Lois Henderson of Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest Dave Griffin, author of In the Distance: Why We Struggle Through the Demands of Running, and How It Leads Us to Peace, as well as of After the Last PR―The Virtues of Living a Runner’s Life and bi-weekly columnist. In addition to his current writing career, Dave has also established the Flying Feet Running Programs, which is dedicated to “changing lives one stride at a time.”

Lois: Good day Dave and thanks for participating in our interview. We greatly appreciate your willingness to answer the following questions that primarily relate to your book, In the Distance. In which way is In the Distance distinctive from your other work on the spiritual benefits of running, After the Last PR?

Dave: After the Last PR was an attempt to answer a question: Why, so many years after I set my last personal record, am I still running? That book explored the virtues inherent in living a runner’s life, and how adopting those virtues in a broader way have enhanced my life. Now, with In the Distance, I’ve tried to explore a similar topic in a deeper, more meaningful way. I’m hoping readers can feel a connection to my journey and, whether or not they run, relate to the stories because they have lived through similar fears and struggles.

There is a key point in the book’s introduction which talks about how we as individuals respond to our fears – we either fight or flee. “Flee, and life becomes a lengthy retreat.”

Running became a way for me to fight back, to prove to myself that I was strong enough for anything. The real purpose of In the Distance is to help each reader understand that they are strong enough to overcome their own fears and obstacles. And, when they do, they can begin to gain clarity about their life, and ultimately be at peace with themselves.

Lois: Your approach is wonderfully cross-gendered and universal. Of whom do you visualize your audience consisting?

Dave: I think a lot of runners have been waiting for someone to articulate why we run, so that’s the obvious audience. But anyone who is open to thinking and feeling deeply will enjoy In the Distance.

Lois: How would you sum up the key principles that you have learned from your progression through the five core stages of life as you define them, namely: innocence; fear; struggle; clarity; and peace?

Dave: Life is best when we keep it simple. The things we loved as children are most often the same things we love today - simple joy, good relationships, genuine appreciation. At some point, though, life becomes complicated for all of us when we have to deal with things like hardship, tragedy and failure. By adopting a set of principles, like those that I’ve adopted through running, you can consistently deal with that adversity while staying true to yourself. Then, you can also keep your life focused on the things you most love.

Lois: In In the Distance, you only once refer to an award that you received, and that for your writing, about which you are rather wittily self-deprecating, making the aside that you doubt that your English teacher would have expected you to become a writer “back then.” What role has extrinsic motivation played in your running career? Do you think that it should play as significant a role as it seems to do in most other runners’ development?

Dave: The answer to that question has changed over time. In the beginning, I was quite motivated by awards and recognition. That’s probably true of most people. In fact, the finisher medals that are awarded at many races today are enough motivation for some people. The problem is this – if your sole motivation is extrinsic, you may allow yourself to do things that, in the long run, are not really in your best interest. For example, a runner who really wants that finisher medal might run the race even though they’ve developed an injury that might be worsened by running the race.

It has only been hindsight that allowed me to realize that the real rewards I received through running were intrinsic. Almost all the awards I won over the years are either gone or tucked away, but the qualities I’ve developed are with me every day.

One of the essays in the book speaks about reaching our destination. Life gets better when you can succinctly define the person you hope to become. As for me, I most want peace, self-assurance, and loving relationships with the people I care about.

Lois: As one can see from the numerous references that you make to other authors and works, you clearly are well read. What impact would you say reading as widely as you do has had on how you run and on how you have led your life in general?

Dave: Dale Carnegie said, “We see the world not as it is, but as we are.” I believe that, and I also believe that you can only learn if you are open to the ideas and experiences of others. Reading the works of coaches and successful runners gave me guidance about how to approach my own running and, more recently, how to become a better coach. Reading has also helped me understand life more fully, which helps me connect the dots between running and all the other areas of life.

Lois: You refer to a number of races in which you have participated. For those who are relatively new to the sport, and in order to reach a wider audience, both at home and abroad, if you decide at some stage to revise your book, would it not be possible to contextualize the races, and to give some background about them, or do you think that doing so is unnecessary, given the spiritual focus of your work?

Dave: Perhaps. I imagine that most of the runners I coach would tell you I do that for them. Because I’m helping them reach running related goals; that’s important. But In the Distance isn’t about how to run faster, even though there is ample focus on the benefits of trying to do so.

There are a lot of books that detail how to train and race. I’m not convinced that I could improve on those.

Lois: You focus very much on your own journey in the sport, and of how you have ultimately obtained serenity as a result. While serving as a role model in this regard, and having established the Flying Feet Running Programs, was it your intention with this work to refine your personal account of how you achieved inner quietude through running into a written program of instruction as to how others can attain such tranquility in their own lives, or can we await a more specific manual in future?

Dave: I hope that people can learn from my story and find ways to apply the experiences in ways that will enhance their own lives. But life is such a personal journey, I imagine a written “how to find inner peace” manual would be hard to produce for the masses. I would offer this – start by accepting yourself. You are worthy of love and peace. Now, ask yourself this – what is it that would bring you joy today? The answer becomes a place to start.

Lois: For me, there is one key precept that you hold dear, and to which I wish to adhere for the remainder of my life: “It’s important to face the truth about yourself. It’s even more important to stare it square in the eyes as you race towards the finish line.” May your other readers also all be influenced in so positive a way, by selecting for themselves from your wise and thought-provoking account at least a few aphorisms that will guide their way forward, no matter how hard the road becomes, or how steep the climb.