Alumnus publishes debut novel documenting athletic experience at StFX
Alex was interviewed by Yanik Gallie on August 14, 2018. Runners of the Nish: A Season in the Sun, Rain, Hail and Hell is now available for purchase online through the FriesenPress or Amazon websites.
Alumnus Alex Cyr published his debut novel Runners of the Nish: A Season in the Sun, Rain, Hail and Hell on July 25, 2018. Alex’s novel is an autobiographical reveal of life as a StFX athlete.
Alex is a journalist who has written articles for U Sports and Canadian Running Magazine. Prior to publishing his novel, Alex published interviews with Olympic athletes Eric Gillis, Melissa Bishop, and Reid Coolsaet.
YG: Can you share your experience of writing a first novel?
AC: There were a lot more steps to the experience than I thought. I started writing not thinking I was about to write a novel. The way it started is my coach Bernie Chisholm asked me if I wanted to chronicle a few things throughout the season like a race, workout, that kind of thing. As time went on, I filled in the gaps with things that happened. Not only races, workouts and hard outcomes, but also fun events that the team did and nights out. The process of writing my first novel really came in small, small, increments to the point where I didn’t know where I was going with it. It didn’t feel like a job until I got to the point when I looked at what I had and thought I can publish this. Because it was about something that I cared about and enjoyed, it was really a painless, and fun, process.
The publishing process took a lot more out of me than I thought. There is a lot that goes into taking a manuscript and making it into a book. Before that, I didn’t realize how many people would get to work with me. There is so much to be done. There’s editing, design, layout, copyright, getting your ISBN registered. All in all, I think it was a super cool experience and something that I might want to do again someday. It was eye-opening and rewarding.
YG: Knowing the book reflects your personal experience, is there content you were hesitant of including or redacted from the first edition?
AC: Yes. When I decided that I wanted to make a book out of this, I had to make a critical decision in that do I keep the events real and make it a non-fiction or do I embellish it and make a story out of this? Eventually my decision was to keep it real. I put the results as they were. I put the events as they were. Tell the stories as they were. When I made that decision, it made me have to draw a line somewhere else. How intrusive can I be in this endeavor? The people I write about are my teammates and also my best friends. When writing something about them, you want to portray them in a way that is very real, respectful and indicative of who they are. At the same time, you want to present them as characters and highlight little traits and funny characteristics that they have. Most of it, I tried to keep PG. There’s college life in there and stuff. For that part, I tried to gloss over some things that may not be appropriate for the book. I wanted to keep it friendly for the general population.
YG: Coach Bernie Chisholm is a treasured mentor of yours. How are you keeping the teachings of Bernie with you in P.E.I. and Ontario?
AC: Something I think you’ll hear from many people who have been coached or taught by Bernie, because he was also a teacher, is Bernie became a bit more than a running coach. He became a life coach.
I think Bernie instills good values in his runners and students. He’s a person with very consistent beliefs that he vocalizes. He’s also a guy who will tell you when you’re stepping out of line. He’s someone who implements a strong team culture and holds everyone to the same high standard.
Personally, a lesson I am taking back with me from StFX, and from Bernie especially, is the ability to be mentally tough. I apply this to my running mostly, but it’s also a lesson that I apply to life. It’s the ability to push through things when they are not going my way. When you are doing a discipline like running, chances are you are going to replicate that behavior in other aspects of your life. With Bernie, he taught me to persevere and to be patient while working hard. That’s probably the number one quality that I have that I can attribute to Bernie’s coaching.
YG: You beat your personal best this May, well done. What goals are you pursuing with the University of Windsor Athletics Club?
AC: I still have one more year in my master’s at Windsor. After that, I don’t know where school, life and running will take me. There are things that I like about the environment in Windsor and if the next chapter of my life is there, my goals with running are to take it as far as I mentally and physically can. If I’m able to do that for the next few years, the goal is to be increasingly competitive on the national stage.
YG: What athletic tips would you give to a first-year student who is interested in running for StFX?
AC: I would encourage that student to go tryout and give it their shot. I think successful runners on the StFX team come from all walks of sport. You will have those who are superstars coming in and they don’t take as much time to walk up the ranks in the team and become intrinsic members. You will have those who have to wait a bit longer and stick it out. A tip that I would give is to be patient and trust the process. It wouldn’t be to work extremely hard for one week as it would be to work quite hard for 52 weeks and do it again, and again.
Now, I’m one year removed from X and my best friends that I talk to everyday are fellow X-Men and X-Women, roommates and teammates. Cross-country and track-and-field are in essence sports for individuals. However, at X, there very much is that aspect of team that follows you wherever you go. Work consistently hard and results will come.