Writing on a runner’s high



Every morning, Brent Manke rises, sometimes before the sun, and runs.

He runs through Bush Farm Trail, a route he has memorized and frequents every season.


NICOLE BUFFIE | THE CARILLON

Manke writes “haibuns,” a Japanese literary style that combines poetry and prose. Manke felt the style best fit his goal for the project.

The brush and trees dotting the 2.7-mile gravel trail offer space to run away from the bustle of rush-hour traffic, although Manke runs wherever paths and sidewalks are clear of snow and puddles.

Afterward, he writes a haiku about it.

Sometimes the words come right after the run and before his morning cup of coffee, and sometimes he plays with ideas and words in his head before they make their way to paper at the end of the day.

“Documenting a place in time is a bit of interacting with how I am, but also the place I’m in,” he said.

“Our town changes a lot, so to be able to document how the trail was today is neat because in five years from now there could be a highway going through it.”

Recently, I have published some of those memories trapped in time for the rest of the world to see.

A web designer by day, Manke just released Morning Rounds, a collection of “haibuns”—a literary style from Japan that combines poetry and prose—dedicated to daily runs and the things he sees during them, to complement lines he writes about his personal life and experiences.

The haikus within the collection—three stanzas comprised of five, then seven, then five syllables—are all a product of his own repetition of daily runs. Some entries describe the weather conditions and others the deeper connection he finds within his ritual of him.

Manke, 37, took up running 10 years ago and soon participated in multiple marathons. In 2017, he began writing short poems about each run.

Five years later, each haiku is distinct and without repeat; he has over 1,000 poems under his belt by him.

In 2018, his running led him to organize The Longest Night Run, a 16-hour stretch in which participants can run for a few minutes or a few hours during the night, alone or in groups, to raise money for a charitable cause.

The event, which takes place every winter solstice, the longest night of the year, was organized to raise money for Ashleigh Dueck, a friend of Manke’s diagnosed with cancer.

“She talked about [cancer] being, like, this long thing like the night and going through this darkness, and that related to the running experience,” he said.

After three years of running through the night raising funds to support the family, Dueck passed away last year. This year, Manke committed the donations to Eden Health Care Services.

Between marathon planning and training, his family, and his day job, exactly one year ago to the week Manke began compiling his best haikus and complementing them with personal writing for Morning Rounds.

And although he has now published a volume of poetry, don’t call him a poet.

“There’s a certain aspect of inaccessibility when it comes to writing and poetry…I hope mine comes across as easy for others to follow,” said Manke.

The writer said he takes inspiration from American poets like the late Mary Oliver and novelist Wendell Berry.

Though Morning Rounds is his most complete work of prose, the collection isn’t Manke’s first foray into authorship; in 2010 he published a technical e-book on the art of writing newsletters and another collection of writing in 2018.

The 2018 work, titled Pay Attention, centers around mindfulness of little things in life when experiences such as being a young parent seem to weigh heavy.

“I wrote the book, maybe to myself, that was like, ‘Hey, there’s cool things going on, if you just look outside you’ll experience them,'” he said.

Manke said Morning Rounds likely won’t be his last collection of writing.

“This style is something that fits well with me and I want to keep exploring,” he said.

As for running, Manke is currently in training to take part in a 33-kilometer run in the Whiteshell. The haiku that follows the run hasn’t come to him yet.

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