It’s never too late to try something new before you cross the finish line of life.
At the ripe age of 71 years old, Eamonn Coffey, a Santa Monica resident and avid runner, just released his first book, “Not Afraid to Sweat’. It’s a loosely sewn together collection of 14 vignettes centered on the simple joys of running that feel like they were told to you at a pub.
The book is a quick sprint at only 64 pages, but don’t let that make you think it’s all fluff about setting personal records and getting shin splints. While the tone is light and ranges from humorous to bizarre, Coffey flirts with larger ideas and themes such as exploring the human condition and existentialism in his reflections on how hard running really is.
So, just how did a marathon runner become an author, anyway? To hear Coffey tell it, he’s been on a steady pace to writing for quite some time.
Born and raised in Ireland, Coffey (who enunciates every single letter of that “Eye-uhr-luhnd”) played Gaelic football and rugby in high school and college, running being only something he did during his games.
Post-college, he received a job offer in New York and soon after, in Washington, DC. Cold environments. A promotion then led him to Minnesota (“MinneSnowta,” as he calls it). An even colder environment.
“I felt, I’m not going to play rugby in that,” he said, referring to the hard-packed snow. “Thought I’d just wait for the snow to soften up like it did in New York and DC. Well, it didn’t.”
So Coffey joined a gym, where he saw a track and decided to give a swift jog a try.
Soon after, a chance encounter with Barney Klecker – the United States record holder for the 50-mile ultramarathon – made a marathon runner out of Coffey.
“I never looked back after that,” he said. “You’re always out there trying to do better, getting stronger, meeting interesting people in interesting places. It’s a great, personal, kind of adventure more so than a hobby or pastime.”
Over the course of his life, Coffey has put 50,000 miles, 500 road races and 38 marathons on his slight, 71-year old frame.
Additionally, he’s met hundreds of people through running, each with a unique moment and story that Coffey can vividly remember.
So, Coffey thought, after taxing his body for so long, why not share some of these stories and tax his mind?
“I started out running marathons and other styles of running later in life with not much experience,” he said. “I wanted to write about that and my experiences, tell stories, so people can feel, ‘Hey I can do that too.’”
After another job-related move from MinneSnowta to Southern California, Coffey arrived in Orange County, where he wrote for a running club newsletter.
Reactions were positive.
“My da was a jockey, a good storyteller,” he said. “And that’s where I get my knack for [storytelling]. It just got me thinking, this could be fun, I could write about some of my experiences, maybe collect them in a book someday.”
As for any regrets in life or running, he only bemoans letting life get in the way of delaying his first book (“You just got to get up and do it. Stay focused and do it. A lot like running”).
These days, you may see Coffey running along the Santa Monica beach for the views (when the scooters aren’t zooming at him) or near his home off Nebraska and Berkeley for some peace and quiet.
Running and writing about it, he says, will be apart of his life as long as he can muster one foot in front of the other and place a pen to paper.
“It’s a great sport,” he said. “I love doing it. This was just my little contribution to it all.”
Eamonn Coffey will be at BookMonster on Santa Monica Blvd Saturday, December 1 at 2 p.m. for a reading of a story from his book. “Not Afraid To Sweat” is available now at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, BookMonster and other booksellers.