[I’ve only had a few real passions in my life, and most of them date back to my childhood. As a kid, I could always outrun all the other kids. Through the ebb and flow of the years, the love of running has remained with me and expresses itself now in road racing; I hope to run my fourth marathon, the inaugural Charleston Marathon, in January. Another, even greater, passion is writing. These two passions have mirrored each other in many ways throughout my life, each teaching me lessons about the other. At last they have come together in a novel I hope to have in print around the first of the year. It’s called The Boston, and tells the story of the first American born runner to win the famous Boston Marathon in more than twenty-five years. The scene below comes from the fourth chapter in which the main character, Ron Jerdin, is conversing with Lillian Smits, a young woman who is riding with him to a foot race.]
“So why do you really run?
Ron settled back in his seat, staring over the steering wheel at the highway before him. No one had ever asked him to talk about running before. Reporters and admirers often asked about races and his experiences in them, but never about the purpose or the essence of what it meant to run. And for all the years he had run so many miles, he wasn’t sure he could express what it meant to him.
Beginning slowly, he said, “I run for every mile after the first mile. When I run, the farther I go, the more I belong to myself. I have . . . serenity. When I run, the world stops being a place of excruciating pain. And as long as I run, the world can’t hurt me. . . . When I run, I become something that very few people can be and very few can understand. It’s almost like having the ability to fly without leaving the ground. . . . When I run it’s a time machine. I put myself in this virtual capsule and I’m gone to the land of clarity and beauty. An hour or two or more passes. I come back and nothing has changed. . . . When I was hurt and couldn’t run, running waited for me. A day came—just a week or two before your sister went to the Olympics—when I finally made it back to running. I could run as far as I wanted without any pain. And I knew I was back and that running had waited for me.
“The whole time Marianne was gone to the games, I brooded and sat around feeling angry at myself, feeling like a failure because of the injury and the surgery and the misery. Only, I would go out and run in the morning and again in the evening and the feelings would leave me for a while. Running got me through that time when there was no one else.”
“. . . You make running sound like a woman.”
“Ha. No. It’s more like . . . well, I heard about an American Indian runner once—maybe it was Billy Mills—who said that Indians run to draw strength from the earth. I get that. When I run, there comes a point where a connection opens between me and another place and goodness begins to flow in.” He smiled. “Was that philosophical enough? I said way too much.”
“What did you mean when you said you run for every mile after the first mile?”
“Oh. That’s something I learned from my cross country coach back in high school. He said, ‘Remember, boys, nobody likes the first mile. The first mile is the price you pay to get to the zone.’”
“Yeah. I used to think he was talking about ‘runner’s high,’ you know. When your endorphins kick in after a run or a race and you’re buzzing. I discovered, eventually, the zone is more than that.” He glanced at her. “Want some breakfast?”
— Laz Barnhill
A voice calls, “Write, write!”
I say, “For whom shall I write.”
And the voice replies,
“For the dead whom thou didst love.”