Relay held each year at Ely, Cambridge, in his honour.

I love the idea of what running might have given Turing in terms of the freedom to think and, also, in my piece, to live a different life as to the one he might have lived. I also wanted to draw some connections (fictional) between his work and his running. Both seemed to be equal parts of his identity – as I know running is often something that people do feel integral to their way of living, who they are. We are built to run, and long distances — evolutionary psychologists suggest we could not run as fast as some of our prey, back in pre-history, but tribes of homo sapiens, would wear down the prey. Outlast them. I wanted to see what Turing would outlast if we looked at his running in relation to his code-breaking and the rest of his life.

The novelist Haruki Murakami says of running: “I run to acquire a void… the thoughts and ideas that invade my emotions as I run are subordinate to that void. Lacking content, they are just random thoughts that gather around that central void … it has substance and at the same time doesn’t. And we merely accept that vast expanse and drink it in.” I like to think that during his runs to London (for a meeting!) this is where Turing’s mind went, and where some of his amazing ideas came from.

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