True Life Stories

Tom Murphy’s book, Runner in Red to be out in time for 2018 Boston Marathon

Tom Murphy will be releasing his latest book, Runner in Red, published by Encircle Publications, on April 1st in time for the Boston Marathon.

He first learned How to write a book early in his college career and has published multiple books since. Murphy, author of Just Call me Jock, also is founder of Human Resiliency Institute of Fordham University in New York. He shares here in a Q&A format how his latest creative vision was willed into reality.

Q: What inspired you to write the book?

A: Jock Semple, whose Boston Marathon career spanned fifty years, asked me to write his life story in 1980.

As I took notes in Jock’s cramped cinderblock training cubicle in the old Boston Garden, his portly business clients would tease him for chasing Kathrine Switzer down the road in the 1967 Boston Marathon, an incident that made Jock infamous.

Then one guy asked Jock if he would have chased the runner in red in 1951, and Jock shot back, “If she woulda (sp) been real, I would have protected the rules.” My ears (perked) and I investigated to learn that in fact the runner in red was a real-life Boston Marathon legend. The legend sprang from a contention by a group of Canadian runners who insisted they saw a woman “wearing red” sneak into the race that year, which would have made her the first woman to run a marathon on American soil. The ‘what if’ of that incredible possibility stayed with me and I decided someday I would explore the legend in fictional form. It’s my mystery novel, Runner in Red.

Q: The book is a love story, has family drama and explores women’s courage. Tell us about those aspects.

A: Bobby Hodge, one of America’s top runners in the 80s said, “Running is the vehicle but the story is so much more.” He’s right. Runner in Red is a period piece set in the late 90s as a run-up to the 2000 Boston Marathon. 2000 is the year we left the “old” century, where women were discriminated against, and entered a new millennium.

I wanted Runner in Red to be a celebration of women. It’s hard to imagine but there was a time before 1972 when women were not allowed to compete in the Boston Marathon.

Rules forbade them from running any race more that 200 yards. The thinking was they could hurt themselves.

That’s a mind-set that the characters fight against in the story and hopefully the new millennium means old prejudices against women have passed.

Q: What can readers expect from the book?

A: I want readers to have fun, but to learn history too. Many women run today; almost 15,000 of the 30,000 Boston runners – were women. But many people don’t know the history of women’s running, and this story strives to teach that history.

Q: Do you think your book will turn into a movie?

A: Truth is I initially wrote the story as a screenplay, back in 1998. The agent who got ET made, Stu Robinson at Paradigm, represented me, but he passed away suddenly, and the story went into a box.

The characters stayed with me, though, and last year I decided to take the script and turn the story into a novel.

So yes, Runner in Red could be a movie, which would be fitting, since it would bring the story full circle.

Q: Is there a passage that you enjoyed the most writing about?

A: Early on during the ‘boy meets girl’ stage where Colin, the narrator, comes upon the heroine, her car has broken down and he realizes the gap between the points in her ignition system has collapsed.

He pulls out a parking ticket and uses the thickness of the cardboard to reset the gap and VOILA it works, the car starts and their relationship has a chance to get in gear. I conjured that scene from real life.

Q: Your story makes the point that we get when we give. Can you elaborate on that?

A: Here I need to get serious: the point of the story is “we get when we give,” meaning when we focus on the needs of others – when we give without asking – the universe pays us back.

Life is not a straight line, however, so the universe does not have a timetable for being kind, but we have to allow ourselves to be vulnerable to have a chance for the universe to repay us.

That’s a hard thing to do, to trust, since the world offers so much evidence AGAINST remaining open, and often we’re considered “a sap” if we remain vulnerable.

But it’s living open to the needs of others that keeps hope alive and keeps open the possibility that good things will happen for us in the future.

This is a weighty proposition, I admit, but that’s why Runner in Red is a story – I strive to explore these themes in the context of a page-turning mystery and a love story. Like Bobby Hodge said, it’s a running story, but it’s more.

Q: I understand some proceeds will go to charity? And where can people pick up the book?

A: My wife, Barb, a Boston Marathon runner, got lung cancer out of the blue in 2007. She fought it with great courage for six years before she passed away in 2013.

We created Barb’s Beer, which is produced in Massachusetts by the Trappist Monks at Spencer Brewery, to raise funds to help cure lung cancer.

The Barb’s Beer logo is a silhouette of Barb crossing the finish line at the 2000 Boston Marathon, which (on purpose) is the race featured in this story.

We plan to work with others on the lung cancer project, including the Bonnie Addario Lung Cancer Foundation.

Our goal, and a goal of the book, is to rally support to cure lung cancer, which kills more women than any other form of cancer.

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