The loneliness of long-distance writing
(From Lit Hub. Link to the complete article given below)
“You are alone out there,” my college track coach said, pointing to the farmland that stretched to the horizon. Years later, I know his words also describe writing a book.
We were stretching on the hot track, and would soon head out on the country roads for a long-distance route. Coach Taylor didn’t want us talking during our runs. He said it slowed us down. Track is a team sport on paper, but in reality, running is an individual struggle. You against the rest of the field. You against yourself. You against time.
I liked running in the heat. Growing up, I never followed my parents’ advice to run early or late in the day—I loved afternoon runs in open fields, under the wide sun. The heat warmed me up, and it also wore me out, but it was a comfortable type of exhaustion. I was a middle-distance runner, a sprinter who wasn’t fast enough for the 100 or 200, a little slow for the 400, and without enough wind for the 1600. But the 800 was just right for me. There was a symmetry to it, a distinct first and second act.
Coach Taylor sold me on the idea that you have to train further than you race. I began running ten miles past the Amish selling rugs and pies, past old homes that were an arm’s length from the road, past tired cows and lazy pigs. Running is an acquired taste, but at some point I tricked myself into enjoying it. I fell in love with the silent drift of long-distance. I liked to be out there, hot and tired, and alone.