Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Going Further - Update

Many of you have been asking about how the book is coming along, so I figured I'd give you all an update on the What, Why, Who and How of Going Further...

What is my book about?

My book is complete (or at least as complete as I can make it) and it's called:

Going Further – One Man’s Journey to the Marathon and Beyond

It's about running, hiking, fatherhood, and pushing beyond your comfort zone. It’s basically an action-adventure, parenting, self-help, travel journal disguised as a memoir. The stories inside the book are told from the perspective of a regular guy, with a keen sense of humor and a high threshold for pain, trying to raise two families while attempting to strike a balance between his home life and his passion for constantly exploring the envelope of his abilities.

The book is a collection of short stories organized around the various stages of my running “career”. From figuring out how to run, to running a marathon, to overcoming injuries, to finding new challenges, to exploring the world of ultra-marathons, and finally to finishing my first 100 mile race.

I’m not a great runner. I wasn’t one during my high school track days, when I’d get lapped in the mile, and I’m not one now. I’ve won the occasional 5k (and by occasional, I mean once every presidential election) but typically, I’m pretty far back from the pointy end of the races I run. So, why am I writing a book about running & ultra-marathons? I suppose if you want to read about running legends, then you might best be served by picking up a copy of Marathon Man by Bill Rodgers. If you want to learn about training for (and running) your first ultra, then Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to Ultra-running is certainly the book for you. And, if you want to see what life is like through the eyes of one of the world’s greatest ultra-marathoners, then you should definitely grab the latest edition of Eat and Run by Scott Jurek.

I’ll never be able to compete with those guys. Heck, I’m just a 46-year old, full-time father of four, with a 9 to 5 desk job and a weakness for junk food! What can I possibly bring to the running table? Well, chances are, most of you are probably not Bill Rodgers, Hal Koerner, or Scott Jurek. So, more than likely, you're a regular person - just like me. Unlike those elite athletes, I don’t have a myth to maintain. You will get a chance to see everything in this book. The good, the bad, and hopefully the funny. My beautifully flawed humanity will be on full display - in ALL its messy glory!

There are a boatload of books out there by elite ultra runners – most of which I own. But there are very few books by regular (read: somewhat-less-than elite) runners like myself who are struggling to push the boundaries of their own comfort zone, making the most of what little athletic ability they have, failing miserably at times, succeeding more often than not, and laughing about themselves the entire way.

Which brings me to the reason why I decided to write the book. I wrote it because I wanted to say (and most of you probably needed to hear) that ordinary people like us can do extraordinary things - IF we give ourselves the opportunity to do so. How do I know this? Because I’m living proof!

Who is my book for?
I've come to realize that the target audience for my book seems to be adventure-minded people of all ages who are active (or who are looking to become more active) and maybe need a little extra motivation to get out the door in the morning. Or, at the very least, enjoy a good story about someone who's struggling in the attempt.

I feel my stories will be appealing to the same people who read magazines like Runners World (5.7 million readers worldwide) and Outside (2.5 million readers worldwide). As well as people who have read books like Wild (NY Times Bestseller & 1.75 million copies sold). People who not only enjoy reading about a good adventure but also enjoy having adventures of their own. These people are also voracious book buyers. I know this because I am one of them. If it’s a book about endurance sports, and has an interesting story, then chances are I already own it. And, my over-loaded bookshelves can certainly attest to that!

To better understand what people are interested in, I organized a focus group during the editing process. This group was made up of a fairly even mix of non-runners, recreational runners and competitive runners alike.  Approximately 18 people participated. Each person read a draft of the manuscript and provided written feedback – in both a guided question/answer sheet as well as a free form comment page.  The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. And the comments were used to make the rest of the book even stronger and have a broader appeal.

My first official “book jacket review” came from a woman who said:

“I’m hooked!  Michael is a very gifted writer. He has perfected the art of bringing the reader into his writing and I am thoroughly enjoying the journey!”

2 months ago I set up a Facebook Page for my book. I’ve been sharing my thoughts about the writing, editing and publishing process. As well as excerpts (both words and pictures) from the manuscript. I already have almost 700 followers for that page. I know it’s not much, but it’s pretty good when you consider that people are finding out about it by word-of-mouth only. And, the book hasn’t even been published yet!

Finally, I think that this is the perfect time for a book centered on ultra running. Over the past 5 years, participation in marathons has held steady, or even dropped off in a few key areas. Meanwhile, ultra marathon participation has nearly doubled in that same time frame. From 36,000 participants in 2009, to over 69,000 in 2014. It’s a growing sport and these days people are looking to push themselves harder and further than ever before.

Why am I qualified to write this book?

I graduated from Syracuse University with a professional degree… in Architecture. So, what makes a guy with a degree (and a job) in Architecture think he can write a book? Well firstly, I like (and know how) to read. So, I know what good writing is and, perhaps more importantly, isn’t. Next, I hear voices in my head and they need to get out. Not scary voices, mind you, just persistent ones who demand to be heard. Finally, as an Architect, I know how things should be built. So, whether it’s a story on a house or a story in a book, I know how to put it all together.

I’ve written stories for my running club’s website and Striding Along newsletter. I have been published in both New England Runner and Level Renner magazines. And, I have a feature story on hiking the Appalachian Trail, coming out in the September issue of New Hampshire Magazine.

I am a proud father of four mostly wonderful children (Casey, Erin, Emily and Ethan), a fortunate husband of Johanne, and a semi-proud owner of a 3:00:22 marathon PR. I am a member of the Gate City Striders in Nashua, New Hampshire where I serve as the clubs “Competition Coordinator” - which is basically a professional way of saying that I’m the chief motivator, communicator and cheerleader for the racing team.

Like the elites, I’ve done some pretty epic stuff. I’ve run 20 marathons and 10 ultra-marathons - including my first 100 miler last fall. I’ve biked 100 miles on a whim. I’ve speed-hiked 75 miles of the Appalachian Trail on a long weekend. I’ve done a 50 mile AMC White Mountain Hut-to-Hut traverse in a day. And, I ran up and down all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4000 foot peaks in 7 ½ days. So, I know all about “the crazy” and I’m fully prepared (and excited) to share it with everyone. And, hopefully I'll get that chance.

People have asked me why I feel compelled to do the “crazy” things I do. Usually I tell them that I derive immense joy from taking on new and exciting challenges. And while that is certainly true, I think the real reason I do these things lies a little bit deeper down. Everyone has their own personal mountains to climb. With the loss of two dear friends at a young age, I’ve seen far too early (and far too closely) that our lives are woefully short. So, I feel like if I don’t seize the day, and push myself on a regular basis, I’ll never find out how high I can go. And, that would be a shame. Because it’s in these so-called “death defying” moments that I truly feel most alive.

Finally, I feel that I am a good writer, with a down-to-earth voice that seems to resonate with athletes and wanna-be athletes alike. I believe that just about any elite ultra marathoner can write a story that amazes people. But it takes an ordinary person like me (who started at the bottom and, with a lot of hard work, clawed his way to the middle) to inspire people into believing that, “If THAT guy can do it, then so can I!”

How will I go about getting my book published?

Now, this is where it gets kind of tricky. Many publishers who might be interested in this book (ie. publishers of endurance sport themed books) require potential manuscripts be submitted via a literary agent. And hiring a literary agent would cost me up-front money that I don’t have. So, at the moment, I and searching out publishers that allow you to submit directly to them and send them my book proposals. I have sent out 3 so far, and have 3 more I am working on as we speak.

I'm not against self-publishing it. In fact, it may end up there at some point. But, for right now, I'm excited at the challenge of getting it picked up by a name publisher. It's like running a marathon. I could go run 26.2 miles in the woods, by myself. Or, I could qualify and run the Boston Marathon. That's how I'm looking at it right now, anyway.

In the meantime, if anyone knows any awesome (and soon to be very lucky) book publishers please send them my way! :)

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