Cover image for The long run of Myles Mayberry
The long run of Myles Mayberry
Alcorn, Alfred.
Personal Author:
First paperback edition.
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Zoland Books, 1999.
Physical Description:
258 pages ; 21 cm
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Lampooning every form of 1970s excess, this farce tells of the life circumstances of an ambitious man with only the thoughts of winning the Boston Marathon on his mind.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Part parody of 1970s excess, part paean to the art of running, this quirky novel focuses on hapless Myles Mayberry, who spends his days training for the Boston Marathon and smoking marijuana. Myles and his dismayed new wife, Sophie, the couple's sole financial support, live in Cambridge, where they are part of a New Age "therapeutic community." Having fallen into a "blinding, binding" love one year earlier, they are hitting their marriage's first rocky patch. All goes downhill when the couple attends a weekend retreat in New Hampshire with a swami and Myles sneaks away for an illicit run. Obsessed with his desire to win the Boston Marathon, Myles begins running twice a day, and only gradually realizes that Sophie is having an affair with bisexual poet Derek Fells. The couple separate, and Myles moves to an office at the school where he teaches business management (a field which he knows nothing about). He begins to experience episodes of amnesia, running in his sleep and waking up on unfamiliar Boston streets. Only by participating in the marathon and reconciling himself to the idea of losing can he recover Sophie and his sanity. This is an inoffensive and at times amusing portrait of American life in the years between the optimistic '60s and the self-absorbed '80s, distinguished by Alcorn's vibrant evocation of the addictive nature of running. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This novel does nothing to discourage the notion that every marathoner is clinically insane. Myless determination to win the Boston Marathon interferes with any kind of life. He cant concentrate on his unhappy wife, who is leaving him, because he has to train. He alienates the few friends he has because he always has to train. He cant keep a job because he has to train. He even wakes up half-naked running through Bostons subway tunnels. He ends up being treated in a clinic, where he nonetheless continues to train for the marathon. His need to push himself seems intimately bound up with a terror of being finally responsiblefor himself, his wife, and his coming baby. The result is an interesting clinical study, but the characters are all unappealing. This book is a real letdown after Alcorns wonderfully witty Murder in the Museum of Man (LJ 4/1/97).Marylaine Block, St. Ambrose Univ. Lib., Davenport, IA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One Myles Mayberry reached the Cambridge Common near the graveyard and turned up the path parallel to Massachusetts Avenue. He loped easily with his body erect, his elbows bent and pumping, his legs swinging under him. It was a practiced ease, part of the rhythm that kept pain in abeyance. He kept beat to the suck of his breathing, concentrating as the pump of his heart, his lungs, his arms, and his legs came together in a running chord of motion.     It was morning, not the best time to run on the Common. A flow of people coming down the asphalt path on their way to work forced him to the grass, where the footing was tricky. He ran against the flow, upstream, a foil to their morning march to work. He ran against the cars and buses jammed on the avenue, their noise and fumes blighting the sunny bloom of the late summer morning.     At the top of the Common he kept left and ran along Waterhouse Street. With fewer obstacles in his path he moved faster; his feet came down in a paced, regular slap, monotonous as prayers. Another runner, a woman, bobbed into sight. Myles slowed, taken with the dark hair crowned with a headband, with the way her shorts tucked into the cleft of her bottom, with her beguiling, vulnerable motion. His concentration faltered as he thought of jogging next to her, saying simple, obvious things that would turn his run into a chase. He accelerated instead, sweeping by her without difficulty. He crossed to Garden Street, running to regain his rhythm and concentration. He went by the handsome stucco house where the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi made his Cambridge headquarters and where, for a couple of hundred dollars, they would teach you the science of creative intelligence and give you your very own secret, meditative word. One-two, one-two, Myles chanted to himself, still wondering about the woman he had passed.     Thirty years old and not long married, Myles O'Malley Mayberry had reached the age of wondering. He woke daily from strange, vivid dreams to wonder at the stark morning reality of himself. He wondered about his widowed mother, who had recently died. He wondered why Sophie had married him. He wondered why he wondered. He even wondered what he looked like. Mirrors were not always reliable. In the one at the end of the dark hall in their apartment, he saw himself dimly, a ghost. In the merciless fluorescence of the bathroom he peered back through veined, red-rimmed blue eyes at a long jaw sprung with rusty bristle. In the mirrors of men's rooms, bars, department stores, he surprised himself, this stranger.     It helped to run. It gave him a nice shock of recognition to run by a particularly reflective store window and catch a fleeting glimpse of his moving form, the determined set of his face, his ginger hair swept back from the temples, and the flash of his scarlet running suit, the one Sophie said made him look clownish. Appearances aside, he was no Narcissus on the lam. Running, he had explained to Sophie (and to himself), was an exhilarating exercise in the freedom of motion, the actuality of which transcended any initial motives. It was like skiing, only the limits were more palpable; they could be touched, pushed, and broken. When Myles hit his stride, there seemed no limits. He could run to China and back. He could run beyond himself.     Mostly he ran in big circles. He ran around the block, up and down Massachusetts Avenue and Brattle Street and along the Charles, weaving his way through an academic stronghold of old frame houses and brick apartment buildings and the ivied piles of Harvard. There was nothing haphazard about this. A marathoner, Myles measured himself carefully in the large dimensions of time and space -- he carried a stopwatch and clocked his distance.     He sprinted the last few blocks and didn't stop until he reached the steps of the apartment building where he and Sophie lived on the first floor. The stopwatch in his tremulous hand read 1:24:55. Twelve seven-minute miles. Not bad, he thought, for someone who, after a layoff of several months, had only begun to run regularly a few weeks before.     He sat on the concrete steps in the luxury of his sweat and gazed up at a bay of solid sky framed by the eaves of the building. The apartment block was a pleasant, three-story affair, old and with a small front courtyard gone to genteel shabbiness because of rent control. In their seasons, lilacs and mock orange blossomed profusely on either side of the cracked walkway. From their midst two ancient lamps, white globes on fluted iron posts, formed an entryway. The day breathed euphoria and Myles lay back, conscious of the warmth and the smell of half-wild roses that climbed the nearby walls. Twelve seven-plus-minute miles and he still felt strong. Not bad. Not bad. But suddenly he felt dissatisfied. He sat up, rubbing his hands. He wanted to do more. He wanted to run fifteen miles every morning, rest and jog another few in the afternoon of every day of every week until Patriots' Day, in April, when the long skein of his runs would unravel in one fast lope from the town of Hopkinton to Boston. If only ...     The door behind him opened and Mr. Grundstrom, who lived upstairs, came out. Mr. Grundstrom wore galoshes, a visored cap with the earflaps down, a winter overcoat and mittens.     "Good morning," the old man said gravely. "Have you seen my wife?"     Myles moved over to let his neighbor pass. "Not this morning."     Senile, Mr. Grundstrom was nearly ninety, a fellow alumnus of Harvard, a retired civil engineer, and a gentleman. On this morning his cherubic, wrinkled face was covered with a three-day growth of beard.     He gave Myles a sheepish smile. "My wife has the dog."     "Uh huh"     "You saw her."     "Not this morning," Myles repeated and stood up to go in, conscious of a stiffening in his thighs and calves.     "She was out in the road," Mr. Grundstrom said. He blinked at the sun, his face darkening with confusion. "We're working on the road ..." He pointed in the direction of Harvard Square. "Through the mountains."     "I see."     "You know Señor Ortega?"     "Not really." Myles put his hand on the doorknob, hesitating. But he didn't need to stay. The old man was as happy talking to himself.     The inside of their apartment, warm and green, smelled like a florist's shop. Since moving in, more than a year ago now, Sophie had hung the living room with spider plants and wandering jews and swedish ivy. Potted geraniums with orange-scarlet blossoms, stubby cacti with rows of spikes, rubber plants with thick leaves, ferns with ostrich-feather fronds, and a jacaranda bush all grew in a neat, silent jungle. Shades made of split bamboo were rolled up over three long windows that opened onto the front enclosure and let in a long day of sunshine. Among the leafage Sophie had placed a wicker sofa, a wicker armchair, a wicker rocker, and a rattan coffee table. Her plants and furnishings had slowly and ineluctably pushed out the bits and pieces of his bachelor days. Not that he minded.     He shucked his running suit, his shoes, and his jock. Naked as a frog he went through the leafless dining room into the small kitchen, where he poured a glass of orange juice and peeled a banana. Unfolding the morning Globe , he sat at the dining room table, where he found a note. M, love, Try to keep things tidy for tonight. And could you get some cheese and granny apples and white wine from Savenor's? There's money on the bureau. And could you walk Missy if you get a chance? Love, S     Missy, Sophie's chocolate-spotted, two-year-old springer spaniel, came into the room as though called, regarded Myles for a moment, wagged her tail, and retreated. She was in heat. Sophie had been calling kennels looking for a purebred stud. Puppies were one of her current enthusiasms. He wondered at the possibility that her preoccupation with puppies was a sublimated impulse to have a baby of her own.     She had left the apartment clean and tidy for the party they were having that night. Tidy Sophie. She went through life leaving a swath of tidiness behind her. She's even made me tidy, he thought, but not with resentment. Tidy Myles, naked and sweaty after running twelve seven-minute miles, chewed his banana, sipped orange juice, and perused the headlines. Settlement seen soon in Israeli-Egyptian talks. Eldridge Cleaver designs trousers with codpiece. Kidnapped scion of Bronfman family released; IRA implicated. Still no sign of Jimmy Hoffa.     If only ... The pangs of possibility made him grit his teeth. If only he had the time he knew he could do it. He stood abruptly, running in his head, and went down the dim hall to the bathroom to shower the dried sweat and stiffness and get ready for reality. Copyright © 1999 Alfred Alcorn. All rights reserved.