Friday, January 27, 2012

Running Book Reviews

I’m an English teacher and I’ll be the first to acknowledge that English teachers have ruined more good books than people of any other profession.  I also remember from my days as a high school student long ago that most books my English teacher made me read I found boring and long winded.  These book recommendations, thankfully, do not come from Trent the English teacher.  They come from Trent the runner and creator of the incredibly entertaining Running from Mediocrity blog.

Must Reads (You’ve probably already read these)

Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes – I’m under the impression that many in the ultra-running community think Dean’s a bit of a sellout.  I’m not a member of the ultra-running community, so I don’t care.  If I were a member of the ultra-running community, I probably still wouldn’t care.  The guy’s taken something he’s passionate about and made a ton of money writing about it.  Awesome!

Until I read Ultramarathon Man I had no idea there was such a thing as ultra-running.  Even if you have no desire to run a 100-mile race (my hand’s raised firmly in the air on that one), Dean’s account of the Western States 100, the Badwater Ultramarathon and his one-man 199-mile relay race will open your mind to new possibilities and make running a 26.2-mile marathon seem easy (until you actually run it, of course).

Although Dean’s a bit in denial about how training for 100-mile races might put a strain on one’s personal life, and although there’s an awful lot of humble-bragging, Ultramarathon Man is inspirational, entertaining and well worth the effort.  By the way, his third book, Run, has set a new standard for humble bragging.

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall – Born to Run has been credited with the increased popularity of barefoot running.  The book’s excellence, however, goes far beyond persuading people to toss their running shoes.  It makes the case that human beings were born to run and that the survival of the human species can be linked to the genetic capacity for long distance running.  It is not, however, a scientific dissertation on human evolution.  It’s an account of MacDougall’s quest to run injury free, the Tarahumara Indians, and one of the greatest ultra-races ever.

The book reads like a novel and includes characters Charles Dickens would be proud of.  The Tarahumara are real.  I looked them up on the Internet and we know the Internet would never lead us astray. They live in the Copper Canyon region in Western Mexico. Barefoot Ted is real.  I looked him up on the Internet too. He once organized a triathlon in which the participants could only use equipment that existed in the 1800s.  Scott Jurek.  Real.  Caballo Blanco.  Real.  That’s not his real name though.  You’ll have to read the book to find his real name or look it up on the Internet, which, as you know, will never lead you astray.

Other than the incredibly annoying, repulsive couple from North Carolina who entered the race and the pro-hippy sentiments ofCaballo Blanco, whom I admire for completely different reasons, the book makes a valuable contribution to people who like to run and read.

Once a Runner by John L. Parker – I can’t believe a book this good and this popular with runners has been around since the 1970s and I had never even heard of it until a couple months ago.  Although it’s fiction, it’s obvious the author understands the dedication it takes to succeed in the sport (Parker himself was a track star at the University of Florida).

Although the book relies on the tired anti-establishment cliché popular among victims, Occupy Wall Street losers, and people who like to blame others for their failures, it’s in depth account of the fictional training regimen of Quenton Cassidy is enough to motivate runners to get their butt in gear.  Its literary merit makes it an excellent read for runners and English teachers.

If you've written a book about running and want me to review it, send me a copy.


  1. I'm not much of a book read, but I've heard most of those books are good.

    BTW, I've added you to a Running Blog Database I'm working on. If you see its potiential, maybe you could put a link to it on you blog. Please check it out:

  2. I've read two of those three books--haven't quite managed the Karnazes books--and mostly agree with you. Born to Run is an absolute classic, however you feel about barefoot running. Caballo, by the way, lives in Boulder in the summer and come into my library. I try to act cool when I see him.