Scott Parker is the author in the spotlight here on Booksnob for the month of July. I was lucky to be able to interview Scott on his life, his book and the sport of running. Welcome Scott.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I like ice cream? My cat’s name is Mavis?
2. What inspired you to write Running After Prefontaine?
I used to write a lot for books like Football and Philosophy, Golf and Philosophy, Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy, and others like that, but I missed out on Running and Philosophy, which is the one that most interested me, so I sat down to write my own essay collection on running. As I worked on the book, I saw that it would work better as memoir.
3. Can you tell us why or when you decided to become a writer?
I don’t know that it ever felt like a decision. Over a number of years, I found myself writing more and more. Eventually I accepted that someone who writes a lot . . .
4. Some of us have never heard of Prefontaine. Can you tell us who Prefontaine is and why are you running after him?
He was a lot faster than I am. Steve Prefontaine (or, Pre) is the iconic American distance runner. He was known for being a gutsy runner and a showman. He held many American records, won multiple national championships in college, and placed fourth in the 5,000m at the 1972 Olympics. As good as he was, it was his charisma that made him a star. He died in 1975 in a car accident with his best running years still ahead of him. He’s been the subject of two biopics (one of which, Without Limits, is very good) that have helped him remain in the public consciousness. He’s an inspiration to almost anyone who’s interested in track, and r
really any American who runs distances encounters his legacy. But that’s especially true for runners from Oregon (where I’m from). Pre grew up on the coast there and ran for Bill Bowerman at the University of Oregon. He’s a central part of why Eugene is known as Track Town USA.
5. Do you have to be a runner to enjoy your memoir?
I sure hope not. One thing I should make clear here is that this isn’t one of those books where a great runner summarizes his accomplishments. I’m a mediocre runner who enjoys running for the meaning and sense of joy it affords. If you don’t like running, you should see parallels to activities that do inspire you, whether that’s swimming or dancing or painting or cooking. It’s one of the ongoing arguments of the book that we should pursue activities in our life that do nothing but bring us joy—but hearty joys that require work on our part, not passive joy like being entertained by something electronic 24/7.
6. We know you like to run, but do you like to read? What authors or books influence you?
So many. I’ll stick to memoir and mention just a few books that have been important influences for me: Dave Eggers’s A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius; David Shields’s Enough About You: Adventures in Autobiography; Debra Gwartney’s Live Through This; Poe Ballantine’s 501 Minutes to Christ; Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club; Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking; Nietzsche’s Ecce Homo. I could go on, but those are some that come to mind.
7. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring runners and/or aspiring writers?
My first instinct is to say no. But if pressed I would advise runners to think about why you’re running and what you hope to get from the sport. If it’s to win races, I don’t know what to tell you. That’s never really been my aim. If it’s to look good naked, good luck. If it’s to feel alive and playful and spontaneous and happy, what my book tries to do is show you that that’s available to you too. The term I like to use is the joy of running qua running. Running can be challenging, it can be a form of self-improvement, it can also be tons of fun. That’s what I want to remind people. Aspiring writers: read lots.
8. How many miles do you usually run in a year? How many marathons?
I ran Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth last month. Before that it had been over a year since my last marathon. That’s about average for me. I’m on the every-once-in-awhile plan. My approach to shorter runs is similar. I try to run no more and no less than I feel like it, which ends up meaning I tend to run about once a week in the winter and almost every day in the summer. That’s been my routine since moving to Minnesota three-plus years ago. In Oregon it was much more consistent season to season.
9. In one sentence tell readers why they should read Running After Prefontaine?
It’s the best thing since toe shoes.
Thanks Scott! If you are interested in winning a copy of Scott's book Running after Prefontaine. Click on the highlighted link: Running after Prefontaine Giveaway