Just finished The Long Walk again and boy are my eyes tired.

I read Richard Bachman’s The Long Walk for the first time maybe twenty-three years ago and I remember being disturbed but unquestioning. Maybe because I was young and didn’t question things as readily. Today is different. Today I finished reading it and had a ton of questions. The first being-- Does Garraty die at the end? Is that death he’s running towards?

Also, how realistic is it? I have a hard time believing anyone can walk at 4 miles an hour while sleeping. What about the physical and mental breakdowns? Is there any basis in fact for the way the boys fell apart? What about real life force marches. Were any as long and under similar circumstances?

How do you think you’d do? Me, I’d be shot within the first hour. I’m far too fat with really bad knees-- I can’t walk 4 mph with rollerskates. But if I had won, I think my Prize would have been to shoot The Major right between the eyes.

There are a number of interpretations of the ending, depending on the reader. I personally think that it is indeed Death he is running towards at the end.

I don’t know how fast I was walking on my Army road marches, but I slept through good portions of those without breaking stride. And that was carrying a full ruck and M-16.

The Long Walk is a very good story. Perhaps the thread title should indicate open spoilers?

Should I mention spoilers in a thread title about a 33 year old book that I mentioned I just finished reading?

If the mods think so. . …

I loved that book, too. One thing makes me think that it might be possible - humans are very good at walking. I looked it up, and the longest non-stop walk is six days, 10 hours, 58 minutes. These kids weren’t trained athletes or anything, but they sure as hell were motivated!

Oh, please. We shouldn’t have to worry about spoilers past a couple of months, much less 33 years. If people bitch about being spoiled they can go hide back under their rock.

4mph is a very brisk walk. I don’t know if you could walk for days at that speed. I don’t think King realized just how fast 4mph was when he spouted off that number. He wrote it in college and probably didn’t care much about that detail, so I wouldn’t fixate on it too much. If he actually realized how quickly 4mph was for a walking speed, he would have written more about how challenging that was, but he didn’t, so I don’t think he knew.

Other than that, I think it’s fairly believable.

I don’t think the problem is maintaining a 4 mph pace while sleeping, I think it’s doing so and still calling it ‘walking’. Try it on a treadmill sometime and I think you’ll agree, that’s a jog.

Good book, though.

To be fair, you can walk at 4 mph… but it is extremely difficult to maintain for any length of time. A 4mp jog is much easier to do :slight_smile:

Four miles an hour is not fast for a healthy young person.

I believe so. I remember reading an interview or essay later on where King talked about the Bachman Books and said that it was before he “learned how to write a happy ending,” or something to that effect. The implication being that the Bachman Books do not have happy endings. I think Garraty definitely dies at the end.

One of my favorite stories ever. As a kid, I didn’t think he died at the end. When I reread it as an adult, I figured he died.

I never even thought about if the walk is actually physically possible. I just totally bought into the story that it must be possible.

I only read it once, very recently. I’m in my mid-20s. I didn’t take away that he died at the end, rather that he came out as a stronger, more confident person than he was before. Evidently, that’s not what King intended, if that comment about not knowing how to write a happy ending is to be taken that he died.

And yes, it’s one of the best stories ever written. I hope it will eventually become required reading in school.

I also don’t think The Running Man ended sadly.

What else did the protagonist have left to live for? He went out with a bang and brought down the bad guys, at the cost of his life, sure, but still, not really all that sad to me.

Bullshit. I’ve walked at 4 mph all my life (now I’m getting old, I only do 3 and a half unless I consciously push it) and kept it up for 10 miles or more, repeatedly. It’s faster than most people walk, but it ain’t at all the big deal super-fast pace you seem to think.

Well, it’s not so much that it’s super-fast, it’s more the idea of keeping it up for days on end, I think. But that part of the story never bothered me, either.

I found the quote I remembered, by the way. It’s from an essay King wrote called Why I was Bachman:

In fact, back when infantry walked everywhere, the generals would count on 40 miles a day. 12 hours on the march (2 of which were breaks and stopping for lunch), 12 hours to make/break camp and sleep. 4mph is the standard when and where people walk regularly. The idea that that pace is a ‘jog’, and can’t be maintained for long periods of time, I just find unfathomable. When I was in my teens and twenties, I could, and did, maintain that pace for hours. Although, to be fair, I never went more than 16 miles on foot (4 hours), so maintaining it for days, as the story required, was what made it horrible for me to think about. A voluntary Bataan Death March…

Also one of my favorite stories. I did not interpret the ending to mean he had died. I interpreted it as the futility of winning such a game. He won, but at what price? There was nothing left of him.

Any doubts in my mind about walking quickly for long periods of time have been dispelled by Marathon Monks. 1/3 of a very arduous, very cool ritual that only a handful of people have ever succeeded in.

For the curious (not sure if the documentary mentions it), the last 1/3 involves going for 9 full days without any food, water, or sleep. Yes, they do it, yes, scientists have monitored it, no we’re not sure how it’s physically possible. (The first 1/3 is just spiritual education).

Yeah… I’d need some proof on that one.

As others have said, 4 miles an hour is not unrealistic. Earlier this year and last year I walked half marathons and I maintained a speed over 4mph pretty much the whole way. I would have gotten a warning here or there but I would have been fine for the 3 hours it takes to do the half. I did not train at all for this, and I’m 36 and overweight.

Only 46 people have ever survived all three, I find it believable that 46 people in the history of Japan have had the bizarre biology and willpower required to make it through that. Not that they come through it unscathed, from what I learned they usually have extensive tissue damage afterwards, some of them losing rather important things like the ability to form words with their mouths.

ETA: Sorry, can’t find a cite. I heard that the ritual had at least been observed and verified in full once in a university course. I suppose they could be faking it, but it doesn’t seem too out there to me that it’s real given the number of people who have legitimately died doing it.