The Summer of Run (Book)

Indy WordLab: Readings from So Far Appalachia + The Summer Run

On Monday, December 1, the folks at Metonymy Media asked me to host Indy WordLab at Indy Reads Books. I’m not a big fan of readings, but I’ve put so many other authors in the hot seat with The Downtown Writers Jam that it felt rude to say no.

Agreeing to read also meant I needed to get my own writing together. I spent the last few weeks polishing up the opening of So Far Appalachia and pulling together my short nonfiction book The Summer of RunIf all goes well, both will be finished in 2015.

Until then: I hope you enjoy the words.

Introducing the two books

So Far Appalachia


“Chapter 1: The Road to Beaumont”

The Summer of Run

“Prologue: A Moment in Palo Duro”

An Evening in Images

On the Path…


I can’t sleep with the air conditioning on anymore.

I could when I was in the Austin. The searing, 105 degree temperatures, the running, the house fixing, and the yard work made it impossible to live without air conditioning.

I am back in Indiana now where the heat, while intense, pales after The Summer of Run and the Great House Rehabilitation Project of 2011.

I leave my windows open, and I turn off the air when I am alone. Which is most of the time.


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The Summer of Run: “Just Move Forward”

This is from Essay #4, which is a treatise on my first major run of the summer. I was camped at the base of Mt. Pisgah, just outside of Asheville, North Carolina. This particular mountain is nearly one-mile high, and the run I was about to try was 3,600 feet along a 6.5 mile route (13 miles total round trip).

The title of the essay: Just Move Forward comes from a lesson my parents taught me about how to finish what you start. This snippet is from the beginning of Act 2, where I lay out the violent side of my addiction, and touch on some of the nasty darkness that enveloped me as I hurtled towards oblivion.

“Listen, you don’t need to be a fucking bitch about this. I just wanted to talk with you, you stupid cunt,” he said, rather unexpectedly.

The two girls were taken aback, and I wasn’t exactly sure what to do. There’s a fine line between stepping in to help a woman out of a jam, and stepping in when she doesn’t need you. I’m not exactly sure where the line is, but it seems to be somewhere in the neighborhood of bitch and cunt getting used in the same sentence.

“Hey man,” I said from the seat. “There’s no need for that. We’re all just having fun here. My friend is having a rough night, and we’re just trying to relax a bit. No harm, no foul.”

That’s when he turned to me.

“What the fuck do you think you’re going to do about it.”


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The Summer of Run: Because I Loved

I’m working backwards through the essays at this point, but that’s okay. I have a clear sense of where I’m going at the moment.

This is the end of Act 1 of the Epilogue: Because I Loved, which takes place at the Grandfather Mountain Marathon, the last stop on The Summer of Run. The book I reference: Born to Run. The first 4 paragraphs take place as I finish reading the book in Berlin, and realize that my I’ve been running wrong; the last 4 paragraphs take me back to the starting line at the Grandfather Mountain Marathon 13 months later.

In the essay, it all makes sense. Trust me.

I would run because I loved to run. I knew this because I’d been running my whole life. I’d been running from my own fear of failure. As a child, I was so concerned about becoming a laughingstock that I became the class jokester. I would beat everyone to the punch. As I grew up, I was concerned that women wouldn’t like me, so I set about fucking as many as I could without regard to a relationship, feelings, or trust. I would leave the women who loved me – or run them off – before they had a chance to reject me on their own. As I entered the writing profession, I was so worried that I’d be found a fraud that I developed the self-destructive writing persona, patrolling the world with a drunken abandon. If I couldn’t be the best writer, I’d be the best Writer.

I’d run from anything that ever held any value in my life.

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The Summer of Run: “Earned” 3

I am putting the finishing touches on my fifth essay from The Summer of Run, a 4,000-word piece about the three most important life lessons I’ve ever been taught (by men other than my father, that is).

Strangely, this has been the hardest essay to write, taking nearly 14 hours of writing, editing, and thinking time. And that just gets me to the draft stage. Here’s my favorite portion of Act 2, a story about the moment I decided to quit baseball after 11 years:

I thanked him, repeatedly, and declined. Resigned, he shook my hand, and watched me leave.

As I walked out the door, my stomach dropped to the floor and the voice inside me begged me to turn around, but my pride wouldn’t let me. I’d made my decision, I thought, and that meant following through. I’d run track my junior year, but I’d already decided I’d return to baseball in my final year, an idea Coach readily accepted when I approached him about playing at the start of my senior year in high school.

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The Summer of Run: “Earned” 2

This essay hasn’t come easily, but after 4 hours of writing tonight I’ve finally finished 2,000 words of Act 1. Here’s the stunning conclusion (Crossing the Threshold one might even say):

I’d run the Percy Warner Park trail nearly 7 minutes faster than I’d done the day before, girded by a knowledge of the trail and a mission to complete. The only pictures I took this day would be at the summit. At the fork leading to that destination, I pulled my camera from the Camelbak, and framed the picture as the words of Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” ran through my head:


I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


I turned left and headed up the hill, determined that whenever I could throughout the rest of my trip, I wouldn’t take the shortcut. I’d defaulted there the first day because it was safe. I forgot that the unknown was to be embraced, lessons that I’d learned long ago.

The Summer of Run: Earned

Tonight’s essay wasn’t written. I stared at the screen for 90 minutes, trying to figure out what the hell I wanted to say. Or, more accurately, trying to figure out what the essay wanted to say. By the time I figured it out, I’d been here nearly three hours. However, the outline is complete, which means when I sit down tomorrow I’ll bang out the words.

The piece begins as I run the final ascent at Percy Warner in Nashville, Tennessee. The stories for that essay – which don’t really take place at Percy Warner — are formed, formatted, and ready. Here’s my favorite part of the drafted outline:

They reminded me of what matters in life is what is earned, not is what is given. In the early days of my recovery, as I was descending into a mental madness and falling apart in the long, dark days, the voices of these men echoed in my head. These men who, at various times in my life, I’d hated with a fiery passion were the voices reminding me that you don’t ever back down, that whatever mistakes you made can be overcome, and that you can find your own place in the world is you are willing to try. Every day. Try.

The Summer of Run: Within the Deluge

I just finished the draft of my second essay for The Summer of Run: An Addict’s Journey. “Within the Deluge” tells the story of my very first moments at my very first campground, as the skies opened up and I was forced to pitch in some pretty terrible conditions. This is from Act 3 of that story.

I recognized this rocky beginning from the first days of my sobriety, which were spent in utter despair. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I was physically ill several times a day. Functioning in the way that most humans think about going about their day was a mystery to me; my days were spent hanging on the side of a cliff, white-knuckling as it’s called in Alcoholics Anonymous. Days would pass as I sat in a large, green chair facing a multi-tiered white wall in my apartment, longing for death until eventually there were small, brief moments when my mind would stop revving and I’d experience a moment of pure quiet. It was then I knew I could be sober.

I search for that same type of stillness now when the chaos of life invades my space; it’s my guidepost that let’s me know everything will work itself out. This is the great gift that recovering from addiction brings. It’s an earned knowledge about the universe: the life will work itself out in the manner it needs to work out. That’s a freedom that most experience on a daily basis, and yet they seem to fail to openly appreciate the great gift that brings The Humans.

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The Summer of Run: From “Fail Hard”

A man in Cincinnati jumped out of a hotel window. As he passed each floor, people could hear him say: “So far, so good.” – butchered joke told by Steve McQueen’s character in The Magnificent Seven

I’m taking this week to settle into my routine at the house. Tomorrow I’ll run, and begin work on the house. I’ll save the writing for the evenings. Still: there will be writing every day.

As promised, another blurb from a draft of the second essay: “Fail Hard.”

It’s a simple truism, really, that when you are light of spirit you are light on your feet. I know because growing up, I watched The Gang smile, laugh, and bond while they were dancing or while they were telling stories around the campfire while making s’mores as the moon would rise into the sky. I can remember flashes of events, snapshots of moments in time when everything just came together in that slow-motion perfection. Even in my youth, I realized what I was watching was something special although I was too young yet to understand why.

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The Summer of Run: From the Introduction

I’ve promised myself that I shall write on The Summer of Run project every day for the next two months until I’ve finished. I’ll post bits and pieces of it as I go. Here’s what you get today, from a draft of the introduction.

This describes a hike I took along the Palo Duro Canyon road during one particularly sweltering evening. It’s the moment I decided to write publicly about my trip.

As I walked along the canyon road, snapping pictures of the amazingly beautiful (and strangely green) landscape set against the burnt, brown soil, I happened to look at the road. I was halfway up a long stretch that winds around a series of curves. I turned and looked back to the same sight. I was almost exactly halfway up the road, unable to see where I was going and from where I’d just come. I could only see what was directly in front of me. That would have to be enough.

The Summer of Run: An Addict’s Journey


I’ve been contemplating this for several weeks, but I wasn’t sure where I stood until last night. As I hiked through Palo Duro Canyon, it struck me that I wanted to turn this summer’s adventure into something more than just a blog.

As I first thought about what this might be, I struggled to wrap my head around how this would be any different from other long-form projects on the market. (Not, mind you, that I plan on going through a traditional publisher.)

Added to this is the fact that: I’m not a strong runner; I’m not a nutritionist; and I’m not a motivational guy. In other words, I have a story about running that isn’t about getting better, improving your performance, or changing your life.

That’s a pretty awful running book.

What I am in a recovering addict. As I tweeted a former student the other day: “I’m just a recovering addict trying to live what I have left better than I what I lived before. Nothing more.”

So that’s what I’m writing about, much as I’ve written about here on the blog. I’ve kept much of the long-form writing to myself, though, using the blog as a jumping off point for my thoughts and ideas.

The project – The Summer of Run: An Addict’s Journey – will be similar to The Invictus Project, but I’ll get more into that as the details get clearer. For now, I’ll keep writing here – and I’ll keep writing in places you won’t see for a few months.

Thanks for indulging me. Feel free to drop me your thoughts, and if you find the content compelling enough, pass it along to your friends. Even your enemies. You never know.


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