ANTIGONISH, N.S. - What started out as a journal/blogging project has turned into the book Runners of the Nish: A Season in the Sun, Rain, Hail and Hell.
The book is by former St. F.X. X-Men varsity cross-country and track and field runner Alex Cyr and chronicles the 2016 cross country season for the men’s team.
Cyr noted the origins of the book began with a conversation he had with long-time St. F.X. coach Bernie Chisholm who retired at the conclusion of last year’s cross country and track season, after 32 years.
“Bernie brought me into his office and suggested I chronicle the season,” Cyr said, adding it was known around the team that he did have a blog up-and-going, enjoyed writing and was angling towards a career using his writing skills.
“He wanted stories about the races, the workouts and, I think, he kind of expected me to just make a couple of blog posts and put them together at the end of the season and, maybe, give it to him or someone just to preserve them. That kind of got the ball rolling and one thing led to another; I just wrote a lot more than I thought I would.
“Over the next year, year and a half, I put those stories together and they became a book. But, yes, it was that conversation with Bernie which had the ball rolling.”
Cyr said, in retrospect, he thinks coach Chisholm may have been thinking about his retirement then.
“When Bernie asked me to do that I was kind of puzzled as to why he wanted it that year and now, looking back, I think it makes sense because it ends up being one of Bernie’s last years,” he said.
“So, I’m thinking, although I didn’t confirm this with him, maybe he was planning his retirement and wanted to have a token to remember one of his last years. And it ended up being the last year that Bernie brought a full team of men to the [U Sports] championship so, now, I know why the season ended up being special.”
As for the process of putting a book together, Cyr, who is currently at the University of Windsor taking a Master’s degree in human kinetics - specializing in sports writing and journalism - and running for the Lancers, said it was “a lot of work.”
“There was a lot of looking back; I couldn’t keep writing a chapter a day as the season was going on,” he said.
“I think, in the book, I have more than 40 chapters of different things that happened and there was no way I could keep up with all of it [at the time]. So putting it all together was, mainly, going back, looking at the notes I had taken on certain days, and making sure everything was in order.”
Once it was together, Cyr received editing rounds from a couple of teammates and then help from Antigonish author Danny Gillis.
“He looked over my material and gave me some pointers,” Cyr said.
“He helped me gain confidence in the manuscript and told me this is worth having it out there, that I should go get it published. He was instrumental in the process.”
The book has been published by Friesen Press which is based in B.C.
“There was a lot of to-and-fro that way as well because I had to work with a copy editor, promotion specialist, publishing specialist, a few people, and same thing there, they all helped,” Cyr said. “They looked at the manuscript, made suggestions, polished it up a little bit, corrected any little grammar errors or whatever. It was a long process involving a lot of people and I’m super grateful for the help I received along the way.”
The foreword for the book is by Antigonish’s Eric Gillis, the three-time Olympian who is a former X-Men runner and has taken over for the retired Chisholm as coach of the cross country and track and field programs at the school.
There is a photo section in the middle of the book and the cover photo is by Bryan Kennedy from the university’s athletic department.
Cyr said while there isn’t a launch or distribution event planned at the moment, he is expecting to be back in the Antigonish area during the Labour Day weekend (Aug. 31 to Sept. 3) before returning to Windsor and, perhaps, something could still be planned.
He adds there will be copies of the book at the St. F.X. Bookstore and at Coles in Antigonish Market Square mall. It can also be purchased online through Amazon or the publisher (friesenpress.com).