I look at Steve Prefontaine as the James Dean of the running world. He was cool. He was edgy. And unfortunately, he died young in a car accident. When I was young, posters of Pre with the words “to give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift” hung on the bedroom walls of runners across America. Probably still do. Along the same lines I read Bill Rogers biography Marathon Man this spring. At a couple of points in the book he says that part-time training produces part-time results. It was this that motivated him to give his best and literally take the gift given him and run with it. He followed his passion all the way to four Boston Marathon wins, four New York victories, and the Olympics.
Dream as I may, my running is nowhere near that level. I run because I like it. It clears my mind. It gives me time to think, and what I often think about is my writing, which is my passion. A lifetime ago when I told a friend I wanted to be a writer he said, “Good, then you must have something to say.” Naturally I agreed, though for the life of me I didn’t know what that something was. At the time I think I was in love with the idea of being a writer without realizing the hard work involved. Or, to paraphrase the late great Elmore Leonard, I had yet to understand that sometimes the writing flows and sometimes it’s like laying bricks.
One advantage to being a writer rather than an elite marathoner is that a writer can peak in his fifties. I have enough years behind me now to know a few of the things I want to say. The Wastelanders gave me a platform for some of them—power, corruption, the environment, and love. Currently I’m working on a short story that introduces a new character to the wastelands. Of course, he’s a runner. After all, that’s another thing a writer can do—he can weave the fabric of his passions together.