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I'm reading a running/racewalking memoir by Lawrence Block. In the book, he said that in the beginning he had no intention of participating in Marathon. But then the idea entered his mind, and he noted:

"I appreciated the fact that running would take off weight... this alone seemed reason enough to put on my shorts and shoes and get out there. Still, the phrase echoed, and began to do its subtle damage. Not the promise so much as the premise. The one word, really. Marathon."

What does "Not the promise so much as the premise" mean?

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    Not the guarantee so much as the idea. – DJMcMayhem Apr 2 '15 at 3:08
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I believe that the writer means that what "began to do its subtle damage" was not the promise of losing weight but the premise, i.e. the context. The fact that he would be running on a Marathon began to seem more important than the fact that he would be merely losing weight. He could lose weight by running around his block but instead he chose a Marathon and at this point the writer starts to realize the monumental effort and the overall context of the race.

This is what I gather from the given phrase. I hope that I helped you.

  • Works for me. Block's writing is full of these little wordplay witticisms. – Tetsujin Apr 2 '15 at 8:23

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