Runners of the Nish; When Running Made History
Cyr, a veteran of U Sports competition (he’s currently a Windsor Lancer), has penned a firstperson account of the St. Francis Xavier X-Men’s journey to the 2016 U Sports championship. Inf luenced by running cult classics, Once A Runner and Running with the Buffaloes, Cyr gives a firstperson account through the course of the season, providing readers with a strong sense of the team’s dynamic, yet perhaps at the cost of the bigger picture.
The characters, or rather the real collegiate men that populate the book, will be familiar to any current or former varsity runner, albeit in abstract form: there’s the clueless rookie looking to fit in; the guy who hammers every run (dubbed by Cyr as the “Easy Run Hero”); the understated leader and the partier who should probably take things more seriously. And while perhaps a more nuanced sense of characterization might have elevated the emotion of the text, there is something comforting about the recognizability of a band of young men who really just want to run fast. Unsurprisingly, the book picks up speed closer to championship time – a race in which Cyr accurately depicts the fickle nature of the sport.
Runners of the Nish is unabashed Canadiana, and not only t hat, it’s unabashed Maritime Canadiana. The book even has its own Trackie thread (a sort of meta-experience, given the references to Trackie throughout the text). The most compelling comment, however, came from Queen’s University’s XC/ Track head coach, Steve Boyd, who, in response to several commentators’ disparaging remarks regarding the results of the St. FX team, wrote, “Who says the most interesting stories are about the fastest people?”
And that’s who Runners of the Nish is for – the fan of running stories. It is neither a training log, nor a literary masterpiece, but rather a fun rip through an ephemeral moment in the lives of a group of young men. Here’s hoping Cyr has started a trend of long-form celebration of Canadian collegiate sport.— Caela Fenton