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Race Director Sean Ryan with Mac-Attack Jim Genrich and Poké-mom Lynda Drews

The foliage color was at its peak as I lined up in the small fishing village of Gills Rock to tackle the first leg of the Wisconsin Door County Fall Fifty that would finish in the shipbuilding community of Sturgeon Bay. The race director, Sean Ryan, approached me, giving me a warm hug, as the chilly wind whipped off of the waters of Green Bay, tousling my head-banded hair.  In this region, Sean’s name is synonymous with quality athletic events. I also hold a special place in my heart for him. Sean gave me my first blurb for my first book released in August, 2009: “Run At Destruction is written with the beat of a runner’s heart: steady intensity racing toward an inevitable finish. Drews is the John Grisham of the running world, pulling readers into a unique subculture where the drama unfolds.”

Well today I was surrounded by this unique subculture. There were the

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Poké-moms - Barb Kiser, Dianne Smith, Kathy Kapalin, Lynda Drews, Suzie Prue

 Victoria’s Secrets, dressed in bikini swimsuits over running attire, an Alice in Wonderland team, a group of Halloween Caped Crusaders, and of course my teammates, the Poké-moms. These four women would be jumping into our decorated van to drive along the picturesque shoreline until they reached the exchange point. Since 1977, I’ve been part of a close-knit running community. If some calamity befalls a member, only one call is needed and the group responds. Each asks how the other is doing, and honestly cares. My True Crime book revolves around one of these members, Pamela Bulik, who was my best friend and running companion. During the running boom of the 80’s, she mysteriously drowned in her bathtub. This led to a first-degree murder arrest and a sensational trial. As Dave McGillivray, the Race Director for the Boston Marathon says: “Run at Destruction captures the family-like culture of a running group, showing how its members support one another especially in times of crisis.” He’s so right!

Today’s excitement was invigorating. A beautiful voice pierced the cold crisp air. Gazing up at our American flag that flapped in the pearl-grey sky, we listened to the melodic National Anthem, hands over our hearts, hopping in place to keep our leg muscles warm. As the last notes hung in the air, the gun exploded. Collectively we took off. What an adventure! I’d never run a fifty-mile relay race before. Like my new career as an author – I figured there might be challenges at every twist and turn.

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Finish Line for Poké-moms (Dianne left for cancer benefit)

Even though our running group is extremely supportive – we are also competitive. Just like finding a mainstream publisher for my book, we were out to beat the odds. There was a team called Mac-Attack – a name chosen to honor Bruce MacNeil, a fellow-runner who had recently passed. This team, though, was also known as our significant others.

7 hours and 46 minutes later we achieved our goal, finishing nearly fifteen minutes ahead of them. The Poké-moms weren’t Poké anymore!

For many Midwest runners, with a summer of training behind them, fall is the optimum time for races. My book Run at Destruction focuses on a close-knit running community where some terrible tragedies occurred. So… even though I’ve been training for an up-coming half-marathon, this weekend, I went to two races, but not as a runner.

Berkeley Running Company owner - David Meixelsperger with Lynda Drews at Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon Expo

Berkeley Running Company owner - David Meixelsperger with Lynda Drews at Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon Expo

Back in August I had done a book talk at Berkeley Running Company in Madison where  the owner graciously offered to provide me a spot within his expo booth for the October Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon.

Milwaukee Lakefront logo

With a bit of envy, last Friday night, I talked to the marathon participants as they picked up their race packets and frequently purchased my book. Some had already read it and relayed how much they’d enjoyed it!    

wrut logoThen, on Saturday morning, I made my way over to Rib Mountain in Wausau Wisconsin for the Rotary Club Wrut ‘N Run.  It was a team effort to put up my banner. I had the local radio personalities and race personnel wiping the rain drizzle off the Ski Chalet’s window so my tape would hold. We were successful and so were the race

Rib Mountain Chalet Building protected my books from the drizzle

Rib Mountain Chalet Building protected my books from the drizzle

 participants that tackled the grueling course.  I talked to a woman runner that had traveled from Keshena, WI. She told me that the teachers at her school had already selected Run at Destruction for their book club.

It’s always amazing to me that people I’ve never had any connection with are reading my book!

Lynda Drews and Beezie MacNeil at Munising, MI Bruce MacNeil Memorial Run

Lynda Drews and Beezie MacNeil at Munising, MI Bruce MacNeil Memorial Run

Before publishing my first book – Run at Destruction: A True Fatal Love Triangle, my best friend Beezie (who’s a character in the book) said, “Lynda, you should include a Reading Group Guide.”

That, in itself, was not a novel idea, but it was, within my genre of True Crime and also Sports/Running!  So… I contacted my publisher, Tracy Ertl, from TitleTown and we agreed to take Beezie’s advice – fourteen questions were included.  

Since my book’s release on August 7, 2009, I’ve participated in five book club discussions and have twelve more scheduled. My book revolves around our close-knit Green Bay Running family and the tragic and mysterious death of my best friend Pam. Participating in each of these book clubs, I see the same kind of bond that I’ve experienced with my women running friends. Many of the book clubs have met for decades and have suffered their own tragic losses among their members. 

Yesterday’s talk was a good example. I met with the Belles, Books, and Candor Book Club in Oshkosh, WI. There were about fifteen members present, but others were missed who had passed away.

Subset of Belles, Books, and Candor Book Club

Subset of Belles, Books, and Candor Book Club

 What’s great about book clubs is that their members’ ages span many generations.

The first thing that Laurie, the moderator did, was to do a verdict poll, as if the Belles were on my book’s  jury panel. Very interesting… from the outset, the jury would’ve been hung! I’m told, that’s what makes my book so fascinating – the scenario leading to Pam’s death is still not crystal clear.  

Discussion continued, focusing on the complex crime as members reviewed the evidence, debating why Pam’s death was either a terrible accident, suicide, negligent homicide, or pre-meditated murder. Additional topics flowed: dependency issues, infidelity issues, media influence, and the judicial  system.  One member had even received therapy from Dr. Ralph Baker, the psychiatrist that had been the expert witness for the Defense back in 1984! 

At the meeting’s end, I signed each member’s book, while remarking how honored I’d felt to be included in their welcoming sisterhood. What a wonderful experience… meeting new women that, through my written word, had grown to know and care about me, and more importantly, Pam.  

The caring faces behind the sterile purchase statistics from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. are gradually being filled in…

Yesterday I arrived at the Fox11 Station, nervously pressing the building buzzer. A young woman opened the door and quickly led me down a hall. WeDW-Event-Calendar-icon waited near a lit overlead sign that said the Good Day Wisconsin Show was in progess.  As the light went off, I entered the studio. Being my second television interview in less than one week, you’d think this would be a piece of cake, but not so… I was situated in a chair by a fake fireplace, waiting and watching. To my left was a mock-up kitchen for the Living with Amy Show and to my right were the news and weather personalities, Rachel Manek and Pete Petoniak. Viewers were being informed about a herd of galloping horses that had escaped onto a highway where one horse had even attempted  to jump over a moving car, smashing its windshield. 

Rachel Manek of Fox11 Good Day Wisconsin

Rachel Manek of Fox11 Good Day Wisconsin

At the break,  Rachel joined me and whispered that the station had found actual footage of Pam’s April 7, 1984 death and the subsequent February 1985 sentening hearing.  I gulped hearing that! The camera then focused our way… We were live… You can see I was a bit nervous… Oh well, I’m only human!   

MacNeil Family in 1984 sitting on Scout

MacNeil Family in 1984 sitting on Scout

Bruce MacNeil – the founder of our Green Bay/Ashwaubenon Fun Runs passed away in Nov. of 2008.  He and his wife Beezie are major characters in my book Run at Destruction that takes place during the running boom of the 1980s. Bruce had fashioned these runs after a 1970’s Runner’s World article.  

 On July 1, 2009, it was fitting that Bruce’s whole family returned to the park where we continue to hold our weekly Fun Runs, to help dedicate a park bench in Bruce’s honor. 

MacNeil Family sitting on Bruce's Bench in Klipstine Park on July 1, 2009

MacNeil Family sitting on Bruce's Bench in Klipstine Park on July 1, 2009

There was a huge crowd that attended. Something that Bruce certainly would’ve loved, especially since we followed up the dedication with a run or a walk. Then of course there was our cookout. Chef Bruce was only missing in body, but not in memory as the entire group stayed late… remembering and celebrating his life!

Our Running Group is such a close-knit family. What’s wonderful is that it’s  something that’s been instilled in our children, who are now passing it down to the next generation. 

Isn’t that the best tribute after all?

Dedication Plaque

Another talk and book signing for Run at Destruction this week!

I got a warm welcome from the PaceSetters. This running club has been in

Kathy Jankowski, the PaceSetters President with Me

Kathy Jankowski, the PaceSetters President with Me

existence for 25 years – both promoting and celebrating health in the Fox Valley of Wisconsin. 

As I explained how I got endorsements from the Best Selling True Crime Author, Ann Rule, and from Sean Hartnett, a correspondent for Track  & Field News the supportive running folks gave me applause. Then as I read excerpts from the first chapter about my best friend, Pam, that continues to bring a sting to my eyes, I watched the audience’s amazing response – they  became mesmerized.

P1020073To detail the extensive research that I conducted – required to tell the right story- I provided an anecdote: In the Brown County Courthouse, for four months, I scanned three massive boxes of court records into my laptop, plugging parking meters every two hours. While doing this tedious job, I listened to books on tape. One day, by mistake, the earphones became unplugged, so I kept turning up the tape player’s volume…. Someone finally tapped me on the shoulder and informed me that the entire office was listening to a suggestive sex scene. Boy – was I embarrassed!

Following my talk – I took extensive Q&A before signing and selling books to nearly everyone that attended.  I’ve always known that runners are special – this talk certainly reconfirmed it!

2009 Bellin BoothWhat a whirlwind the last few days have been at the Bellin Run promoting Run at Destruction!   Talk – Book Signings – Run – Books Signing – Party!

At the 33rd Bellin Run – I was awed to share the  pre-race stage with Marathon Olympians Joan Benoit Samuelson and Bill Rodgers. Kelly McBride from the Green Bay Press-Gazette also ran an article about me. Because I’d done research for my book, Run at Destruction, a true murder mystery about my best friend’s death, set in Green Bay during the 1980’s running boom, I’d become a bit of a historian about the sport’s beginnings in our community.  In addition to reading excerpts from my book – I shared how our running movement was launched.

In 1976, George Kerwin, now Bellin Health’s President and CEO, attended the Quiet Company 10K in Milwaukee where Frank Shorter, the Olympic Gold and Silver Medallist ran. Following that race George contacted my husband, Jim Drews (an all-American cross country & track runner), Dick Lytie (our local running guru), and Ron Dauplaise (former East High Track Coach & father of fellow author, Mike Dauplaise.) The four of them met at Dick’s house, sitting around his kitchen table, discussing how Bellin might approach this kind of run in Green Bay. Then in June of 1977, the first Bellin Run was held, attracting around 700 runners. A big turnout at that time! (This year’s had more than 15,000.) I looked back at that first year’s participant list and within the top 40 runners, 20 were personal friends of Jim’s and mine from college. Sure they thought the race sounded interesting, but honestly most of these guys, that were in their mid-twenties, also liked the idea that Jim and I were hosting the post run party in

1986 Bellin - Joan Benoit Samuelson at my house

1986 Bellin - Joan Benoit Samuelson at my house

 conjunction with Bellin – and it included free beer.

My husband had been used to winning races, but because Frank Shorter had agreed to come, Jim placed second, running a 30:41, ten seconds behind Shorter. In later years, I remember George Kerwin escorting the elite runners over to our home. I told the audience that both Bill Rodgers and Joan Benoit Samuelson actually sat on my couch eating potluck food, compliments of our Fun Run Group.  

So… after my talk – Joan and Bill took the stage. Joan told a story about how she kept special “treasures” in a tackle box in her bedroom. One of these was her 1984 Olympic Marathon ring. A friend called her and said that he’d seen it for sale on e-bay. Sure enough, she checked and it was indeed missing!  Luckily she got it back, but she turned to me and said, “Lynda, maybe that can be the next mystery you write about!”   In turn, Bill Rodgers talked about his previous Bellin Runs. He’d brought his first place plaque that he’d won in 1978 to donate back to Bellin. But instead, he decided to sign it over to my husband. At the second annual Bellin, Jim had once again placed second – running a 29:56 – this time 19 seconds behind Rodgers. 

Finally Jim has a first place Bellin plaque!