Status of Ripple and Running Memoirs

This weekend I finished Draft Two of Ripple and I have sent it out much gratitude to my very competent beta readers, Deborah Bryan and Astrea Baldwin, as well as the world’s best writing partner, Renée Schuls-Jacobson.

Meanwhile, with the help of the gracious and brilliant Piper Bayard, I’ve drafted a logline, or 25-word plot summary for Ripple:

A murder suspect teams up with a band of women at a safe house to trap a would-be rapist who is stalking her daughter.

While Ripple is undergoing review, I am working on another big project: writing a book with the working title of I Run. I am seeking to take my own experiences as a runner and morph them into a story about a girl named Sally who used running to hide from abuse she suffered as a child. I am pulling together all of my blog and journal entries from 2011 that pertain to running. So far, I am looking at a 200-page book, and will publish this as an E-book in the late summer or early fall. Those of you who follow me on my Facebook Page know that Running from Hell with El applies to the concept of running from pain and then triumphing over it. It’s also a riff on running towards Home, or heaven. For those of you who don’t know how important running is to me, I thought I would excerpt an intro about my running, and then follow up with a short sample from I Run.

•••

Intro

            I started running when I was a chubby, fourteen year old fast pitch softball player and point guard.  Soon enough, I found that I loved running as much as I loved hurling a ball or shooting a layup.  After a month of running, I was hooked.  I could run just about all day, and pretty fast, too. I captained my cross-country team and could run ten miles in seventy-five minutes.

I ran fifty miles a week right through college, with a year off to gain my obligatory freshman fifteen pounds.  Unfortunately, the fifteen turned into fifty pounds, and losing that weight was its own odyssey.  I kept running fifty miles a week through my first couple years of law school. To my great regret, I did not run a marathon when I could have, because I was afraid.  Then, in my second year of law school, I broke my ankle, and was never the same athlete after that.

In my late twenties, I developed epilepsy, high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat, and to this day, I take medications to treat these conditions.  From age 26 to age 33, I practiced law in Virginia and D.C.  I worked hard, but found the work soul crushing, boring and stressful.

Throughout my twenties and early thirties, I stayed in shape but struggled to keep my weight down.  I stopped practicing law when I bore my first child, and two more children followed, stepladder style, in the next two years.  While I stayed in shape and worked out, I ran only sporadically for the first three years after my third child was born in 2006.

In 2009, I started to train seriously again.  This time, I took to the pool, with the crazy idea of swimming across the Chesapeake Bay and then the English Channel.  By the fall, I was swimming 2-3 miles a day, running and lifting weights. I was back in fighting trim.

Then, on November 16, 2009, a Washington Metro bus struck my family’s SUV in excess of 30 miles per hour.  Miraculously, my three children escaped injury; unfortunately, I did not.  In that moment between living and dying, many highlights and lowlights of my life flashed before me.  I yelled at God to save my children, and promised that if he did, I would stop living my life in fear.  God heard me.  I was grateful to have another chance to live.  This time, it would be without regrets.

The accident left me unable to walk, run or swim without serious pain in my back, rib cage and left knee.  My dream of swimming the Chesapeake and the English Channel looked impossible.  By Christmas Day, 2009, I felt depressed and overwhelmed.  In search of hope, I formed an equally impossible dream: to run a marathon.

Eight months later, I began running in earnest.  In October 2010, I ran the Army Ten-Miler.  No longer could I run ten miles in 75 minutes.  Now, it took me more than 100 minutes.  I may have lost my speed, but in its place remained guts, determination and sheer endurance.

By the end of 2010, I had run 750 miles.  At no point was this easy or pain-free.  I received painful shots in my knee, feet and back, and underwent a rhizotomy on my back that burned the nerves in my facet joints at 300 degrees.  Throughout 2009-10, I fought through all sorts of back and leg pain.  I ran, and I kept running.

In January 2011, I set a goal: to run 2,000 miles and ten marathons.  This is the story of how I chased after this goal: the joy, the pain, and the sheer craziness of all those miles on an aging athlete’s tired old legs.

I Run

I run so I don’t have to stand still.  I run from the depression that ensnares me if I let its dense shadow catch me.  I run back to my better, stronger, happier self, to hold and carry her in spirit for a stride or two, until she leaps out of me and I realize that I must always chase her but never catch her.  I run for the little Sally who had nowhere else to go but far away from the only home she knew.  I run for tomorrow and yesterday and today.

I run for the smell of the dew on the fresh-cut grass.  I run for the glint of sun dappling through the towering pin oak trees.  I run because in running sometimes I find answers to questions I didn’t think to ask.  I run for the quiet, gentle burn in my chest.  I run for the dopamine and the endorphins, drugs stronger and healthier and safer than the drinks and drugs that destroyed my childhood home.

I run to silence the demons of my past life.  I run because I can run and I must run.  Some say this doesn’t sound healthy or wise or reasonable or sane but when I cannot run, I am none of these things either.

I run for today because there is nothing I can do to fix the mistakes of yesterday and there is no promise there will be a tomorrow.   I run for no one.  I run.

© 2012, E. L. Farris

41 Comments on “Status of Ripple and Running Memoirs

  1. El, your writing often brings tears to my eyes. So poignant, honest, thoughtful. I, too, am a runner but after going through horrific back pain that resulted in surgery last year, I have retired my running shoes. I have been unable to find a satisfactory substitute for running and thus am considering seeking medical advice about the prospects of ever running again. Your words here have inspired me to pursue more answers because I, like you, need the release I can only find through running. As always, thanks for being honest.

    • Aw Dawn, thank you so very, very much!!

      I am so sorry to hear about your back pain, surgery and retired running shoes. I have a ton of thoughts about this, and about running. To put it succinctly, running does not seem to increase arthritis and disk herniations . . . in my case, I am able to run despite and through the pain, but my husband is not (he really needs surgery–stubborn dude). A ton of doctors and nurses and friends laughed at me when I said I wanted to run, and my physical therapist groaned but still helped me. And I found an orthopedist who specialized in sports medicine (and who worked with Olympians) and he really has been the key to all of this. When I asked him if I should run marathons, he said, “You’re going to be in pain anyway, but when you’re in your rocking chair, you won’t regret any of the marathons you ran.” With his blessing and encouraging words, I said “Fuck it,” and went for it.

      Hey, if you ever wanna talk offline, please drop me a note. My e-mail is farrisburke@cox.net. I can talk about running and pain all day.

      xoxo

      • El – thanks so much! I have a wonderful therapist who I am going to seek advice from with this – I suspect he will tell me to run. Initially, I thought I could live with the diagnosis, but I’m starting to realize that it may not be that simple. After all, I’ve been a runner since I was 11. It’s not something that I can just say good-bye to that easily. Thanks again!

  2. I love you and you are my hero. I need to burn your words into my brain and teach them to the doctors who say I can’t anymore for fear of injuries greater than I already have.I need to convince myself I can get beyond and outside of the pain both emotional and physical and learn to do more for myself once more, that walking again wasn’t enough and that 55 isn’t to old to start again and that I don’t have to accept the accumulated weight of years of not doing anything …

    I love you and you are my hero.

    Val

    • Val: You honor me!! Thank you so much!!

      Seriously, to the doctors who say you can’t–they can go to hell. It is your body. Your life. And pain is just pain. Don’t let anyone limit your choices or define your limitations.

      I love you too, my dear friend.

  3. Before I read the clip, I leaned toward Running With El. Now I’m torn. I Run fits so well with this intro, which is both powerful and poignant. I’m going to let this churn in my brain for a little and see if I come up with something different, but for now I lean ever so slightly toward “I Run,” perhaps even subtitled “Running from Hell with El.”

    • Deb: yes! That is exactly what I am thinking. The response so far, both here and all over, seems almost equally split between I Run (my favorite, but I would want a subtitle), Running with El (which was the name of my blog), and a ton of write-in votes for RFHWE. So I really like I Run with a subtitle of RFHWE.

      Ah–thank you re powerful and poignant. I dashed that intro off this morning and wasn’t sure . . .

    • LOl re iRun.

      Sweetie, I am coming back to get you. Meeting you at the 22-mile mark, and we’re going to run, walk or limp it in together. I got a plan. Wanna hear it? Of course . . . start sending me what you write every day or every other day. Also, please zap what you have in reserves to me ASAP–stop worrying about it.

      And as far as catching up and chatting, I’m all about getting you to the finish line. I have a funny story about that from one of the marathons I ran. This huge guy was running backwards, running his friend into the finish line, and he was yelling this inane stuff. He annoyed the crap out of me. But I was in too much pain to outrun him and his friend, so he ran me into the end.

      Anyway, that’s what I was trying to be this weekend. Sorry I sounded like a jerk and hurt your feelings. I can be a lot more like Helen than you might have known . . . I’m just not real sensitive sometimes.

      Love you.

      • Love you too. Tough love doesn’t work with me. But I’m in the trenches now. Not even answering the phone because I am trying to be as productive as possible. We’re all there at about the same time. Trish_Loye. LShirtliffe. Clay’s book is coming out in September. So things are happening. I just have to stay focused. I’m not ready for long phone conversations right now. At least I got a blog post up. Now, I have to write two more posts for other people (morning work) and then plough ahead with WIP. You got a working title for me? I gave you yours! 😉

  4. I had no idea about your accident and that history and my already high admiration of you has just reached soared. Incredible. I would love to read that memoir.

  5. Holy cow, El! I want more! I didn’t know you were working on this Running project, and I think it’s perfect. I swear on wee baby chipmunks that I was reading this with my mouth open like a fool because I was so engrossed. You are such an inspiration, in so many ways.

    • Jules: your comments mean so much to me!!! I was feeling a little glum this morning (my boys painted my garage and my SUV with blacktop filler–no kidding, and I used to always blog about their crazy shit) and thinking, “Holy crap, what am I doing? This book will suck, wah!” But then I read your comment and it is bucking me up.

      You know what? I thought no one would wanna hear about my year of running because most local people/friends think I’m a bit of a weirdo, to put it nicely. So hearing from you and many others has made me think that maybe people will wanna read this thing.

      Ah–giggle–I love your comments — hold on let me keep reading below!

  6. I can’t wait for this book, no matter what title you land on! I love your writing; you suck me in, and then the comments here make me chuckle and smile! 🙂

  7. I really like the title Running with El. It also has a nice overlap with your blog title. Congrats on getting your manuscript to your betas too! You are getting some serious work accomplished this summer. 🙂

  8. Your love and respect for running is contagious. And the path that’s led you there (no pun intended!) makes me respect you even more. I can’t wait to read your book! Make that bookS. 😉

  9. Running with El sounds great.U’ve faced alot of challenges in lyf bt u’ve refused 2 give up&instead u’ve came out stronger.ur an encouragement 2 alot of pple so let us all run 2gether 4rm our troubles,fears,disappointments.Running with El.

  10. So many thoughts ran through my head as I read this! Inspirational to say the least, incredible writing, incredible story teller, amazing and uplifting, heartbreaking and moving, endearing and heartfelt, made me want to put on my running shoes and hit the road full speed. This is incredible writing. El…..thank you so much for sharing this. I share in your love for running. Not just for the health of it but also for my well being physically and mentally. When I run I go to my special place….I think, I escape, it’s my time just for me! I can understand and I can feel everything you wrote about! Really an inspiring read. You’ve fought hard and you’ve managed to come out on the other side standing tall and strong!!!