Learning the two Rs – running and writing

This pretending to be an author business is fascinating. Absolutely fascinating – and also remarkably hassle-free, thanks to superb support from my publishers Summersdale every step of the way.

These past few days have been the nerve-racking process of the final read-through, after which it will be officially too late. After this week my words will be… well, if not set in stone, then definitely past the point of no return.

All of which is terrifically exciting, especially as I feel 100 per certain that Summersdale have done and are doing everything they possibly can to make the book a success, the final stages in a long, long journey.

My book is Keep On Running, and it comes with the telling subtitle The Highs And Lows Of A Marathon Addict, the tale of my adventures on the road across 25 marathons, including New York, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Dublin, Mallorca and Berlin (http://www.summersdale.com/book/2/569/keep-on-running/)

 Publication on April 2 will be the culmination of a journey almost as long as the marathons I have described. It was several years ago, while I was vainly trying to write a grim and gruesome murder mystery set in Chichester, that Peter Lovesey, a hugely likeable chap as well as an immensely gifted crime writer, said to me that I really ought to try writing about marathons.

Poor Peter had listened to me wittering on about them enough over cups of coffee in our favourite Chichester cafe.

I dismissed the idea. It wasn’t remotely what I wanted to write. But somewhere subliminally the idea lodged and started to develop. Everything commended it, I started to realise. It would be a question of writing about something about which I professed to know something (in truth, I am not terribly well versed in murder); and more importantly, from a selfish point of view, it would give me a chance, whatever happened, of recording something I very much wanted to record.

It was just a question of finding the right (or write) moment. That moment came after the Mallorca Marathon in October 2010, an important marathon for me as it came after a couple of grim marathons in which I was starting to wonder whether I wasn’t falling out of love with running.

Mallorca was to be my marathon farewell, I told myself and actually believed it. How wrong could I be. I crossed the line, tried to say goodbye to sweaty lycra and nipple plasters and realised – with a huge sigh of relief – that it was still my world and there was no way I wanted to leave it.

Even so, I wasn’t quite ready to run again when I got home. Instead, I started to write. And write and write the full story of my own personal marathon journey. I approached Summersdale and was delighted when they fired the start gun, immediately expressing interest and offering every encouragement.

Their greatest gift, however, was that they told me very sweetly but firmly that no, it wasn’t ready when I handed it over in January 2011.

I had the huge good fortune – for which I will always be grateful – of being teamed up with Jennifer Barclay at Summersdale. Jennifer quickly pointed out the failings in the book I had thought I had finished.

My original idea was a book of two halves – the first five chapters describing five different ways to muff up a marathon (and believe me, I am skilled in this), followed by five chapters extolling the marathons I have actually got right.

Jennifer was kindness itself as she pointed out that the first half was grim going, repeatedly begging the question why on earth did I keep at it. Readers, she suggested, might not make it to the endless joys of the second half, chapters in which I waxed lyrical about the sheer intoxication that marathons bring.

She was clear: a chronological approach was the best one. It would show the troughs in the context of the peaks which kept me hooked.

Jennifer, take a bow. For me it was the defining moment in this book’s preparation.


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