Archive for the ‘Runnin’ & Readin’’ Category

BOOK:  WHEN RUNNING WAS YOUNG AND SO WERE WE
AUTHOR: Jack D. Welch
PUBLISHER/DATE:  D & B Publishing / 2014
REPORT:

      This book will best appeal to those runners who have a lot of miles over a long period of time under their belt…or, to those who appreciate the history of our sport, be it a recent history.  It is not a dry, monotonous  historical tome.  It is a collection of articles written by the author.  Welch wrote for Running magazine and for Track & Field News.  In those articles, he chronicled the development of running  in the U.S.A.  This book is a selection of those articles.

      The meat of the book starts with a  1978 article and zooms through to the last pieces, Remembering Pre and Go Pre!  In between are the articles that give us a picture of the roots of modern American distance running, the springboard of where we are today. Welch gives the reader the representative story through a personable account of the successes and failures of some of the giants of the sport.

Some of the runners will not be familiar to the reader, but their story will be interesting.  Welch is a runner himself and a good writer, so he can relate the things the reader, as a runner, will appreciate.  This helps make the book enjoyable.

Other runners will jump off the pages through their familiarity.  Some of the stuff you will know; some you will not know.  Just some of the runners are Dick Beardsley, Alberto Salazar, Jon Sinclair, Greg Meyer, Mark Nenow, Ed Eyestone, Chris Fox, Bob Kennedy, Patti Catalano, Lynn Jennings, Ingrid Kristiansen, Gerry Lindgren, Joan Benoit, Jeff Johnson, Mary Decker, and Steve Prefontaine.  Benoit and Prefontaine are highlighted with more in depth information.  One of the better articles is the next-to-last, Remembering Pre.

At times, the book can get repetitive, but the overall work is a very good read on the sport of distance running.  You don’t have to be an “old” runner to enjoy it, but that may enhance your enjoyment.  It puts the modern history of our running on a personable, individual level.  

It needs to be on the bookshelf of every serious runner.

 

Richard Westbrook

 

 

 

 

 

 

        

The Longest Race

Posted: January 4, 2016 by smrtnsasy in Runnin' & Readin'
BOOK:  THE LONGEST RACE: A Lifelong Runner, an Iconic Ultramarathon, and the Case for Human Endurance
AUTHOR: Ed Ayres
PUBLISHER/DATE:  The Experiment, LLC.  2012
REPORT:

This is a very good read for any runner who has been lured by long distances.  It is written by a runner who has run very long distances for a long time.  He was the founding editor and publisher of Running Times magazine.  His experience is unquestioned.

Ed Ayres, the author, focuses on the JFK 50 Mile Race which is the oldest and largest ultramarathon in the United States.  The adventure unfolds as Ayres races to break age-group record for the race at age sixty.  A brief history is given about the race’s beginnings starting with the challenge from President John F. Kennedy to the Marines in 1962.  They were challenged to cover 50 miles in a day like Marines were able to do under President Theodore Roosevelt.  Kennedy had reason to challenge because of the severe decline in fitness of the American military.  This led to the first race in 1963.  Since then, there has always been a strong military contingent running in the event.

The narrative follows Ayres from the race’s beginning in Boonesboro, Maryland, running through town and quickly entering the Appalachian Trail.  The author gives privy to his thoughts as he run along the rocky trail toward the C.O. Canal Towpath.  He lets us in on his racing strategy as he approaches certain points on the course or racing against certain opponents.

As he progresses through the race, he gives us his thoughts and views of historical landmarks such as the Civil War’s Harpers Ferry and Antietam.   This keeps the reader engaged through the reading and not bogged down with just a racing report.

A very interesting facet throughout the book is the environmental slant within the story.  It involves endurance related to man leading to the future of our society as well as the planet’s future.  You don’t get this in the usual story of an iconic event.  But Ayres gives it all to us in a well written book worthy of reading by any serious runner…especially those of us who run long.

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“…what makes endurance running an adventure is that you never know what will actually happen.”

Ed Ayres

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This book is not the normal tome about running that we see so much of to the degree that they all look alike. And, the subtitle, “A Love Affair with Running” can seem a little girly. But, when you get into the guts of this small book of 163 pages, you will appreciate its unique characteristic.

The first thing that strikes the reader is the complete honesty by the author, Rachel Toor. She opens up from the beginning and keeps it that way to the end. Sometimes, it seems a little contradictory, but when you think about it, it all seems very real…just the way people are.

In the induction which is titled “Toeing the Line,” Toor explains that the book is formatted like a marathon. It has twenty-seven chapters with the last one numbered .2, and the preceding ones numbered 1 through 26. You could look at it as a collection of essays on running with each one characterized by the author’s point of view. Of course, the topical relationship leans toward marathons and ultramarathons.

Through each mile marker (chapters), Toor opens up about herself. Through the book, she tells her story from a couch potato to runner. Along the way, she brings the reader into her world infused with her training, racing, relationships, and jobs. Her writing is clear and interesting.

Chapters such as The Body; Reasons Not to Run; The Routes; One Runner’s Beginnings; The Closet; The Coach; The Magazine Rack; Ride and Ties; Weekend Mornings; The First Marathon; Speed Goggles; The Fast Young Man; Boston; Becoming a Marathoner; Racing; The Western State; Injuries; Ultras; The Watch; The Coach (different from the first one); On The Road; The Hospital; Pacing; The Break-Up; The Curtain Rod; and Getting to the Finish. These titles drew my attention, and made me want to read them, especially Reasons Not to Run; Speed Goggles; Ultras; and The Watch. Most of these chapter titles were obvious in their relation to running. Some of the others required some thought as to their relationships. But, as one reads the often humorous accounts, they too become obvious.

Rachel Toor is an experienced writer, and her writing in this book is easy to read and follow as she tells us how she became an experienced runner. Through it all, we can see that she thoroughly enjoys her running both in training and racing. She shares her thoughts while involved in each. The reader can relate to the author because these thoughts are shared. Toor writes to the experienced and beginner.

After reading this book, one can feel a friendship with the author. Her writing tends to get to the base level of the sport. She writes of things that the runner will find interesting and of value. The reader will be eager to read more from the author after reading this book.

Richard Westbrook

by: Richard Westbrook

            My bookshelves are crammed with an assortment of books divided into genres. There are biographies, educational books, mysteries, novels, travel books, westerns, non-fiction, science-fiction, humor, philosophy, religion just to name a few. Some of those are broken down into sub-sections. Such is one of my larger subject areas, that of running.

            The “Running” section is broken down into sub-sections like biographies, coaching, fitness, events, marathons and ultras, training, novels, philosophy, cross-country, track and field just to hit the high spots. It is the largest single section on my shelves. I am constantly amazed at how much can be written on the subject. The amount written has to rival, if not surpassing, any other sport. And, the books just keep on being published. So many books, so little time.

            Enveloped within those sections are books offering up everything one would need to know about running either for the beginner or for the veteran runner. Books such as Jim Fixx’s The Complete Book of Running and his follow-up to that complete work, The Second Book of Running are jammed in there right along with more complete stuff like the Runner’s World Complete Book of Running. If that is not complete enough, then there is The Principles of Running by Amby Burfoot which is a very good piece of work. That is accompanied by the earlier offering, by approximately twenty-years, The Official Book of Running by Bill Emmerton who was an ultra-runner.  Then there is The Practical Runner by Robert J. Geline; Running A To Z by Joe Henderson; Beginner’s Running Guide by Hal Higdon; and to bring everything you need to know about running to a close, there is The Last Word On Running by Richard Karlgaard. I guess one could read that last book and surpass all the previous works and still know everything one would need to know.

            Some of these books, like The Principles of Running, are short and to the point as if the reader would want to read less and run more and would want his or her information straight forward. There is a lot of good stuff in the book’s 165 pages. A lot more wordy is the Beginner’s Running Guide at 340 pages, but, maybe, a beginner would need more information. Still, 340 pages?

            All of these books were published a few years ago, some longer than you have been running. But, a more recent book is out there, and it is one of the better, if not best, of all the aforementioned books. It was published in 2011. Within its 219 pages are items of high importance for any runner, whether the runner realizes it or not. After reading The Little Red Book of Running by Scott Douglas, the runner should be better educated and wiser which should translate into better and more enjoyable running.

            The author, Scott Douglas, is a senior editor of Running Times magazine and is an experienced runner himself. He gives a brief introduction covering his progression from starting running in the ninth grade; continuing through high school and college and into the real world after college. He states that the book covers three decades of things learned from his running and his curiosity about running. The results of this learning is in the “nuggets” presented in this great little book. Per Scott Douglas, “I hope you find its distilled wisdom useful in making your running more enjoyable, satisfying, and a regular highlight in your life.” To the runner who can and does read, this will be one of the most valuable works on running that you can possess.  

            The value of the book is polished by the information being arranged in brief “Tips” that can be read quickly and, more importantly, remembered. Their brevity enhances the ability to retain the information. This can help a runner immensely when being challenged by frustration, drudgery, injury, or competition.

            There are 250 tips. These are arranged in “Parts.” Part One is “Running More: 45 Tips to Help You Safely and Successfully Increase Your Daily and Weekly Mileage.” The beginning sets the tone of the book and gives insight to the attitude of the author. These are the first two tips which leaks the wisdom gained from the author’s experiences. The opening statements of each will put us right on track to the book’s goals.

            The first tip is “A Crucial Opening Thought” in which the first statement is, “There are no junk miles.” After wrapping your mind around that tip, you read the second tip which is “A Crucial Second Thought.” Your mind will do a somersault after reading its opening statement. That would be, “Let me be clear from the outset: I’m not saying that more running is always better, either for your running performance or the rest of your life.” After reading the explanation following the first statements in tip one and two, you will be on your way to a good read followed by better running…if you learn from the book.

            The following parts are Part Two, “Running Faster: 63 Tips to Help Build Your Speed, Even If You’re Never Going to Race.” These 63 tips are chock full of vital information in very brief forms that will work in making the runner faster. They stretch from the reasons to run faster to a mantra used to help in the race.         

            Part Three is “Running Injury-Free: 50 Tips to Help You Avoid, Treat, and Beat Injuries.” Since most runners will suffer some type of injury that will require time off from running, this section can be a super valuable. It covers some typical running injuries and then focuses on prevention. This could be the most practical section of the book.

            Part Four is “Running Consistently: 43 Tips to Help You Run More Often for the Rest of Your Life.” Part Three is the most practical in the book, and Part Four is the most important in a philosophical vein. It will tell the runner how to do that which the runner wants to do the rest of his or her life. Even though it is based on a philosophical foundation, the section also has a lot of practical tips.

            The last part is Part Five which is “Running Miscellany: 49 Tips on Shoes and Safety, Attitude and Altitude, and Everything Else That Matters.” The name of the section is self-explanatory. It is the service manual part for the runner. If the runner has a problem with his or her running, it is probably addressed here.

            The book has its forward written by Amby Burfoot. He is an Editor at Large for Runner’s World magazine and was the 1968 Boston Marathon Champion. In it he stresses the simplicity of running and the role that The Little Red Book of Running serves in this quest. The book closely parallels his own book with a focus on simplicity. Burfoot’s The Principles of Running along with The Little Red Book of Running would be great and valued additions to any runner’s bookshelf. Following the tenants in both books will insure better, more enjoyable, and longer lasting running for the serious runner.

            And that, friends is what all runners should work toward…A simple approach to a life-long pursuit that will make that life better. Both books will help serve that purpose. But, if only one has to be chosen, then it should be The Little Red Book of Running.

 

                                                                                       “Simplicity’s the real challenge.”  

                                                                                          Nighthawk Cummings

BOOK: RUNNING THROUGH THE WALL: Personal Encounters with the Ultramarathon                          AUTHOR: Neal Jamison                                                                                                                        PUBLISHER/DATE: Breakaway Books, 2003                                                                                    REPORT: This is one of the most personalized and entertaining books that I have read on the subject of running long. Obviously, from the title, it focuses on ultramarathon distances. That would be any distance longer than the marathon. The first standard ultra distance is 50 kilometers, which is thirty-one miles. For that reason, a lot of the personal stories in the collection will give credence to the 50 kilometer distance.

This book is very good in that it gives personal stories from the normal “Joe” or “Jane” just like you and me who happens to run ultramarathons. The stories center on various slants in the runner’s pursuit ranging from their beginnings, outstanding races, spiritual insights, and their motivation. You will find runners who stumbled into running ultras. Then, there are those who planned their assault on the distances. Like the rest of us, there are those who had a lack of confidence when faced with such monumental distances. Just about all the stories related instances during a particular race in which the runner was convinced that he or she could not make it to the finish line. Some of these instances were true life threatening situations and some were of the “feeling sorry for myself” types. They were all just like those thoughts that the rest of us go through during the same kind of running challenges. Indeed, one of the most striking characteristics of this book is the normalcy of the runners of whom the stories relate.

On the other hand, there are some “supers” involved. For those accounts of the diabetic in his first 100 mile run crewed by his sons and struggling to the race site with a broken down van; or the suicide survivor, depression laden, young lady who didn’t leave her house for months and then went through the gamut of highs and lows in her first ultra but finished on a high, there are the stories from ultra superstars like Tim Twietmeyer, Ian Torrence, Ann Trason, and David Horton. Even in the “super’s” accounts, we can relate to the normalcy that earmarks the ultrarunning scene.

Reading story after story, the reader will begin to appreciate the closeness of the ultra community. Such things like runners slowing to help total strangers get through bad patches in the race, because they have been there before, will stand out again and again as an oddity in the ultra races. The attitude expressed by the runners in their stories will impress even the non-runner much less the runner just thinking about running an ultra event.

Running Through the Wall

The reader will read some of the stories and laugh because you will see yourself in there. Other stories will have you pulling for the runner as you turn to see the outcome. Still others will have you emotionally charged by relating to the intensity of the story and the runner involved. This makes the book interesting to read and packed full of memorable characters. It is well written and easy to read.

Each chapter is a runner’s story. It is preceded by a thumbnail sketch of the runner. This includes their name, age, years running, years running ultras, and their residence. I appreciated the picture of each runner. This gives the reader a visual contact as you are reading the runner’s story. For me, it made each story much more personal, a story with a face.

Don Allison, editor and publisher of UltraRunning Magazine, writes a very good foreword for the book. This gives a good opening door to the stories. It sets the stage for a good piece of work by the author, Neal Jamison.

I highly recommend this book to any runner aspiring to run marathons, ultra races, experience adventure runs, or just looking to improve their running by running longer on their level. It will give you fodder for dreams as well as confidence enveloped in normalcy. You will be glad you read it.

“Behind every runner, there is a history that leads them to the starting line of an ultramarathon, and that history colors the drama that plays out over the duration of the event.”                                      Don Allison                                                                                                                                            Editor/Publisher                                                                                                                                             UltraRunning Magazine

By: Richard Westbrook

BOOK: GOD ON THE STARTING LINE, The Triumph of a Catholic School Running Team and Its Jewish Coach AUTHOR: Marc Bloom                                                                                                                                PUBLISHER/DATE: Breakaway Books, 2004                                                                                               REPORT: If you ever wanted to know just how it is to coach a high school cross-country team, just a regular old team, nothing high powered, the kind of team that is typical of most high schools, then this is the book to read. It will tell you of the life and times of a small team struggling for their identity. While doing that, the identity of the individual as a coach will be clarified among the various tangents contacting this group.

I could identify with the author and his situation being that I am coaching a team that is struggling to find its identity. There are many parallels in the book and my case. I empathized with the author in many situations.

Marc Bloom, the author, writes very well as you will see in his easily readable style. He has written many articles on running and several other books on the subject. His experience with the subject pays off in his work. I have read other works relating the coaching experience, but this is the best.

A unique facet of the book is the spiritual aspects of two different religions. These obvious and subtle teachings affect the coach, the runners, and parents. At times, this causes conflict, while at other times it is the catalyst for success. At all times, it is an item of concern for the coach.

Another interesting and very real conflict is time. The time needed for the coaching and the time needed for family, including an illness of the author’s father, is related by Bloom in a very realistic manner. This is a real concern for anyone who has coached and has a family. Bloom was very astute in relating this throughout the book. He gives us the true picture which requires a great deal of honesty on his part. This one item makes this a great book for upcoming, young coaches to read.

This is not a book to read in order to glean workouts for one to use in coaching their own team. But, there is an underlying philosophy throughout the book that one who is astute enough can see will add immensely to any program. It will give a basic approach and leave a wide range of variation for anyone wanting to pick out information to use in coaching.

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In this story of a New Jersey coastal team, one can follow the tale of the different young men working to mold into a team. The coach guides the various personalities through the high points and low points of the off-season and season. He wins some and loses some. He has doubts. He has disappointments. He has success. He deals with academics, disinterest, disparity, and immaturity. He has a knack of recognizing the problems and has the patience to deal with them. This is an important reason for the success of the team.

Read the book if you like running. It doesn’t matter if you want to coach or just know more about it. Even for non-runners, the book is good in its relationships between a teacher and students, in this case a coach and athletes. You can read it as a very good story, or you can read it to find deeper meaning. Either way, it will be one of the best books you will read on running.

“This is where guts and biochemistry meet. The chemistry has been figured out. Guts are another story.”                                                                  Marc Bloom                                                                                                                                                Commenting on a cross-country race

By: Richard Westbrook

           This is a look into some books that are running related.  The relationship may seem like a stretch at times, but it is there.  That may include tapping into the psyche of running and not just the obvious physical aspect.  But, as most serious runners know, our running is affected in one way or another by everything we perceive.  Reading helps us to broaden that perception.

BOOK:  An Honorable Run

AUTHOR: Matt McCue

COPYRIGHT: 2009

 

Me, Richard Westbrook, and Matt McCue, the author

Me, Richard Westbrook, and Matt McCue, the author

            I met the author, Matt McCue, at last summer’s (2011) Nike Smoky Mountain Runner’s Camp in Asheville, NC.  Matt gave the speech at the end of camp, and I must say that his speech (which was not perceived as a “speech”) was one of the best I have ever heard at camp.  Other long-time staffers also thought so.  Matt and I had a good talk about running, coaching, and high school versus college running.  We had our picture taken together after which I told him that I would destroy the picture if I didn’t like the book, which I got from him and would be my next read.

            An Honorable Run is a very good and easily read book.  It captured my interest right off the bat and carried me through its 157 pages quickly.  It is about a journey of a walk-on collegiate runner at the University of Colorado.  The runner, McCue, ran high school cross-country at Regina High in Iowa City, Iowa.  He worked hard, probably harder than any other team member.  He loved running.  He had a good coach.  He was not recruited by any college.

            The book tells of his relationship with his high school coach, Bob Brown.  Brown started the program at the school and built it to a championship level.  Because of his love of running and his thirst for success, McCue looked for a top program in which to run after high school.  The fact that he was not recruited did not deter him from reaching for the Colorado Buffaloes.  He had read Chris Lear’s Running with the Buffaloes, which gave a day-by-day account the University of Colorado’s 1998 cross-country season.

            Matt’s writing is laced with humor in giving the situations he encountered in trying to just make contact with Colorado’s coach, Mark Wetmore.  This dry humor is intertwined throughout the book but does not affect the seriousness of the story.  Matt makes the book realistic in being able to communicate to the reader his apprehensions, confidences, and cases of reality shock that he encounters in his running journey.  His style of writing makes it such that we can all relate to his situations.

            Starting with his junior high track experiences in which he aimed for the shortest events possible resulting in being smoked in the beginning 400-meter time trial through his getting “assigned” to do the mile time trial, Matt leads us through his running career.  The guts of the story are the two coaches, Brown on the high school level and Wetmore on the college level.

            It is clear that Coach Brown probably had a deeper and longer lasting influence on Matt than the seemingly more impersonal Wetmore.  And, one of the great characters in the picture is Matt’s mom.  She is perceived as being in the background but a careful reader will note that his mom aimed Matt on his journey and gave him the tools to complete the task.  She seems to be a very interesting character and one I would like to meet because of reading this book.

            Lessons were learned during Matt’s journey.  These lessons dealt with workouts, running distances, relationships with teammates, goals, first experiences, expectations, dealing with coaches, and most significantly…determining what was of value.  The reader of this story will thoroughly enjoy vicariously experiencing these with the author.

            This is a short, soft back book that is a quick read.  It did not get a lot of “hoopla” that I have read or heard.  But, it is one of the most enjoyable books on running that I have read, and I read everything on the subject that I can get.  I strongly suggest that you read this book.  You will not be disappointed.

Richard Westbrook

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To be serious is the greatest joy.”

                                                                                                Gustav Mahler