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Mark Matthews on Running and Writing


My second guest post has been kindly written by Mark Matthews, author of MILK-BLOOD, and On the Lips of Children, as well as Chasing the Dragon: Running to Get High, a non-fiction work on running. Mark tells us how running informs his writing. Thanks, Mark.

I've written 4 four novels. Two feature runners and two feature drug addiction. All of them are about getting high.

As a recovering alcoholic, Running for me is the intoxicant that gives me creativity the way vodka used to.

"Being in the zone while running is an altered state of consciousness..."

Whenever I run I do a little writing in my head. About forty-five minutes after busting out the door, my blood warms, my insides are lubricated, and loose associations flow through my veins. Writing mojo flows and my ideas become more grand. My characters have conversations with each other. My plots turn incredible and I am master of the universe.  ROAR!!!

Of course, some of this writing sucks. I return home and the reality of putting this on paper hits and it doesn’t always seem as great as it did during the drunkenness of the running moment.

Being in the zone while running is an altered state of consciousness, and I’ve come to rely on it. Running provides the creativity to think and is the arena in which I battle the world. Especially when I’m training for a certain event.

"...life becomes training and training becomes life..."

When I’m in the zone of training for a race, life becomes training and training becomes life. Battles fought in personal life are reflected in runs, and vice versa, so I can’t talk about running without talking about life.  Running is the background music to live by, and the volume slowly gets ramped up the closer to race day.  I bring my lifelong baggage with me every time I head out the door, and hopefully return a little lighter, or at least stronger to carry the load.

Despite the notion that Runners are the dorks of the world, running really brings out some edgy shit. It makes you sweat and bleed all over the world, and sometimes, the sweat and blood ends up on the page.

There is running in order to write, and then there is writing about actual running, where running is the content, not just conduit. When it comes to trying to describe what the running adventure means to me, words fail. If we could fully describe it, much like love, it would be something less than what it is.

"Inside of runners, the stakes are high..."

Rather than trying to capture what running means to my internal world, best instead to turn it into metaphor. This is what I did in my novel, On the Lips of Children, where a runner plans to challenge himself with his first marathon, but instead is faced with more pain and terror than 26.2 miles could ever provide. He has to endure harrowing a different kind of hell, trapped in a cave with crystal meth snorting cannibals, all of it meant to illustrate the internal world of a marathoner.

When I came upon Adrian’s novel, The End of the World Running Club, I thought Yes! Yes! This is what I was talking about. A man running to prove himself, his last big roar against the collapsing world around him, who when faced with losing his family, put his feet to the pavement and went about finding out what he is made of. This is what I’m talking about. Inside of runners, the stakes are high, and it is only in a piece of fiction where we can really tell this truth.

Mark Matthews runs and writes near Detroit, and has completed over a dozen marathons.