The Long Road to Boston – Part History, Part Memior

The Long Road to Boston, by author/runner Mark Sutcliffe, paints his personal quest for trip to Boston to run the storied marathon with the fine brush of an artist while using broader strokes to bring the hallowed course and the former competitors to life.

Boston, the goal of many, if not most, marathoners presents a challenge beyond simply finishing the 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston. To simply toe the line, the marathoner needs to run a qualifying time, no easy feat for the merely mortal. In Sutcliffe’s case, it took twenty-one marathons to get to the start and two years of absolute dedication when his quest, to run the world’s oldest and most historic marathon, became irresistible.

But Sutcliffe has a fine appreciation, not just for the training required, but of the place that the Boston Marathon holds in the pantheon of marathons. Interspersed in his own narrative are the stories of John McDermott, the first champion, to Native American runner and twice-champion Ellison “Tarzan” Brown, to the immortal Clarence DeMar.

In Sutcliffe’s description of his race, he introduces us to the course itself, narrow chute of the starting line, into Ashland with the original starting line until 1908, and through from the screaming tunnel of enthusiasm of the Wellesly women. For runners, no course in the world matches the spectator support that Boston delivers – and it is to these people and the thousands of volunteers that Sutcliffe addresses his most touching words.

For a fan of running, an athlete aiming for their own shot at Boston, or history buff of sport, The Long Road to Boston serves to at once inform and inspire.

Books for the Fall Running Season

Books for the Fall Running Season

A couple of great reads.

The Inner Runner by Dr. Jason Karp

First up, Dr. Jason Karp’s The Inner Runner. Unlike most of the running books out there, Dr. Karp does not set up a training program or discuss the various workouts. For anyone who’s read running books at all, those tropes are tired beyond belief. What Karp does is give you reasons to run, lots of them, told in a friendly style with the anecdotes woven into the science.

Take his example of the connectivity of running. The premise of his statement is deceptively simple: running is very connective. But then Karp plays with the idea of connectedness, tying it to nature, then people, to effort, and finally to souls. (Okay, that was a bad pun. Couldn’t resist.) And, after leading us down into introspection, he lifts the story back up, to the sights and sounds of all the myriad places running can take us.

Even his chapter titles highlight the differences: Heathful Runs; Creative and Imaginative Runs: Productive Runs.

What The Inner Runner does, successfully, is to open the realms of the possible for all runners, by taking a look at facets beyond the optimal 5K program or the latest marathon tweak. It a worthy book for any runner to keep permanently on their shelf.

COMPETE Training Journal (Believe Training Journal) by Lauren Fleshman and Roisin McGettigan-Dumas

I didn’t realize the newest version of Fleshman’s and McGettigan-Dumas’ Training Journal was available for pre-order until I caught a tweet from Sally Bergesen of Oiselle.  The authors approach the journal process a bit differently than most. While the basics are there, theyadd (based on last year’s version) a heap of perspective and motivation to get you to your goals.

Now, I should back up here a touch – Fleshman and McGettigan-Dumas wrote this journal specifically for women. That does not mean it’s soft – no one in their right mind considers Fleshman or McGettigan-Dumas soft. It doesn’t mean that males can’t use it, just be prepared for feminine pronouns in place of the traditional “he, him, his.”

The response to last year’s version was very positive from the users. It’s unusual to get runners to almost unanimously agree on anything but this training journal (I’m basing my opinion on last year) seems pretty well beloved.  Personally, I liked the quality of the covers and pages. I’m not much for running logs since I’m not actively training any more, but the one I checked out as a gift was just plain welcoming to open and I could see my daughters using it with pleasure.

The Compete Training Journal is a nice tool for those that are looking for something that brings quite a bit more to the table than a spreadsheet. According to Amazon, the book will ship November 1st, in plenty of time for Christmas and the upcoming racing seasons.

The Occasional Diamond Thief by J. A. McLachlan

It’s not a running book, I know. Still, it was a darn fun read. I picked up a copy of this novel while on my trip to Calgary (and Jane was kind enough to autograph it for me.) As I wrote in review on Amazon:

What an enjoyable read! J. A. McLachlan crafted an entertaining story centered on teenage Kia, a gifted linguist, and a family secret wrapped in guilt. The story moves with smooth pacing and engaging characters from the death of Kia’s father to the planet Malem, with enough twists to keep things interesting and none of it forced. The interactions between Kia and the Select, Agathe, are warm and touching, lending a great deal of humanity to the story.

McLachlan managed a nice trick of building a wonderfully adventurous coming-of-age tale in a science fiction future that blends so seamlessly that she transports you with Kia and the Select Agathe to Malem. Definitely a novel to recommend.


Disclaimer: I buy these books out of my own money – none have been given to me for review and the authors didn’t know that I would be writing a review.

Audiobook Reviewer on Finishing Kick!

AudioBook Reviewer, run by Paul Stokes, took a listen to Finishing Kick and posted their opinion at the site, AudiobookReviewer.

They said some nice things about the story and my writing – always one of those ‘hold-your-breath’ moments as you just never know how a book will hit someone. They also said very nice things about the narrator, Annette Romano, who did such a fabulous job.

There is also a giveaway, so if you want the audio version of the book, head over and enter. Also, I don’t ask often, but would you please, please, please share the giveaway info with your friends? Share this out on Facebook or Twitter. Annette and I would be very grateful.

Longer, more nerdy blog post coming, hopefully later today.

An Apt Metaphor for Running in an Engaging Style

An Apt Metaphor for Running in an Engaging Style

Shawn Hacking writes from the heart in his book, Running: A Long Distance Love Affair. The affair he describes is no longer the hot and urgent passion of the young, but mellower with the acquisition of age and, perhaps, a touch of wisdom.

Running: A Long Distance Love Affair is a quick read, humorous at times, questioning at others, with the strong voice of an author who can tell a story. Built as a series of short chapters, mostly in chronological order, Hacking takes time to anchor each piece in time, both as a runner and in the calendar. The latter he does with a nifty decision to provide a sound track for his book, building a music list a new addition for each chapter. As someone who grew up in nearly the same generation, the memories evoked brought more than one smile.

Funny enough, my daughters would recognize a lot of the tracks and own some of the music.

As with other runners, Hacking came to it from another sport. He first began to run to get into shape for football. He doesn’t mention if he ever played—I know several folks who did both in high school. He did, however, excel right from the start as a runner. By his junior season, he was breaking meet records, and aiming for state records, no mean feat.

Running: A Long Distance Love Affair alternates from the biographical to the reflective. Stories of Henry Rono get offset by a look at the late George Sheehan. As Hacking readily admits, Rono’s belief in the strength gained against the hill held more sway to him than Sheehan’s admonitions to find the play in running. I remember, imperfectly I’m sure, Sheehan commenting on beginning to run to get fit, and then to race. And when the races were over, he discovered that he was a runner again, before asking, in his final days, “Was it enough?”

Younger runners don’t have these questions, but Hacking’s book nudges up to some of these same thoughts. Yet, he manages to capture the beauty of running young and strong, when glory seems possible and the body is indestructible, at the same time. This juxtaposition, intentional or not, brings out the nature of the love affair and how apt the metaphor of running to a love affair truly is.

Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron, A Review

Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron, A Review

Naomi Benaron, author of Running the Rift, takes the material of a beautiful country and a beautiful people to gradually lead the reader on a journey that encompasses the greatness that occurs in the simplest of acts alongside a descent into nearly unimaginable horror. Following the story of Jean Patrick Nbuka, the plot shifts step by step into Rwanda, and then, in rim horrifying detail, into the genocide that defines the country still.

Running the Rift: A Novel

By Naomi Benaron

Recently list as one of the top five novels that all runners should read by the Guardian, it works – just! – as a novel about running. Jean Patrick, a young Tutsi, grows into Rwanda’s best hope for an Olympic medal in the 800 meters. For Jean Patrick, this is not a revelation, but the culmination of a dream that started in grade school when he raced his brother to the gates of Gihundwe. The hard work, more than a decade of it, comes later in the story, woven in seamlessly with the greater story of the country.

The story of Rwanda, in the lead-up to the dissolution of civilization, and into the aftermath, dominates the story. Benaron deftly builds the tension, first with a rock-throwing incident at Gihundwe, Jean Patrick’s primary school, then in the streets. The sense of menace tracks the youth all the way to university. His saving grace, what keeps him safe, is his ability to run like the wind, to earn the nickname Mr. Olympics.

In the midst of that, Benaron presents all the beauty of Rwanda, in the sights, sounds, in the simple descriptions of the food. Her writing is elegant and clean, adding enough to bring you into Rwanda, to sit you at the table so you can listen to the babble of voices and taste the banana beer.

Benaron applies that same skill to the blackness without resorting to the melodramatic, letting the story follow the history with a sense of inevitableness that leaves the reader in fear for Jean Patrick and his love, Bea, as the tipping point to chaos approaches.

The author also leaves the reader angry, not just at the human cruelty, but at the cowardliness of the rest of the world who looked to Rwanda – and looked away again while the Tutsi were annihilated en masse and twenty percent of the Hutu, those sympathetic to national reconciliation, were murdered.

As I mentioned above, Running the Rift is just barely a novel of running. The running is well done, but it is the rest of the story, beyond the cleanliness of pain that is the 800 meters, that makes this into the powerful story that needs to be read.

Determined Runners by Justin Lagat, A Review

Determined Runners by Justin Lagat, A Review

In Determined Runners, Justin Lagat penned a nice synopsis of the advantage that Kenyan runners enjoy. The book, a compilation of articles published elsewhere and bound by the thread of experience, takes just an afternoon to read.

If you’re looking for that one killer workout that will make a difference, you need to head over to Runner’s World instead. What Lagat has put forth is not the specifics of training, though some of those are certainly present, but the mindset necessary to run like a Kenyan.

Lagat is, as with it seems every other fit young man in Kenya, a distance runner who has trained with the best in the world. A writer as well, he contributes to RunBlogRun.com under the column The View from Kenya, offering the perspective of a professional athlete in a region where running is neither a recreation nor a sport. It is very much a business, and the athletes treat it as such.

For fans of the sport, Determined Runners gets the inside scoop of the running camps, the efforts of the athletes, and a sincere desire for Westerners to compete on their home turf. In discussing the running camps, he makes the point that many of the best athletes left, not because of training differences but of the attitudes of the camp managers, who sought to treat adults as high school athletes to the extent that there were bed checks and asking permission to be away from camp on personal business. It’s hard not to hear an echo from Keyna’s colonial past in this, with the big camps assuming entirely too much control of the life of the athlete. Being held out of completion was a close second on the list of camp complaints. Access to races and sponsorships is critical if you want to earn a living on your legs.

Justin Lagat also runs a website called KenyanAthlete.com which is devoted to news from Kenya. Lagat, an outspoken critic of doping, also uses the site as a means of disseminating information regarding the various issues plaguing the sport. Per Lagat, “I want to be part of a clean sport and Kenyan athletes to be known throughout the world as those who can achieve greatness in our sport without the aid of drugs.” The turmoil in the sport of running grows with each with positive test of a marathon winner, the accusations hurled at the Nike Oregon Project, and the apparent corruption of the Russian Federation. Lagat toils in support of a clean sport, writing that the doping problems in running hurt the youngest runners most as companies back away from sponsorships.

I recommend that for runners who want an understanding of the Kenyan perspective, Determined Runners makes for a great entry point. You can purchase Determined Runners at Smashwords.

 

Racing the Rain is out

Racing the Rain is out

My three copies of Racing the Rain, John L. Parker’s best book to date, arrived today.

Racing the Rain: A Novel

By John L. Parker Jr.

Why three copies?

One for me, obviously. One for the XC team, so I don’t lose my copy like I did (twice!) with Once A Runner. To be fair, I lost a copy or two to family members as well. The final one for the school library – that way, I can send the junior high kids down the hall with a recommendation on a book they’ll love.

Below, the review I wrote back in May for the advance copy. Next time I see John, I’m getting my copy signed. Hopefully, that will be the Olympic Trials next year in Eugene.

Still envious of that cover . . .

For those that want to order a copy, feel free to use the link to the side. I’m an Amazon affiliate. Not much money is involved, but a latte a year isn’t too much to ask, is it?

Run gently, friends – or curl up with a brand new book and head off for an adventure on Florida’s Gold Coast.


Racing the Rain delivers the goods on young Quenton Cassidy with Parker’s flair for inspirational running scenes, an intriguing cast of characters, and a verdant setting above and below the surface of the Florida Gold Coast.

Parker opens the novel with scenes from an American childhood that will seem alien to most of his young readers, but that resonates with authenticity for the age; and, of course, there’s a race.

The boys in the story—Cassidy, his friends Stiggs and Randleman—roamed freely as the story unfolds, the early years touched on at the highlights, until Racing the Rain settles into the early teenage years when Cassidy turns serious about sports even as he searches for his identity.

For Cassidy, identity gets bound by the character of the Florida Gold Coast and by Trapper Nelson. Trapper, who as Cassidy thought of it, “. . . was supposedly bigger and stronger than Paul Bunyan, had more powers than Superman, knew more about animals than Tarzan . . .”  is the first to suggest that Cassidy pursue running, and was wise enough to wait for the seed to germinate. Trapper lives alone in the Everglades and the two form a relationship built on a mutual appreciation of each other and the Glades.

Parker’s ability to write a race scene that leaves your pulse pounding was the backbone of Once a Runner. In Racing the Rain, he adds a graceful skill in describing the natural world of Cassidy, whether describing a foray to capture bait fish amongst the cattails in the tide pools, scuba-diving in coral “so exotic they seemed not the product of the natural world, but of some schizophrenic jeweler,” or the feel of the oppressive summer heat as he works for Trapper maintaining an exotic menagerie. Parker’s affinity for Florida helps him paint the scenes with details that allow the richness of the place and time shine through.

As an author, Parker also added some misdirection to his repertoire as he gently builds a training program for young runners under the guise of telling the story. Gone are the sixty quarter miles, replaced by the guiding wisdom of Archie San Romani through Trapper, and later, from his coaches, especially Mr. Kamrad. The running is interspersed with basketball. It’s on the court that Cassidy first stars, learning the lessons of diligent practice and focus to reach beyond the barriers that had been applied to him.

Parker does a smooth job of bringing the previous book’s characters back to round out the scenes. Readers of Once a Runner will recognize many of the characters, not the least Mizner and a young Jack Nubbins and the race finale takes place at Southeastern University, the setting for Once a Runner.

Parker continues to blend in the science of training with his racing, but does so subtly. He sets basketball as the prestige sport, with cross country and track distant also-rans in the school hierarchy of popularity, not so different from the reality for most runners. As the plot develops, so does Cassidy’s character. The reader watches the writer deftly molding young Cassidy into the man that he will be in Once a Runner, the athlete with an almost visceral rejection of stupidity masquerading as authority. The tension builds through the second third of the novel as Cassidy is forced, by a combination of his own talents and decisions as well as the internal pressures of the sports programs with the prestige to decide on his future.

The result is less a one dimensional running book like Once a Runner and more a coming of age story for Quenton Cassidy, teenager. As such, it should have wider appeal to more readers. And yet, there’s that Parker touch, and the runners will recognize the magic that Parker brings to running fiction, that makes it special to all of us that once dreamed of being that runner.

_______________

Paul Duffau writes novels about running and works with junior high cross country runners part-time. His first novel, Finishing Kick, was recognized by Running Times in their Summer Reading list July, 2014. His newest novel, a high-octane adventure set in the mountains of Montana, is Trail of Second Chances. He blogs on the running life, running book, and interviews people that he finds interesting at www.paulduffau.com .

Imagine Sheehan and Thoreau Talking – a review of Poverty Creek Journal

Imagine Sheehan and Thoreau Talking – a review of Poverty Creek Journal

Books about running rarely take on a literary cast, but Poverty Creek Journal does by stepping past the memoir, the how-to, and fiction to find room to introspect along the run. Set forth in short vignettes, Thomas Gardner explores the nature of both his environment and his running through a perceptive lens.

Most of the runs hark back to the trails around Blacksburg, Virginia, with excursions to the Outer Banks. The inner journey travels greater distances, from the joy of the run, the death of a brother, the joy of a daughter taking flight. At each stop, we get a taste of the outer, “Six miles, 41 degrees,” and the inner, “Something was waiting for me down there. All spring, I heard is calling me. Loafe with me on the grass . . . loose the stop from your throat.”

The last part is an allusion to Whitman’s Song of Myself. Gardner, a Professor of Literature at Virginia Tech, sprinkles his work liberally with the wisdom of the poet brought to the act of running. The mix is intriguing and provocative. Whitman gets a share of attention, and Dickinson, and Thoreau, Frost, Melville.

Gardner uses the daily run to challenge you to look below the surface as he does when running with Lasse Viren. He describes the scene, with Viren “even walking he was almost dancing . . . composing the trail.” Similar imagery threads through the pages, illuminating the passive and active, the nature of the ice on the pond or the sight of his daughter running away from him at the end of a run

Picture please, George Sheehan finishing a run and finding Henry Thoreau waiting. The two would sit and converse, compare points, probably long into night.

If one or the other were to write a volume of that conversation, it would resemble Poverty Creek Journal. The words written within its pages are less about the run itself than the essence of running. For Thomas Gardner, the path to the truth of the run lay outside the books on mechanics and pacing, or the truths in John Parker’s (or my) fiction, hidden in plain view if one knew where to look—and dared to.

Thirty-Three Years of Running in Circles – A review

Thirty-Three Years of Running in Circles – A review

Rand Mintzer, author of Thirty-three Years of Running in Circles, has penned a book that is one part memoir, one part training guide for the merely human, and one part exhortation, not in the hellfire and brimstone sense, but more as a “come on in, the water’s fine!”

Mintzer starts the book with his upbringing, talking frankly about being the “fat” kid at a time before the endemic obesity surge and the social isolation that he and his sister experienced living in a rural setting with a mother who did not drive. Unlike most memoirs of runners, there was no magic moment when he discovered he was fast. His legs were not his ticket off the ranch and out of St. Louis County. Instead, he describes himself as the last one picked for any sport.

Running did not factor into Mintzer’s life until his college years, and at his second college at that. Having scraped by and survived a year at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, he transferred to Arkansas State. Fortune paired him up with a roommate who was both a runner and a positive advocate for running, one who encouraged Mintzer in his desire to become a runner.

Mintzer chronicles his evolution as a runner, from his first 5K to first (and nearly last) marathon to ultras. In the process, he became an acolyte of the Galloway style of running. In the world of running, there have always been the two competing forces, the first of pure speed and the other in the joy of participation. Jeff Galloway’s programs are built to bring runners into the fold of the community by creating conditions that allow them to participate even if they’ll never set a record other than their own. Mintzer had found his niche.

The message woven into Mintzer’s story rings clear; if he, Rand Mintzer, could do it, so could any of us. As a reward, he also writes of the pleasures derived from the run, whether long or short.

The second half of the book is devoted to specific advice to new runners. Old hands will already recognize most of it, having learned either from other books or from the trial of miles. He touches on shoes, offering eminently sensible advice. So too, with clothes, as he takes us on an evolutionary tour from the old gray sweats of the seventies to the colorful combinations available today. As an accessory, perhaps nothing defines a runner as much as his watch, or lack thereof. Mintzer has a special affection for timepieces, and he spends a chapter detailing them.

Throughout Book II, Mintzer offers a range of advice, from hydration, nutrition, and the wealth of almost-overwhelming levels of information available. My favorite quote from this section shows Mintzer’s sense of community to runners: “Do not turn a thirsty runner away.” Having seen my fair share of desperate runners and given water, not to mention having had the favor return on an occasion or two, nothing speaks more to the running community than the sense of sharing and support.

Still running in circles, on tracks and looped trail courses, after all these years, Rand Mintzer runs his own race while encouraging others to step out and run theirs.  

Racing the Rain: A Review of John L. Parker’s newest novel

Racing the Rain: A Review of John L. Parker’s newest novel

Racing the Rain delivers the goods on young Quenton Cassidy with Parker’s flair for inspirational running scenes, an intriguing cast of characters, and a verdant setting above and below the surface of the Florida Gold Coast.

Racing the Rain: A Novel

By John L. Parker Jr.

John L. Parker returns in Racing the Rain to flesh out the character of Cassidy, beginning with the young boy that would toe the line barefoot to run his first race, not against people, or even himself, but just to feel the wind and the joy of the act of running. Quenton Cassidy, the famed hero of Once a Runner, received the gifts of speed and the courage of a miler from the gods, but until those talents were nurtured by coaches and mentors, they lay quiescent.

Parker opens the novel with scenes from an American childhood that will seem alien to most of his young readers, but that resonates with authenticity for the age; and, of course, there’s a race.

The boys in the story—Cassidy, his friends Stiggs and Randleman—roamed freely as the story unfolds, the early years touched on at the highlights, until Racing the Rain settles into the early teenage years when Cassidy turns serious about sports even as he searches for his identity.

For Cassidy, identity gets bound by the character of the Florida Gold Coast and by Trapper Nelson. Trapper, who as Cassidy thought of it, “. . . was supposedly bigger and stronger than Paul Bunyan, had more powers than Superman, knew more about animals than Tarzan . . .”  is the first to suggest that Cassidy pursue running, and was wise enough to wait for the seed to germinate. Trapper lives alone in the Everglades and the two form a relationship built on a mutual appreciation of each other and the Glades.

Parker’s ability to write a race scene that leaves your pulse pounding was the backbone of Once a Runner. In Racing the Rain, he adds a graceful skill in describing the natural world of Cassidy, whether describing a foray to capture bait fish amongst the cattails in the tide pools, scuba-diving in coral “so exotic they seemed not the product of the natural world, but of some schizophrenic jeweler,” or the feel of the oppressive summer heat as he works for Trapper maintaining an exotic menagerie. Parker’s affinity for Florida helps him paint the scenes with details that allow the richness of the place and time shine through.

As an author, Parker also added some misdirection to his repertoire as he gently builds a training program for young runners under the guise of telling the story. Gone are the sixty quarter miles, replaced by the guiding wisdom of Archie San Romani through Trapper, and later, from his coaches, especially Mr. Kamrad. The running is interspersed with basketball. It’s on the court that Cassidy first stars, learning the lessons of diligent practice and focus to reach beyond the barriers that had been applied to him.

Parker does a smooth job of bringing the previous book’s characters back to round out the scenes. Readers of Once a Runner will recognize many of the characters, not the least Mizner and a young Jack Nubbins and the race finale takes place at Southeastern University, the setting for Once a Runner.

Parker continues to blend in the science of training with his racing, but does so subtly. He sets basketball as the prestige sport, with cross country and track distant also-rans in the school hierarchy of popularity, not so different from the reality for most runners. As the plot develops, so does Cassidy’s character. The reader watches the writer deftly molding young Cassidy into the man that he will be in Once a Runner, the athlete with an almost visceral rejection of stupidity masquerading as authority. The tension builds through the second third of the novel as Cassidy is forced, by a combination of his own talents and decisions as well as the internal pressures of the sports programs with the prestige to decide on his future.

The result is less a one dimensional running book like Once a Runner and more a coming of age story for Quenton Cassidy, teenager. As such, it should have wider appeal to more readers. And yet, there’s that Parker touch, and the runners will recognize the magic that Parker brings to running fiction, that makes it special to all of us that once dreamed of being that runner.

_______________

Paul Duffau writes novels about running and works with junior high cross country runners part-time. His first novel, Finishing Kick, was recognized by Running Times in their Summer Reading list July, 2014. His newest novel, a high-octane adventure set in the mountains of Montana, is Trail of Second Chances. He blogs on the running life, running book, and interviews people that he finds interesting at www.paulduffau.com .

Meeting Heroes and Friends

Meeting Heroes and Friends

Racing the Rain: A Novel

By John L. Parker Jr.

Finishing Kick

By Paul Duffau

John L. Parker introduced me to Quentin Cassidy and, along the way, set the standard for running fiction. For two generations, Once a Runner has inspired runners seeking the answer to breaking through to the next level and Parker delivered it in Cassidy’s story of commitment, sacrifice, and work, and then he delivered the dream in a racing scene that hasn’t been equaled since. Now, in Racing the Rain, Parker is back to tell the story of the childhood Cassidy, before the track, when he flew barefoot ahead of the thunderclouds

Jack Welch sits down across from the great runners in history, and with a hint of the beatnik, teases out the real-life tales and puts them into a book so the rest of us can look them in the eyes and get their measure. Not just the immortals like Rodgers and Decker, but the rest of the greats like Patti Catalano and the elusive Gerry Lindgren. He put them all in When Running Was Young and So Were We and won the Track and Field Writers Association honors for best track book in 2014.

The Diamond League meet happens in less than a month at storied Hayward Field at what’s now known as Track Town, USA. The best in the world will step into the arena to measure themselves against each other and their most relentless opponents, the clock and tape.

A group of us will be there to watch, John and Jack among them.  Few other visiting writers, some of whom will be working to build an ambitious new history of Eugene. Hopefully, one will be Kenny Moore. Kenny Moore, author of Bowerman and the Men of Oregon, writes in a beguilingly smooth style that sits you down next to Bill and entertains you as he leads the exploration into America’s most famous track coach.

Don Kardong may make the trip, if organizing another successful Bloomsday didn’t wear him out.

And me. I’ll be there. Some of these folks are heroes. I can ask almost anyone for anything, but I couldn’t bring myself to ask John Parker to read Finishing Kick. When I wrote the novel, I set it deliberately as the women’s answer to Once a Runner and tried to make the racing as inspiring, the lessons hidden within story, and the joy of running flow off the page. I finally sent him a copy last month, after I read a review copy of Racing the Rain.

Some of them, like Jack, are becoming friends.

The Pre Classic won’t be the only meet that I’ll be attending this month that has heroes and friends, though. Tuesday I headed out to watch a junior high meet. I coached some of these kids in cross country and think the world of them. A couple of them came by to say “hi” before their race, and then stood around wondering what else to say. Me, too. It gets easier, I’ve discovered, as they get older and graduate. In the meantime, I get to be their biggest fan and cheer them on while I add to my happy memories.

The coach of the middle school team is a running buddy. He manages all the kids with a humor that more of us should emulate when life gets screwy. The coach of the high school, Tim Gundy, is also a friend, and a heck of a runner. I haven’t seen him all season, but I’ll catch up with him and the distance kids at the district meet.

Tim won’t have time to chat – that will have to wait until the summer. For now, he’s focused on his kids. It says something that the kids universally love him. Tim is much more than a track or cross country coach. I talked to Pat Tyson, the coach at Gonzaga University. The two of them share a lot of character traits, humility and compassion high on that list.

The high school coaching gig doesn’t have the cache of coaching the Buffaloes and, with rare exceptions, most of the athletes won’t see their names emblazoned on Running Times. It’s here that the youngsters learn to dream and begin to believe. Some, a very few, will achieve great heights. All will care, and never more than during these years.

In the glitz of the Prefontaine Classic, it becomes easy to forget that all these athletes started someplace away from the glitz and media attention. It began with a passion, and probably a good coach, and a little luck. Most will have picked out a hero or two to inspire them and dream of reaching the Olympic oval or famous tracks of Europe, the Armory, or Eugene. For those that make it, stories will be told of their exploits, the daring tactics, or the incredible level of commitment. Writers will flock to them. Fans will cheer.

One or two of the high schoolers may make it to Eugene to race someday. Most won’t even if they have the burning passion, the work ethic, the guts. Not all of my heroes sit in rarified heights – I’ll be cheering for those kids and their coaches, and telling some of their stories, too.