If you can’t tell from this story I’m writing, I like running. It’s a uniquely human activity; no other animal runs quite like us. We’re good at it, too—depending on who you ask, humans might have evolved to run prey to death. In Man VS Horse I want to make readers feel the mental states and thought-processes behind running a hundred miles, based on my own experience running marathons and reading about ultra-marathoners.
Stories need characters. It might seem difficult to squeeze a character out of a purely physical challenge like racing against a horse, but thankfully, there’s a huge mental component to running. You might think the biggest bottleneck is strength or endurance, but even if you know you’re capable of running twenty miles, getting out of bed to do so is still tricky. Jonas’ train of thought during the run will be a window into his character and a source of conflict throughout the narrative.
When I’m running, my train of thought goes in weird directions, and I want Jonas to show that. For the first ten miles, Alphonse kept Jonas company, but now that Alphonse has taken the lead, Jonas is left alone with his mind.
I take advantage of this to introduce the reader to Whitney, Jonas’ running partner and ghostwriter. If you’re sensitive to spoilers, close your eyes: Whitney will show up later, around mile 50, I think. Introducing her now lets me set the stage for her arrival.
I think Jonas reminiscing about Whitney is an accurate portrayal of the running mindset. I often find myself recalling the past during long runs. It’s a chance for me to review and reinterpret my history. A long run is the perfect opportunity to reduce a character to their base elements.
I also play dumb games with myself on long runs, like Jonas explaining modern items to a caveman. If you’ve got a dumb endurance-sport mental-game, let me know! I’d love to hear.