Money for Running

An Anasazi Story by Jeff Posey.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Note: This is a sketch made in preparation for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). My working title is “Anasazi Runner.” Synopsis: Modern-day Native American boy abandoned at birth and raised by white parents is inspired when he visits Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, and becomes, in his mind, an Anasazi runner who completes the world’s first sub-two-hour marathon.

# # #

Things changed after Sean won the Denver marathon, breaking the course record by more than a minute. Suddenly, people knew him, he became an elite runner, and the press started hounding him and me too.

“How can we get away from them?” he asked.

I had an idea. “Remember the cookie jar I kept in my history classroom?”

He nodded, clearly with no idea where I was going.

“If I left the lid on, you kids would go nuts trying to get a cookie or to convince me to pass some out.”

“I remember that.”

“But when I opened it up and let you guys have all you wanted, somehow cookies just didn’t interest you so much anymore.”

“I remember that, too.”

“So let’s give these reporters all they want and maybe they’ll grow tired of you.”

That turned into a mistake. At least it didn’t work like the cookies. The more we talked to reporters, the more reporters wanted to talk to us. The story of an orphan Native American boy, raised by white parents, and calling himself the “Anasazi Runner,” got so big it dominated sports news and broke into general news at times.

But it really blew up when Sean got too comfortable with a New York Times reporter. This quote electrified the world: “Yeah, we’ve got it pretty well timed out — break the world record at New York by a minute or so, then another minute in Boston, then sub-two-hour in Berlin next year. Then I’m done. You guys won’t be able to find me anymore.”

That made it to primetime mainstream news and it brought out all the talking heads with opinions, all but a few calling Sean and me idiots for even uttering the Holy Grail phrase “sub-two-hour” out loud. You’d think Sean had said we intended to highjack a couple airliners and crash them into the twin towers of the World Marathon Center, if there were such a thing.

But here’s the interesting thing — money. We’d been eking by on my retirement income. But after the media frenzy, sponsors and agents from all over the world tried to get us to sign contracts, some of them for millions of dollars, and all involving becoming a puppet to the sponsor.

“What do you want to do?” I asked Sean.

“You’re my coach. You decide.”

“Nope. If you got no opinion in the matter, I’m going home to Pagosa Springs, and you should give up the whole idea.” No way I’d let the boy abdicate and not even have a preference. Not my job to babysit him.

“I’d like to have some money,” he finally said. “But I don’t want to do all this crap they want me to do. I’ll sell my soul to running, but not to a company.”

I nodded. I’d like to have some money, too. “Okay, let me think about it. We’ll come up with something. You just keep your mind on running away from that moon guy who wants to eat you in your dream. If you don’t run, we got nothing.”

So I set up a  deal with a contest that made all the sponsors and agents squeal like we’d live-trapped them. We offered what I thought of as lottery tickets for $50,000 a pop. After he broke the world record, we’d randomly pick three winners and he’d do limited spokesmanlike things for a million bucks each. I’d find an attorney somewhere to work up the details. Then after he broke the world record again at Boston, we’d randomly pick one of the three for five million bucks, and then if he broke the sub-two-hour mark in Berlin, they’d kick in another fifteen million. I gave a deadline of a week for sponsors to buy into the lottery.

The press went wild. The TV show “60 Minutes” said it sounded like a deal that Jed Clampitt of The Beverly Hillbillies might come up with. But it worked. At the end of the week, we’d banked nearly three million dollars.

And it also sort of didn’t work, because then we had film crews following us everywhere.

“You sorry you’re doing this yet?” I asked him one day.

He shook his head. “I can do this. I have to do this. Then I’ll be, well, I’ll be somebody.”

“You’re already somebody.”

“You know what I mean.” He grew surly. He didn’t like it when I probed too much into this identity thing of his. I wondered if he’d ever truly be done with that. Only one way to know for sure, I guess. That’s to do it. It certainly had become an interesting show to watch.

# # #

Is this even plausible? Or is it too farfetched to believe?

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13 Comments

Filed under #FridayFlash, Anasazi, Chaco Canyon, NaNoWriMo, Pagosa Springs

13 responses to “Money for Running

  1. yes, plausable! and great to read.

  2. Raymond

    I like that Sean and his trainer are trying to get the sponsors to beg and are being conscious and thoughtful about dealing with the self serving sports sponsors. It does sound like Sean is starting to loose his spiritual footing and integrity with his new found success and celebrity. Perhaps that is his big trial for finding himself and his spirit.

  3. You need to talk to someone who follows sports to find out how believable it is. You should definitely have a track fan to be a beta reader, since they’ll know details the rest of us don’t have, and I’d expect people like that to be your primary audience for this.

  4. It is not only plausible, it is fascinating. I hope you give us a chance to read the whole novel. I want to know more about Sean and his search for his own identity.

    Barb Relyea

  5. I liked it! So is this a nano excerpt? If so, very very strong prose for nano-writing!

  6. Deb

    I think it is totally plausible! In my day-job, I work with spokespeople all the time. I completely believe it. Great Story — you had me hooked from the beginning. I had only one question — who is the narrator and what is their relationship to the runner? I’m guessing that because this is a segment from a novel, these questions are answered elsewhere.

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  8. I think it’s entirely plausible. Sport figures are hounded, paid multi-million dollar contracts, have their pictures on boxes of wheaties…:)
    The only thing that jolted me was the reference to the twin towers. I know where you were going with it, but I think it’s a can of worms.

  9. Deanna Schrayer

    I believe it’s plausible. It’s amazing how much sponsors will spend on athletes they believe in.

    This piece reads so differently than earlier ones – Sean’s character is coming through more and more, and he’s not who I imagined he was (from previous posts). I hope that makes sense, and I hope it’s a good thing. I pictured him as a shy young man, but this piece reveals a whole different side of him. He seems more determined here. Is it the publicity that’s bringing that out? I can certainly imagine the publicity doing that.
    I can’t wait to read this whole novel Jeff!

  10. Great story sketch. I like the ‘modernity’ of the story and can’t wait to see how this fits in with the aboriginal feel of your others.

    I think the amount of money is implausible, but only because of the sport — distance running — and that runners have come close to the sub-two hour distance mark (2 hours 3 minutes and change).

    But, hey, you’re a runner – you tell me ;^)

    Peace, Linda

  11. When I clicked on the link I thought it was a contest or something you were passing along, I thought ‘hey I run I could use some money let me see what Jeff is tauting here.
    Plausible? Isn’t that what sports agents do? You could’ve convinced me that’s the way it works. Sounds like a great idea…now you just gotta find that kid.
    Oh wait…this is a fictional story. I’d buy it, literally and figuratively.

  12. Diandra

    Well written, but I am not sure it is plausible. Honestly, I am not too much into the whole world of sports thing, but would companies really want to spend that much money on the mere possibility of someone doing a sub-two-hours marathon? Maybe if the whole media fair was handled correctly, but…

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