Saturday, 17 January, 2004
The Long Walk
One of my favorite stories of all time is The Long Walk, which Stephen King published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. The story is about an annual competition in which 100 teenage boys line up at the Maine/Canada border and begin walking south. The one who walks the furthest wins The Prize: everything he wants for the rest of his life. The catch is that if a contestant falls below 4 MPH for more than about a minute and a half, he's out of the Walk. The novel reminds me somewhat of Shirley Jackson's The Lottery.
What fascinates me about The Long Walk is that King does a very good job of capturing many thoughts and feelings of endurance athletes: optimism, acceptance of pain, forming loose and sometimes lasting friendships, despair, catching the "second wind," wishing the other competitors would fold, giving up, and finally just buckling down, turning off the brain, and going. The book is a bit gruesome in a few places, but I don't want to go into details and spoil the horrible surprise that you discover in the first two dozen pages. I wouldn't call it an uplifting book by any stretch of the imagination, but it's a wonderful read: well-paced and full of things that remind me of my toughest endurance events.