“How over two million people helped me to write a novel.”
I could barely move, surrounded as I was by a vast mass of humanity. Happy people – people of all races and colours mixing harmoniously together to share the joy and excitement of the occasion. Where was I? South Africa, at that time still in the grip of apartheid. It was Comrades Marathon day.
I had written my first novel the previous year – a probably never-to-be-published psychological thriller – and was now on the lookout for an inspiring and original theme for the follow up. Almost from the first moment I witnessed South Africa’s Comrades Marathon I knew that I had found the inspiration I needed.
Turning up the Heat
The title ‘Marathon’ is actually quite a euphemism. In reality the Comrades is run over twice the distance of a standard marathon, its course covering fifty-five miles of at times almost mountainous road between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. Add to this morning temperatures that year exceeding 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius), not to mention a humidity factor hovering only just below 100%, and you can then begin to appreciate the true enormity of the challenge facing the twelve thousand plus competitors.
The One and Only
The Comrades Marathon has a history dating back to just after the end of the First World War. Throughout the latter dark years of apartheid it was the one and only major sporting event in South Africa in which all colours and races were able to compete together on an equal basis. More than two million spectators of almost every racial description regularly line the route to join in the fun and shout encouragement to the competitors, every single one of them that year convincing me more and more that here was a story that simply must be written.
The race itself was already an established factual drama, with countless individual stories of courage and self-sacrifice. My challenge now was to create some believable fictional characters and interweave their personal dreams, fears and perils around the whole real life spectacle.
The main danger I was immediately aware of was creating a story that would appeal only to those with a personal connection to the Comrades Marathon, or perhaps a strong interest in ultra-marathon running in general. My characters had to somehow reach out and grab the imagination of a far wider audience than that if the novel was truly to be as I envisaged. I needed emotions, situations and conflicts that would hopefully inspire the majority of readers to, as they say: ‘keep turning the pages’.
Whether In the Long Run has been successful in this aim of course lies in the subjective eye of every single reader. All I would point out is that the actual running of the race occupies no more than 20% of the story. Which, in theory at least, left me with plenty of mileage to explore a variety of other avenues and interesting little side turnings along the way.
In the Long Run is now available in Kindle format from all Amazon websites, so I invite you to jog along with me on a journey that I sincerely hope you will enjoy. To purchase a copy, please use the links below.
USA customers please click IN THE LONG RUN
UK customers please click IN THE LONG RUN
George Stratford is a former long-term unemployed manual worker who retrained at 50 years old and went on to become an award-winning copywriter at advertising giants Saatchi & Saatchi, London. He is the author of two novels, IN THE LONG RUN and BURIED PASTS, both now available in Kindle format from all Amazon websites.
AIN’T FINISHED YET, a light-hearted memoir of how he broke into in the youth dominated world of creative advertising, is due out shortly.
For more information, please visit: www.georgestratford.com