Tag Archives: running

Everything That Converges Must Emerge (a play on Flannery O’Conner’s wonderful title Everything That Rises Must Converge)

[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.’”

         “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.”

—John Berryman

 

Lazarus Barnhill is the author of Lacey Took a Holiday and The Medicine People, available from Second Wind Publishing.

 

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Cooking the Books

            Where are your books born, my fellow authors?  Where do they “marinate”—if they do—before you actually start writing?  What process do you use to hone your creative ideas before you put them down on paper?

            For me, most ideas pop into my mind in an instant.  Way (and I mean way back) in 1983 when my three children were very young, I was standing in line at the spelunker ride at Six Flags Over Texas and happened to see a sign adorned with an image of a unicorn; the sign said, “Your wait from this point is twenty minutes.”  By the time we got on the ride, one of my first novels had been “written”: the story of a girl whose dreams of a unicorn are so vivid she comes to believe the creature is real.  It took me four or five months after that to get the story on paper.

            Over time, being the sort of guy who spends sixty hours a week working at my day job, I accumulated a lot of story lines I had not put down on paper.  It came to me a couple years ago I should record these storylines (for fear my “between-the-ears” hard drive might get full).  I was stunned when I compiled all the storylines.  There were fully two dozen (since then I’ve acquired several more).  Two of these ideas became Lacey Took a Holiday and The Medicine People.  Another of them, East Light, has been submitted to the good people of Second Wind Publishing and I have high hopes for it.

            Still another of those ideas is a book I’m working on feverishly because I’m hoping the 2W people will accept it and have it available for sale by April 15, 2010—and it has nothing to do with income tax.  The novel I’m writing is called The Boston, and it’s the story of the first native born American citizen to win the Boston Marathon in a couple decades.  There—I’ve spoiled the surprise: my hero, Ron Jerdin, wins the race.  Because the outcome of the story is clear (you know, just like a romance or a murder mystery), the real tension of the story has to do what obstacles Ron encounters on his journey to the Boston starting line, and the relationships that cause him to develop as a person.  It’s also a wonderful challenge to create enough tension in the final description of the race to draw readers in and compel them to read the finish—of the book and the race.

            One of the most fun aspects of this project for me is where I “cooked” the book—that is, what I was doing when the storyline developed between my ears.  I’m a runner . . . well, sort of (I didn’t say I was fast runner; just a runner).  I’ve run 1000 miles a year nearly every year going back to 1996.  And I’ve competed in several hundred races, including three marathons, over same period.  The Boston came into being over the course of many cool mornings as I plodded for mile after mile down North Carolina roads and running trails.

I seriously doubt I’ll ever qualify to actually run the Boston Marathon (I said to a fellow a couple years ago, “All I have to do to qualify for the Boston is take an hour off my best marathon time.”).  Thus my homage to running, racing and the greatest marathon is a book I hope to have on sale before the next running of the race.  And I have to make the fictional Ron Jerdin win it before an actual American runner does.  –Laz Barnhill

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