Saturday, 25 June 2011

Running books.

I've read a fair few running books - not books on how to do it or anything so bland, rather books about particular event attempts, or memoirs, that kind of thing. Some are good, some are absolute shite. You never really know until you start reading, I suppose.

I just finished a fun book called Flanagan's Run, a novel set in 1931 and based on the real-life Bunion Derby, a depression era coast-to-coast footrace held in the US, from LA to NY, West to East. It's not great, by any means, but it's good fun, an easy read, and I genuinely found myself rooting for the characters toward the end. Not a bad sign.

I've often wondered why I'm so shite at reviewing things. I think it's because it comes down to whether I enjoyed it or not, and it's that simple. Oh well. You want in-depth? You're in the wrong place.

By my bed, I have my favourite running books, which include the most inspirational, of course. Among these are Douglas Coupland's brilliant – and largely pictorial – book about Terry Fox, called simply Terry. Always, always makes me cry.

What else is there… Haruki Murakami's running memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, a really excellent read and insight into the author's mind and life. A real treat of a book by a beautiful writer.

Just A Little Run Around The World, by Rosie Swale Pope is one hell of a read. One woman in her 50s decides to run around the world, after her beloved husband dies, carrying her gear with her. This woman is made from strong stuff, and it's quite a book. She'll be your hero by the end of it, as she is mine.

There's also a couple of books by Jane and Mike Tomlinson. Jane was an amateur athlete who competed for many years with terminal cancer, and she raised millions of pounds for charity along the way. She also completed a full Iron Man, cycled across America, and also biked from Rome to Leeds. Quite a woman, quite an inspiration.

I've got a couple of Dean Karnazes books as well; that's what made me think of this post, as I'm trying to set up an interview with him for next week when he's in the UK. I enjoyed Ultramarathon Man a lot; 50/50 was also quite good fun, but a much more fragmented experience – as the 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days was for him, no doubt. I should be getting a proof of his new book on Monday, though it comes out only a week later.

Robin Harvie's Why We Run is fascinating, a look at one man's obsessive desire to push himself to the absolute limit and complete arguably the hardest race of them all, the Spartathlon. He's selfish, annoying, you'll want to punch him at various times - but he is unfailingly honest, and by the end you'll be admiring the man. Especially as he apologises to his wife in the dedications at the end. He also has a pretty good blog, but he's a busy person so it's not updated so frequently.

Last but not least, what I consider to be the finest book about running written to date. Born To Run is one you've probably already read. It's not the barefoot stuff in it that fascinates me so much. I mean, it is a compelling argument that running shoes do us no good at all. But I have shoes that suit me, I'm not getting injured, I'm very careful about my form.
What's so great about this book is the adventure. The great big adventure, of meeting these beautiful Mexican people, the Tarahumara, and ultimately racing them, possibly – the book argues – the finest athletes in the world. The journey of getting there, the characters you meet. La Brujita stays in my mind, particularly. But all of them… By the time the book ends, they are friends. You've been on this amazing journey with them, and as soon as you put down Born To Run, you'll go out for a run yourself. What better advert could there be for a book about running that that?

I've bought about eight copies of Born To Run, because every time I lend it out, it never comes back. But I don't mind one bit - if ever a book spread the love about running, this is the one. It captures the freedom of it, the joy of it, and the pain. It is one beautiful fucking book.

Enough of my burble. Work to do.

1 comment:

  1. wow, you've just given me a great list of books to go buy...