To make it easy, I have put all 3 installments of the story here in one blogpost with notes.
When I wrote the original story I had no idea that there would be any sequels and surely didn't imagine the ending at that time. The first one was actually inspired by a recurring dream I had been having for for several years but I can't recall having it for several years now. Other characters although inpsired by several real people have changed over the years.
THE LONELY PRINCESS
This is a short story I wrote in April 2005 on the back of a scrap sheet of paper after pacing at the Umstead 100 miler.
was a rough draft and I never finished it and now I don't know where it
is so I am re-writing now while I sit here in front of my computer.
Hope you enjoy it. This note was written in Sept 2006.
He was a mostly normal boy who enjoyed doing normal boy things. But
even at an early age he could sense that he was a little different from
most of his friends and although he enjoyed playing with others, he
enjoyed spending time alone with his thoughts. Many hours were spent in
the woods behind his home, sometimes just sitting in a tree thinking.
And he loved to read. He was quite good at reading at an early age and
although the school library only allowed two books at a time to be
checked out, they made an exception for him and allowed him to take home
three at a time. History, biography, science, mystery, fantasy and
fiction were all pored over and absorbed to feed his voracious appetite
for knowledge, entertainment and yes, escapism. His favorite books were
of the fantasy genre, especially those having to do with
knights and dragons and brave, adventurous deeds. He was mostly a happy
child, but a part of him always felt there was something more out there
and he was afraid he was missing out on it.
After a while it
was becoming harder to find books that would be of interest that he had
not already read. in the school library . So one day, not having much
luck finding anything of interest, he appealed to the librarian for
help. She replied, yes I think I have just the book that you are looking
for. She went to a nearby closet and returned with an old dust covered
book that obviously had not been touched for years. As she handed the
book to him, he cast a skeptical look her way. The title was " The
Lonely Princess". Yes, he did enjoy reading of castle's and kings and
knights in shining armor, but this looked like a girly book to him. The
librarian insisted that he give it a look so he stuffed it into his book
bag and went to class.
There the book stayed for several
days until boredom led him to retrieve the book and give it a look. Just
as he suspected, there were no jousting knights or dragons to be fought
in the book but what he did find was a story more compelling than he
could have imagined and it became his favorite book, one that would be
read and re-read over and over again.
It was the story of a
beautiful young Princess who was mostly normal. But she was not content
to sit around in the castle looking pretty. She had a yearning for
adventure that needed to be fed. All of her court could not understand
why she couldn't be happy like a normal Princess would be. She had all
the finest clothes, jewelry and people waiting on her hand and foot.
But she was not happy. She felt there was something more out there and
she was missing it. She dreamed of leaving the castle and seeing the
world, seeking adventure and slaying her own dragons.
So one day she slipped out the castle , into the forest and began to run. And it felt good. So the next day she ran again only further. And soon she
was spending nearly all day just running. Through running she was
finding the freedom and adventure she needed . Of course the King and
Queen didn't understand her strange behavior and tried to discourage her
but this only made her desire to run even stronger. She didn't
understand it either. She wished that she could explain but it was no
use. So she just ran and ran.
Years past by and the boy grew
into a man. The book was packed away and over the years became a distant
memory. And life began to take it's toll on the man. But even through
all the hardships he still dreamed of adventures and exotic locations
even though he knew that's all they were. Dreams.
And then one
day he stepped out the door and just began to run. And it felt good. So
the next day he ran further and then further still. And through running
he found something that was missing in his life. His friends and family
didn't really understand it. Why the need to run so long and far? He
wished he could explain it to them but he wasn't really sure he
understood himself. But as he ran he smiled to himself for he knew that
long ago and faraway there was a beautiful Princess that understood.
THE SEARCH FOR THE LONELY PRINCESS
This 2nd installment of the story was written and published originally in April 2007
and like the first one it is fiction but with a bit of reality mixed in.
Progress had slowed to a mere crawl as the runner inched his way forward
up the seemingly never ending climb. Even at this slow pace his heart
was pounding at it's maximum rate as it tried in vain to bring enough
blood to the skin surface to save the runner from over-heating. Finally,
he could walk no more and slumped down,
exhausted on a rock in a small patch of shade to escape from the
relentless mid-day sun. His eyes burned as a river of salty sweat
streamed down from his head and body forming puddles at his feet.
kind of cruel sadist would stage a 50 mile race in the middle of August
on this rock-pile called Massanutten? But more importantly, why was he
here running it in the first place? If it was always this bad he would
quit he thought as he tried once again to lie to himself. Although he
could never really explain it to anyone, deep inside he knew what drove
him forward. And why he would continue to run until he would one day be
unable to rise from his bed to greet another day. He had to because it
was the spiritual string that connected them.
He slowly removed
his cap to wipe the sweat from his brow with his soaking wet shirt
sleeve. Then he looked at her picture, scanned from an illustration in a
child's fairy tale book that he had taped under the bill of the cap. At
times like these he found comfort in talking to her. Even as bad as he
felt, a smile crossed his face as he realized the absurdity of the
moment. If they questioned his sanity before, what would they think of
him now sitting on a rock in the middle of an ultramarathon in August
talking to an imaginary Princess.
He had been in love with her
as long as he could remember now. For countless years, he had searched
unsuccessfully to find her. As a child she began to come to him in
dreams and they would
play together innocently as children do,
not yet understanding the definition of love. Then for many years the
dreams stopped as the boy grew to manhood. But one night after a long
absence, she returned to his dreams, now as a beautiful young lady. And
as they recognized each other they would gather in a tearful embrace at
the joy of finding one another. But then the dream would end and the
Princess would be gone leaving the man once again alone.
many years he searched from face to face, eye to eye hoping to find
her, believing that she truly existed. Several times he would meet
someone and think the fairy tale would finally come true. But always it
would just turn out to be more of a nightmare and the woman would
merely be a Damsel in distress. Psychologist have a term for it, "white
knight syndrome". Try as he may, he was unable to save them from
themselves and in the process he began to withdraw from the world as he
grew weary of the search. No, the True Princess would not need saving,
nor did he. They just needed to find each other. And so despite the
seeming hopelessness of the search, he could not let go of the vision.
And as he searched and searched in vain, still she would come to him,
the same dream repeated time and again over the decades.
And now here he sat, parched and
exhausted on a rock on a mountain, talking to an illustration. Long ago a
big part of him had given up on finding the Princess. She still came
to him in that same dream, but she was always the same as she had been
so many years before. Still the same young, beautiful face with long
black hair flowing gently over her tender shoulders. But time had not
been so kind to the runner. The dark hair of his youth was now thin and
gray and his face was showing the weathered stress of the passing
Placing the cap back on his head, he slowly stood and
stretched before once again heading up to the summit of the climb. And
as he began moving forward, he knew he would not give up on his search.
No, they would never feel the reality of that embrace in this lifetime,
but somehow, someday across the barriers of time and space , they would
be together. In the meantime he had a race to finish. She would
THE LONELY PRINCESS. FOUND !!
Ok, here is the 3rd and final installment. I actually had this pretty
much written in my head since writing part 2 back in 2007 but couldn't
bring myself to write it. Recent events seem to have brought it back to
mind and I decided it was time to finish it. It was hard.
"Looks like I may get to run in some snow this afternoon. I know
how much you used to love running with me with the big flakes falling
around us" he said to her. Of course she made no response. She had been
here in the nursing home for nearly two years now and any memory she may
have had of those days were long gone, wiped away by the terrible
dementia that had slowly but surely taken over her mind. For many years
she had been his closest friend and confidante as well as running
partner. In fact he called her his Princess although she was not "THE"
Princess.. No, they had never had that type of relationship but they did
love each other in the way that dear friends do.
mind and memory were gone he still came to visit every weekend. Usually
he would come to visit after his run and tell her all about his
adventures but today he came early before running . He stood and
leaned over to give her one last kiss on the cheek and quietly turned to
leave. He missed her so much but she was lost to him.
just a short drive to the trailhead which led to the mountain summit.
The skies were overcast and gray with a calm in the air and he could
smell the snow that was forecasted to began falling shortly. He stepped
out into the cold and began to shuffle at first but as the old muscles
began to warm the motion became fluid and he felt young and alive
again. The run always was there for him as it had been for over 50 years
although he was now always alone, all the friends who had shared the
miles dead or moved on.
Still, he tried to get out everyday but
his favorite run was the one once a month up to the mountain. It was
here that he felt most at peace although it was now tinged with a bit of
sadness as he thought of those special ones that had shared the miles
with him so many years ago. The miles passed quickly as he bounded over
the rocks and roots along the way so familiar to him that he could
nearly run with his eyes closed and he savored every moment. The snow
was starting to fall now lightly at first but soon the flakes had become
huge. Oh, so beautiful and it brought a smile to his face. But now the
trail was becoming steeper and the wind was beginning to pick up and he
noticed the chill cutting into him.
He soon passed a young
couple of hikers that were descending from the summit. They said things
were getting bad and they had turned back and advised him that he should
do the same. He thanked them for their concern and assurred them that
he would be turning around very soon once he got to the scenic overlook.
He hated lying to them but he really didn't need them worrying about
him. He would be going to the summit today.
Quickly now the
ground was covered in white and conditions were deteriorating but on
he ran. Slowly his energy was failing and he began to shiver as he
moved ever slower up the steep trail. Confusion started eating into his
mind and the smooth stride was becoming almost
a drunken stagger. He expected this having suffered hypothermia before
in high moutain races before and oddly he welcomed the feeling today.
Only a mile to go to reach the summit and by sheer will and
determination he continued on, one step at a time.
suddenly as if from a dream, through the near whiteout blizzard
conditions he saw someone coming down from the top and in a moment he
recognized her. She was just as she had always been, forever young and
beautiful, athletic with the long flowing black hair as illustrated in
the book of his childhood. She stopped in front of him with a huge warm
welcoming smile and said, "I have been waiting for you !" Tears began
to stream down his face and without a word they embraced as if they had
known and loved each other a lifetime.
Slowly Ranger Smith and
his crew trudged forward through the foot of freshly fallen snow. There
had been one lone car in the parking lot at the trailhead this morning
and he was not feeling very hopeful that this was going to be a rescue.
The young couple had reported when they came off the mountain late
afternoon the day before that there was an older gentleman running up
toward the summit. All the team could do was wait out the storm and hope
for the best but after years of patrolling these trails he knew that
with little opportunity for shelter that it would have been nearly
impossible for anyone to surive the night up there.
it was expected, it never got easy finding a body. Slowly he
approached the scene and a puzzled look came over his face. Too many
times he had done the same but never before had he seen anything like
this. The old man was sitting with his arms wrapped around a tree as if
holding on for his life but strangest of all he could swear that there
was a smile frozen on the face of the old runner.