It’s LOVE week.
Oh, Valentine’s day. I know it can get corny, but I use it as an excuse to get full-on obnoxiously lovey with my family and friends. And, seriously, I try to make a point of reaching out to everyone I can think of whom I appreciate and make an effort to tell them so around and/or on Feb 14th (I even write a list). Why not? Who couldn’t use a little more love in his/her life? That’s my thinking, anyway.
I loooove that V-day is on a Friday this year, so I can make a week of it. Even the pups won’t escape my heart-eyed-emoji-smiley-face-in-real-life mode. (Not that they ever do, anyway.) If you’re one of my peeps, you’ve been forewarned! For now, I loooerrrve you for reading this post. Thank you.
Today, I’m sharing one of my greatest loves: books, seen through the lens of another: running. Books about running, and/or inspirational books that can positively impact your running.
I’ve been a bibliophile as long as I’ve been a runner. If I don’t read, my brain shrivels. I can honestly feel it shrink when I don’t pick up some pages, tune out the world, and spend concentrated time marveling over well-crafted imagery, new wisdom, historical facts I’d never known, etc while focusing on nothing else.
I (try to) read as much as I run. Doesn’t always happen. I have a library in my home with packed, floor-ceiling shelves flanking the fireplace, a set of library steps and a glass-fronted bookcase standing sentinel in the entryway that all together house *most* of my collection (then there’s my iPad, and the basement). It’s separated into children’s, fiction and nonfiction, and I need more room. At last count, around 80 as-yet unread hardbacks live here with me, mingling with the read, reread and oft-referenced tomes. I gravitate toward historical fiction and American history, but I will read almost anything. I also collect books (at a slow pace).
Epic, inspirational biographies and autobiographies of endurance athletes and events are like potato chips for me. Once I get going, I can’t stop. It doesn’t help that I have personally declared 2014 as the Year of Epic Reading, or YER (not to be confused with the Year of Epic Running, which I hope is every year henceforth).
I’ve got a big reading list this year, widely varied but of course with a decent dose of running material. Below is my hotlist – some I’ve read, others I’ve been steered toward at least ten times each and will devour this YER.
If you have reader-runners on your Valentine’s list this year, impress them with how well you ‘get’ their running thing by gifting one of the gems below. Or, treat yourself.
After all, you deserve love, too!
Do you love to read?
What’s on your list this year – running-related or not? I’d love to feel some book love from you, so talk to me about your fave reads!
All books also available on Kindle and iBooks.
A Race Like No Other. What can I say? This chronicle of the 2007 New York City Marathon intermixes vignettes of pro runners, midpackers and first-timers who came from all situations to run the five boroughs together on the same day with city and race history and culture, painting a vibrant picture of this epic event (trust me, it IS epic). Even if you’ve never run a step and never intend to, this is just a fantastic way to get to know NYC via the people that make the marathon, from runners to organizers to volunteers. You’ll be inspired by those who summon the courage to overcome huge obstacles and conquer this BEAST of a run and by those who continually care for them during their 26.2-mile journey by helping out year after year on the course. Be ready to order an “I Love NYC” t-shirt immediately afterward.
Running Ransom Road. This book is currently being read by one of my friends, Pam, who just happens to be featured in the selection above. Caleb Daniloff appears to be eloquently transporting his readers back in time to his darker days as a “mean, hopeless drunk” and taking them through his journey to sobriety via running races in places once associated with his downward spiral. “With every step, I’m conversing with my surroundings — an exchange composed not of words, but of urgent breaths, of flesh against earth… I’m turning myself inside out, blurring the lines between me and the universe.” Whoa. Yeah – you get why this is on my must-read list.
A Life Without Limits. Chrissy Wellington, is not only an Ironman world champion, she’s just a complete – albeit humble and unassuming – beast. If you want a look inside the life of such a person and you want to see it all, including battles with anorexia and every kind of physical and mental demon you can imagine, read this very straight-forward account by a truly amazing athlete. This book almost catapulted me over the cliff of overtraining after I finished it last year. Heed my warnings here about the wild urge to crush it while reading and after completing this one.
Running and Being. If you run, you need to read the meditations of the late George Sheehan. Period. I first discovered him in the early 1990s when he was running and writing prolifically about running and being quoted in Runner’s World almost non-stop. All of his works belong on your shelf (runner or not, dare I say), as experiencing the intimacy with which this man came to know himself through running just should not be missed. Oh – buy a BOX of highlighters or learn how to use that function in your ereader first. You’re welcome.
Summit Seeker. This book is an exploration of trail and ultra running by the aptly named Vanessa Runs. My friend Karen is reading this right now, and when she texted me passages like, “the truth is, if you are a woman and you have completed an ultra marathon, or even a marathon, you are in a very small, elite percentage of the general population. Your body has accomplished something athletic. It has done something extraordinary,” I plopped it right onto my list. Can’t wait to see how her mind has accomplished the extraordinary, too. (FYI, It’s $4.99 on kindle right now.)
What Makes Olga Run? Just published in January and already selling like hotcakes, this account of almost-95-year-old Olga Kotelko, a former school school teacher from Vancouver, Canada, who started running at 77 and is now a grand master track star who holds 26 records in events starting with the 100 meters. Olga gives up her DNA, has a brain scan and many other studies performed – and chronicled by author Bruce Gierson – all so we can both marvel at her and learn that how we age is mostly up to us. (She recently appeared on the Today Show.) If you adopt the discipline to move yourself, you can extend your life. This is NEXT on my list to read.
Born to Run This book, by Christopher McDougall, has become required reading for every runner, and I think I am the ONLY one who has not yet read it. Epic, inspiring, WHOA, you must read this now – all are things I’ve heard in the same sentence with this title. So I must and I think you must, too.
My Life on the Run Bart Yasso cracks me up. He’s incredibly warm and amenable in person and I when I ran with (and behind) him in Central Park last November on a shakeout the day before the NYC marathon, I laughed aloud and remarked to my son that he was bowlegged. I know he won’t care that I said so. He also happily posed for me while signing my book copy in his nerd glasses. His journey in running has literally spanned the globe in more than 1,000 races, and the richness of place in his narrative is worth at least one read if not two. Start saving some pennies for destination races before you begin this book.
Marathon Man The first time I met Bill Rodgers, on the morning of the Gasparilla Distance Classic in Tampa, FL, he turned to me and said, very loudly, “I’m where all the beautiful people are!” and literally placed me in front of him in line for coffee in a bustling hotel coffee shop. It was just a friendly gesture that can be pulled off as only that by few men other than Bill Rodgers. Absolute legend, absolutely an everyday person. If you know nothing about Boston Billy, you should, as he is an indelible figure not only in running but in American sports history.