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Posts Tagged ‘once a runner’

Honeysuckle, I thought, as I inhaled deeply during my Saturday morning workout.  Ironic, I thought next, since the sweetly nostalgic scent was coming from the trash-strewn railroad yards. It was a startling interruption to my prescribed 30 minutes of easy running through an adjusted Sunnyside Loop–when I run on the roads now, I am listening so intently to what my body is telling me that rarely do I notice anything other than my posture, my form, and the random snags and twangs of my muscles. I don’t even notice my effort level, which means I am running entirely too fast for this stage of rebuilding endurance and mileage. Before I know it I’m completely out of breath, pooped after two miles, and chiding myself for the 8:41’s I foolishly executed. It’s all herky-jerky, this stage. It is worse than those first few jogs after marathon recovery because even though my body is extremely well-rested, it is also extremely out of practice, and has no sense of rhythm or fluidity yet.

The Green Mountain Relay is this weekend, and I am embarrassed by how woefully untrained I am for the event. Last week there was a happy hour for the three teams coming out of New York City (NYC Running Chicks and a Few Dudes; NYC Hash House Harriers; and Free Candy Van) so we could all meet, mingle and share war stories with the rookies.  The event did a lot to push along my excitement for the relay (somehow, as captain, I’m more stressed out about it than excited), but I also neatly sidestepped questions about my training and recovery. I cautiously claimed the easiest position, and will log a mere 10.8 miles over 3 legs. I gently remind myself that my greatest value to the team is not as a runner this year, but as the organizer, the one who will keep hold of the balloon strings lest the whole bunch scatter across the Vermont skies.

Author John L. Parker, Jr. has left a comment in response to my review of his novel Once a Runner. Unfortunately it has been sitting in the spam list for a weeks; I hope he doesn’t think I was being a censor. I fear I’ve upset him. He’s challenged me; I have yet to respond. For now, I can only agree, in that if I hadliterary pretensions they would in fact be dubious; however I have worked in the publishing industry for too long to be anything but completely disillusioned.

Recently the song “Swim” by Jack’s Mannequin was gifted to me; the first time I heard it, the lyrics captured me like two firm hands cupping my face, their owner imploring me to sit and listen. Life has been inordinately full these past weeks, and not always in the best sense of full. Work has been overwhelming (in fact, that storm capsized my boat) and shows no signs of letting up much before August. There are two silver linings to this cloud, though: my departmental peers are amazing (supportive, funny, real, and willing to lend a hand if I ask), and I’ve had the chance to play as hard as I’ve had to work. Laughter makes all the difference, even if it means I’ve made someone else laugh with my own cleverness, cynicism or goofiness.

william faulkner's home

The first weekend of June I traveled to Oxford, MS with colleagues to celebrate the publication of an author’s memoir. This was a landmark event for me. It was the first time I chose to travel with coworkers for a “social” occasion; this is the first time in 11  years of being an office employee that I have felt like I wanted to spend extended time with my officemates. On one hand, I was proud of myself that I had built enough of a friendship with these folks that they’d even invite me to go with them; on the other, I realized how strange it was that it’s taken me more than a decade to sort out sincerity from phoniness. Apart from acknowledging how developmentally delayed I was in this regard (ha!), I loved Oxford. rowan oak oxford, msLoved the people, loved the town square, loved the literary history and local cuisine. I consorted with the ex-mayor, sipped sweet tea in the shade of a balcony overlooking City Hall, visited Rowan Oak, and ate grits (twice!) and biscuits made with lard (just once, I hope) for breakfast, and pimiento cheese sandwiches for lunch. My hosts explained to me about how to a certain segment of the Southern population nothing dresses up a trailer like a lattice skirt and how every self-respecting Southern woman has at least three sets of silver. I was driven by Eli Manning’s house (er…) and met a gentleman named Parker Pickle. That’s his real name! When we parted ways, I couldn’t resist calling out, “Goodbye Mister Pickle!” Oxford was exotic, full of the kinds of marvels and oddities that simply don’t flourish in New York City.

Next week is the second Media Challenge, and I will run this one (mind you, not race it). I’ve promised to run along with my coworker SN, who has just begun running again after a 10-year hiatus. Mind you, he’s a smoker and a drinker and while he’s not overweight he hacks a phleghmy cough if he laughs too hard. Bless his heart for he wants to participate in these races even though he insists he returns home blue from lack of oxygen after his trots around the reservoir. Granted: considering my own sorry state of endurance, he and I will probably stagger across the finish line together, sweaty, light-headed and gasping as equals.

There’s much more to say, but I think I’ve written enough to give you a sense of the work and the whimsy of my past weeks. Special shout-outs to Matt, Ari and Joe; to EN; to SA (lunch was lovely) and to my ever-faithful best friend, my lighthouse, my foil: CB (I’d be nuts without you).

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It’s taken me a while, but I finally wrote my review of Once a Runner by John L. Parker, Jr. and turned it in to my editor at The Second Pass. Please click over and read the whole review, but in the meantime, here is the first sentence:

What does it mean that the proclaimed “best novel ever written about running” (Runner’s World said it, and others have implied it) is in fact an average novel?

Two other interesting reviews on the book were published on Slate and in the Irish Times.

I hate to link and run, but life has been busy, very very busy. The quick update is that I am now running 15 minutes on the treadmill every couple of days, and am learning Chi running form. An oh–I finally filled my Green Mountain Relay team. More later, have a great weekend, I’ll be here on Friday, there on Saturday and laying around on Sunday.

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Hello September, nice to see you again, but would you mind coming back later? I’m a bit busy at the moment with my earlier appointment….. Here are some tasty links for you to enjoy with your morning coffee and eggs (at least, that’s what I’m doing)…. JMW, my “Elipses” inspiration, passed me a link which I love so much I invited him to dinner next week. Jennifer Schuessler, blogging at Paper Cuts, is training for a marathon, and so posted obliquely about Murakami’s memoir, but she also brought up the old news that Once a Runner is at the top of the most-requested out of print books list. Shocker. We, of course, already know that it’s going to be published by S&S in Spring 2009 (here’s the pre-order link–beautiful jacket if you ask me), but clearly Jen’s not quite there yet. In any event, the best part of the post is the comments, even John L. Parker, Jr. himself adds a few choice words to the dialogue…  If you want to know if you fit the criteria of the “Core Runner Profile” as established by Running USA, click here to match up your demographic informatmation to that of the “typical” US male & female distance runner….. Even more interesting is the U.S. Road Race Trends Report, which breaks down participation in all distances of road races in 2007, and compares it to earlier years and breaks it out by gender. Basically, road running is “in,” and “up,” but tell us something we don’t know.  Here’s a chunky nugget: women’s participation in road races is finally even with that of men…. This interview with author and scholar Daniel Mendelsohn has nothing to do with running, I link to it only out of affection–he wrote one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read (The Lost) and I love what he said to his doctor about Prednisone…. and the only reason this has anything to do with my blog is because running through the city streets and parks is the most quintessentially New Yorker thing I’ll admit to doing…. and lastly, our girl Deena has posted a letter on her website with an update on her health. Big hugs, Deena.

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Managed to scrounge an update out of an associate I have over at S&S for some information on the forthcoming hardcover release of John L. Parker, Jr.’s cult novel Once a Runner. It’s currently slated for April 2009 publication, kids. I know I’m counting the days. I’m not kidding (that’s approximately 290 days, depending on exactly when the book goes on sale in April). Do you think they’ll tour him? Ooh.

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I am always on the lookout for a good book about running.  I’m not talking about books that give you a training program.  What I am always hoping to find (and so rarely do) is a strong narrative that incorporates running.  So, personal memoirs of a champion runner, where she also has something else  about the sport or about her life.  Or a novel where the characters love running, and are working towards some sort of race or goal.  This is not my introduction to my list of favorite running books (that will come in another post).    No. This is my way of introducing the resuscitation of what many call the best running novel ever written:  Once a Runner, by John L. Parker, Jr. (himself, quite a runner).

Out of print and largely unavailable for many years, I’ve never read Once a Runner because I can’t find it in any of my local libraries, nor can I afford to buy one of the used copies that pop up on ebay every so often — because they sell for hundreds of dollars.  So imagine now relieved I was to read this bulletin in one of my industry’s newsletters, Publishers Lunch:

John Parker, Jr.’s ONCE A RUNNER, the story of a college senior who gives up everything in his life and submits to a brutal training regimen in a quest to become a world champion, originally published in 1978 and Bookfinder’s most in demand out of print book last year, to Brant Rumble at Scribner, by Byrd Leavell at the Waxman Literary Agency (NA).

I hear they paid over $150,000 for the rights, which is kind of insane but also kind of not.  I suppose they’ll publish in hardcover, I bet they’re hoping for media (timed to Fall marathon season?), a tie-in with the paperback edition of Again to Carthage (Parker’s sequel, which came out October 2007), big library sales, and a backlist title that will sell forever.  At least, that’s the minimum I’d hope for, if I were in their (running) shoes.

The website and trailers that were posted for a hoax movie version (of Once a Runner got a lot of folks excited online.  I’m hoping the excitement for this book, which actually will happen (now that a major publisher has invested in it) is similar.  I’d love to see if have a big, flashy second life. And, of course, I can’t wait to read it.

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