The Olympic Runner is about a runner who is unfairly stereotyped by critics. Rhyming-couplets are used throughout the poem to reflect the steady and fast pace of the runner. There is also a subtle use of irony that makes the poem particularly effective – see if you can spot it.
This poem is a useful teaching tool for KS3 and GCSE students, because it is both fairly easy to understand and uses many structural and language techniques. The non-literal elements are also easily understandable.
The Olympic Runner
The sun beat down so hard it burnt his back,
His feet ate the dust as he ran the endless track,
The wind gave him wings and the miles flew by,
He was gunning for gold, for victory he’d die.
Critics had a field day when he entered the arena,
They could have knocked him down with a feather,
“Sideways you can’t see him through a 50-cent coin,
Bones on a cold carcass make up his manly loin.”
“His feet so long he will surely fall flat on his face,
Legs stretch down like two bamboo poles in place,
From the land of famine he gets not his daily bread,
If he wins, we’ll eat our hats,” in mockery they said.
As he touched the finish line, the crowd went wild,
Cheers heard across the land by every man and child,
His heartbeats so erratic they were beating out of time
If he could take a shot at his critics it’d be no crime.
Sweat streamed down, pooled like rivulets on the floor,
A warrior back from the battlefield, battered and sore,
Standing tall as a Brobdingnagian, the anthem sung
The joy so sweet, he could taste it on his tongue.
He was so tired he felt he could sleep for a year
The cynics struck dumb, had no cause to jeer,
‘A man in a million’ were the headlines that day
“Not a mere man but a giant in spirit,” they say.
By Jacinta Ramayah