Excerpts from an Aug. 26, 2005 interview of the author
By Michael A. Musca
Runner's World Daily: Your writing about the sport of track seems like an insider's view. What is your running background?
Hap Cawood: I never ran competitively except in college intramural races. As a high school football lineman, I never liked running because I was slow… But when my brother started training alone, I ran with him to keep him company—from sprints to distance runs. That's when I felt the depth in running, so I have been running ever since. The sport at which I excelled in college was swimming. From that I learned the mastery of the energies and rhythm, and my experiences in swimming races gave me insights into running races. Early on I saw the similarities—the present-tense tension before the start, the mental states, the minute control required, and finally, the more skilled and transcendent speed.
Q: Why did you write this particular book?
A: When I watched my brother Ray train and race in 1960, I saw a book in it. He had laid out some fascinating story lines, so I decided to swipe them for a novel titled "The Miler," though I didn't think I would be 43 years getting around to writing it. To me, his solitary quest represented the efforts many make to bring an inborn talent to a level of excellence and revelation. My first overriding motive, though, was emotional. I wanted to bring the reader into what I saw in those races—the beauty of the run.
Q: There are parallels throughout the book among the themes of music, dance, and running. Do you have a background in any or all of these muses?
A: Only as a fan. I see in good racers an elegance of movement, so I brought in the dancing element to emphasize that. My feeling toward running is such that, when I go to a concert, I mostly listen to the pieces to hear segments of races in them. I hear races in music and I wanted the reader to do the same.
Q: The story's main character, JJ, has a non-traditional female coach, and her coaching methods certainly topped other unusual running coaches in real-life and in fictional tales. Was this based on reality, purely fiction, or a combination of the two?
A: The methods were based on reality, though the techniques and experiences came from my life after my competitive years and in that sense were fiction... When I met the woman who had those healing and intuitive abilities and who inspired the coach character, I knew I had the missing link that could give the story depth—the seer who can take you past the illusions.
We are very fortunate if we are coached or taught or mentored by someone who can see us clearer than we see ourselves, who senses the goal hidden behind what we think we want. That mentor knows that one has to work from the inside out. The best know that higher attainment requires not only mind over body but also spirit over mind, and that there is a science to it. The distance runner exemplifies that potential in a distinctive way, and only by getting inside the runner can one know the mental battle and command that bring to life the art of the race.