Reluctantly crouched at the starting line
Engines pumping and thumping in time
The green light flashes, the flags go up
Churning and burning, they yearn for the cup
They deftly maneuver and muscle for rank
Fuel burning fast on an empty tank
Reckless and wild, they pour through the turns
Their prowess is potent and secretly stern

As they speed through the finish, the flags go down
The fans get up and they get out of town
The arena is empty except for one man
Still driving and striving as fast as he can
The sun has gone down and the moon has come up
And long ago somebody left with the cup
But he's driving and striving and hugging the turns
And thinking of someone for whom he still burns

He's going the distance
He's going for speed
She's all alone
In her time of need

Because he's racing and pacing and plotting the course
He's fighting and biting and riding on his horse
He's going the distance
No trophy, no flowers, no flashbulbs, no wine
He's haunted by something he cannot define
Bowel-shaking earthquakes of doubt and remorse
Assail him, impale him with monster-truck force
In his mind, he's still driving, still making the grade

She's hoping in time that her memories will fade
Cause he's racing and pacing and plotting the course
He's fighting and biting and riding on his horse
The sun has gone down and the moon has come up
And long ago somebody left with the cup
But he's striving and driving and hugging the turns
And thinking of someone for whom he still burns

'Cause he's going the distance
He's going for speed
She's all alone
In her time of need

Because he's racing and pacing and plotting the course
He's fighting and biting and riding on his horse
He's racing and pacing and plotting the course
He's fighting and biting and riding on his horse

He's going the distance
He's going for speed
He's going the distance


Lyrics submitted by kevin

The Distance Lyrics as written by Gregory Brown

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

The Distance song meanings
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172 Comments

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  • +15
    General Comment

    I think the song is painting the picture of corporate america work-a-holics. A man is working longer and harder than everyone else, even though someone else is already reaping the rewards. He works, works, and works, ignoring his wife, who he loves very much but can't find the time for. As a result, she has left him and hopes her memories of her time with him will fade, making the pain easier to bare.

    MKORSUon August 28, 2002   Link
  • +5
    General Comment

    I'm not sure it has anything to do with anything except a man who can't admit failure. Almost an obsessive-compulsive tone to the whole thing. He's so wrapped up in doing what he's doing to the disturbed standards hes's set in his own mind that he refuses to see things for what they really are... over.

    jobo5432on July 07, 2010   Link
  • +4
    General Comment

    i think that this song is about a guy who really likes a girl and he is spending all this time and effort trying to win her affections. maybe they were together before and she had a bad experience ("she's hoping in time her memories will fade") but he still wants her and he is so busy trying to win her that he doesn't even realize his window of opportunity is gone (" and long ago somebody left with the cup"). Maybe she has already found someone else. it sounds to me like he lost her b/c he was so busy concentrating on what he thought that she wanted that she was "all alone in her time of need".

    dxdragonetteon April 25, 2003   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    Dragonnette had the meaning close. When this song first became a hit on the radio. The singer was interviewed about the songs success.

    And was asked what the song was about?..... John said, "it was a story about a guy that had great desire for a woman, and badly wanted a relationship with her. But the Guy is to shy to "Go the Distance", "or go that extra step to let this woman know that he had feelings for her. And in a twist of fate another guy comes along and sweeps her off her feet. The original guy then misses his chance". The song is about his feelings of what he misses out on.

    The interviewer then asking John, of rumors of the song being directly related to him and the song is actually about an experience he onced lived? Where there was a long pause from John, and he said (very timidly) "Whell, I'm not really going to say whether there is any truth in that or not"

    Its probably fair to say the Song 'Frank Sinatra' (a cover song) is borrowed for its meaning of his anger and resentment (with in himself no-doubt) of this incident.

    KustomCandyon April 11, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    @KustomKandy and @Dragonette

    Bullseye! Here's an excerpt from Rolling Stone's (RS.com) interview with Greg Brown who wrote the song and explains its meaning. He also explains about why the race car metaphor is used.

    RS.COM: Will the success of The Distance" mean you'll be writing more songs?

    GREG BROWN: Man, I sure hope so. I was delighted that John was receptive to it, because he's been writing songs for a long time. It was the only song I wrote to appear on the record. I'm really happy with it. John did a great vocal track. Victor (Damiani) put down a good bass line, and Vincent (di Fiore) came up with a cool trumpet part.

    RS.COM: What's the song about?

    GB: I wrote it about a relationship of mine. It's about a guy who races and races, even after the race is over. He's basically clueless. I used the race car metaphor so it wouldn't be so sentimental ... it seemed apt.

    RS.COM:Is sarcasm a difficult device to pull off in song writing?

    GB: Well, I'm not a sarcastic guitarist, but it's pretty recurrent in our songs. John uses it probably for the same reason I used the race car metaphor in "Distance": to basically distance himself from the song.

    tweedletweeton April 14, 2009   Link
  • +1
    My Interpretation

    This song is about not giving up, even when the race finishes hes still goin hard, metaphorically it is about a girl and not quitting and letting her go, the memories she wants to fade wont fade because he never quits, he never gives up even after the race/relationship is over and someone left with the cup/her, he still goes hard and wont give up on it/her.

    This song summed up is about going after what u want and never giving up win or lose.

    Hasticon January 04, 2011   Link
  • +1
    Song Meaning

    I agree with the second guy to comment. He is climbing the corporate ladder, working and working, but he'll never get to the top because someone else has already won the cup. His wife is usually alone because he is always working..and she needs him to be there for her. But this is only one example of what the man in the song could be doing. Yes, this means corporate guy is correct and anal sex man is correct in their interpretations.

    The man could be doing anything. But you guys don't need to be focusing on what the man is doing. It doesn't matter what he is doing. The writer just needed to focus on the man doing something in order to show you an example of what he could be doing, why he is doing it, and how is messing up other important things in his life, so that the reader could see the big picture which is that his relationship with his wife and possibly his family is bad and they are now lonely because the man is always gone. He is never going to get to the top no matter how much he tries("works") because there are just too many people("they") to compete("race") with. The point is that they are married but their relationship is not going good because the man constantly out trying to succeed in his life. That could mean any goal that he has for himself that just isn't reachable for him. So he needs to learn to focus on what's important in life, his lonely wife and possibly family. The other point that nobody seems to notice is how the man is feeling. He is haunted by something he can't define. Something is seriously bothering him that's making him feel so obsessed with succeeding. The reason he is so obsessed with succeeding is because he wants to do it for his wife/family. For example to make them proud or provide for them, and he doesn't realize it but the more he tries to be the best for them..the worse they feel and the father he gets from them.

    The moral of the story is: Your never going to be the best, no matter how hard you try. The deeper moral of the story is: You shouldn't be gone so often and so obsessed with something so unobtainable and when your wife/family needs you with them. Life is too short for that crap. Even deeper moral of the story: This particular person really needs to take a look into himself and decide what is really important in his life, and figure out if he truly is making the best choices to fully enjoy his life. Maybe this man isn't the only person whose actions actually contradict what he really wants in life. Maybe many people do this. Maybe you do this.

    People need to look into themselves. Realize what emotions are making them make which actions in life. Once they realize which emotions are actually making the decisions in their brain, which actually contradict what they truly want than they will finally understand themselves, and make the right choices in their life without their emotions clouding their judgement, in order to obtain happiness.

    I hope some people will take the time to understand my understanding of the song. Thank you.

    cierraashleeon May 14, 2011   Link
  • +1
    Song Meaning

    I appears many users are preoccupied with rectal insertion (there is no such thing as anal "sex") and masterbation. Neither theme is mentioned by the composer. Are we assuming "the cup" is full of sperm too...pfft? Get a life! The song is about RACING!!!

    MeanGene16on June 23, 2011   Link
  • +1
    Song Meaning

    When people try to interpret songs, I think they tend to focus entirely on the lyrics and ignore what meaning the music and the the composition give it. Musically, the song is upbeat and fun, and McCrea's standard half-sung, half-spoken style lends the desired effect of an announcer calling a race. True, there are songs that juxtapose snappy melodies with disturbing lyrics, but this isn't one of them. The song is about a guy who showed up to a stock car race riding a horse. The guy never had a prayer to win the prize, which in this case is a woman. He's "reluctantly crouching" like a jockey--a jockey who's sitting next to race cars that are gunning their engines. Why's he reluctant? Because he doesn't want to compete. It sounds like he was forced to compete, like maybe this was his girl and now she's interested in others because he's lousy in bed. Maybe he repeatedly left her "all alone in her time of need" sans orgasm. I could be all wrong, but I've read the comments that it's about rape, and I hear nothing in the music or lyrics that supports that. They guy riding the horse is obviously tenacious, but what's wrong with that, so long as you don't cross the line in to criminal behavior?

    johnfelonon June 04, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    this song is about a woman who has chosen between two men. The man in the story was the person that she didn't choose. He still thinks he can win her heart, though, so long after the flags go down, he's still chasing after her. She's hoping in time that this will all be a thing of the past, since she's happy with the man she chose. The loser still believes that she's all alone in her time of need, but that's because he's obsessed.

    veradeson September 04, 2011   Link

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