Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Project

"If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience another life... run a marathon." - Emil Zatopek

"The story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some place, in the air. All I must do is find it, and copy it." - Jules Renard

Perry Coons (My Dad) - Four Marathons
   As I've plunged into the world of marathons, I've met and talked with innumerable runners and marathoners. Runners with a vast array of histories, abilities, and motivations. Runners that have gone far beyond what they initially believed themselves capable of. Runners that have worked their tail off and still come up short of their goals. Runners that run to compete. Runners that run to prove to themselves that they can. Runners that run for sheer joy. I've experienced the incredible feeling of camaraderie that permeates the running world. And, at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, it's one of the most amazing things I've ever come across.

   I also love to write. Though most of the writing that I've done over the years has centered around my own thoughts and feelings. But as running has helped me look at others with a fresh set of eyes, the idea of writing about other runners began to seem like the most natural thing in the world.

   So far, I've talked with people that I know. I've tried to get their stories, while learning what questions to ask, how to listen to the responses, and how to best record and then write out those thoughts and experiences. But the list of runners that I'm going to talk with is now expanding well beyond my immediate circle of friends and acquaintances. This project is already going in directions that I hadn't anticipated. And I'm incredibly hopeful and excited about the possibilities.

   I'm going to focus on marathons, because I believe that particular aspect of running culture is uniquely suited to expressing the more personal elements of athletic competition. Marathons require a great deal of time, effort, and sacrifice. And they are therefor inherently personal experiences. But running a marathon is also something that is within reach for most people. It simply requires an honest commitment to see the task through. Whether you're a 65 year old mother of four, and you finish in six hours. Or perhaps you're a 30 year old veteran runner that is trying to break the three hour mark. The core experience is quite similar. You set a high goal for yourself. Something that you know will be difficult. Something that seems intimidating and gives you reason to doubt. Then you chip away at that fear and doubt one step at a time. One run at a time. 

Abby Smith (My Girlfriend) - One Marathon
   My goal is to find those stories, in all of their beautiful diversity, and tell them as well as I can. I don't know what form the final product will take. I just want to be open to whatever people give me. And I want to present those stories with an honesty that does justice to the effort that the runners have given.

   I'm estimating that this project will take the better part of this year. I'm going to talk to people about past marathons, future goals, and any training that they're doing at the moment. I'm hoping to learn what drives each runner. What first prompted them to run a marathon. What keeps them going. What obstacles they've faced. What reflections they have to offer. Most importantly, I'm hoping to discover what their marathon experience has to say about them as a person. I want to know what it has taught them about themselves, and how it has changed them. And I'm hoping to find a way to convey those things through words.

   If you're reading this, and you would like to contribute, or you know somebody that might like to contribute, just let me know. I can't collect too many stories, and I would love to hear yours.

Chris -


  1. Love this project. Def. going to pass the info onto to some of my friends and see if they're interested. =)

  2. This is very, very cool. Best of luck, I'll be reading...

  3. Way to go, Chris! I will keep my eyes and ears out for folks you could talk to. I hope you post some of your write-ups here. Such a good idea to combine your passions into one grand project!

  4. Hey Chris, my cousin, Carolyn, passed this blog to me... sounds cool & interesting. I've been a runner the majority of my life, ran a marathon 10 years ago, continued running leisurely, and just completed a half in January. Not sure I qualify for what you're looking for, but if so, I can try to contribute. Best, Elli (reside in Key West, FL)