Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Must Read Running Books

I started my running career in March 2009 when I worked at the Running Room in St. John's, Newfoundland. At the time when I applied for a job, I wasn't more than a 'summer runner' who ran 2-3 times a week and did the famous Tely 10 Mile race - leaving myself sore for weeks. I never thought the job would literally change my life, but it certainly has and then some.

Quite frankly, the best part of working at the Running Room was when I got to work with the legendary Art Meaney - the 67 year old who is one of the fastest men in the world at his age group - heck, he still runs his age for 10 miles every year! I can promise you a full write up on this running guru. He was the one who truly opened my eyes to not only my own potential in running but also to the professional world. His knowledge of running history is second to none. It was both inspirational and motivating.

The man, the myth, the legend - Art Meaney

He also introduced me to running books, which truly got me addicted to it the sport. Here is a list of what I believe are MUST READS for any runner as well as some honourable mentions which are well worth a spot on your bed side table.

#1) Duel in the Sun - John Brant

This epic work of prose allows you to run in the shoes of the Cuban-American world record holder Alberto Salazar (now coach of the top US distance runenrs) and Dick Beardsley, the blue collar farm-hand from Minnesota. You get to follow them before, during, and after the 1982 Boston Marathon.

All I will say about this book is:
a) I could NOT put this book down

b) The race was won by two seconds

c) This race single-handedly changed both the lives of both of these two men forever. I kid you not.

#2) Running With the Buffaloes  - Chris Lear

This book follows the 1998 Cross Country season for the University of Colorado Buffaloes. You literally feel as though you are a part of the team as you running every workout and race with them. As well,  all of the trials and tribulations that accompany the team such as 20 mile runs at 8,000ft of elevation, injuries, cuts, losing, winning, and much more that I'll let you read to find out.

The protagonist of this book is the stand out runner Adam Goucher - the husband of famed US female marathoner Kara Goucher - and his quest to be #1 in NCAA.

Note: Reading this book will pump you up. I suggest reading before a race!

#3) Once a Runner  - John L. Parker Jr.

This novel follows the fictional character of Quenton Cassidy, a mile runner at, the also fictional, Southeastern University in Florida in the 1970s. Many people believe this book is based on the collegiate years of famous American marathoner Frank Shorter!

You become intimate with the prodigious Cassidy through his interactions with teammates, relationships, workouts, races, and his eventual big decision to take the 'next step'. Not to mention the most insane workout I have ever heard of in my entire life.

Not spoiling anything here, but my favorite part of the book comes when at a party/social gathering someone asks him "why do you run?"

Favorite quote from the book: "You can remember it [the past], he told himself, but you cannot experience it this way again. You have to be satisfied with the shadows."

#4) Born to Run - Christopher McDougall

At first, I wasn't expecting much from this book as I thought it would be preaching about why barefoot running is superior to 'normal' running.

However, I was blown away with the incredibly interesting storyline that flows through about 70% of the book. The author, McDougall, makes his way to the Copper Canyons of Mexico to find a man named 'Caballo Blanco' (the White Horse) who moved from the US down to live with the ancient, indigenious tribe called the Tarahumura [Tara-oo-mara]. Along the way he discovers how running - barefoot - is the culture with the Tarahumara. Their story is absolutely spellbinding.

The remaining portions talk about the pros and cons of traditional running form, running shoes, and barefoot running in a very easy to understand and humorus approach. A definite must read.

#5) The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It by Neal Bascomb

Bascomb chronicles the stories of the fastest men in the world in the early 1950s: England's Roger Bannister, America's Wes Santee, and the Australian John Landy.

Each of these men have their own incredible saga to follow as they try to find a way to break the elusive 4 minute barrier for 1 mile. Whether it be Bannister's self-coached training at lunch hour while attending medical school, Santee's trouble with the track and field authorities, or Landy's eccentric coach, this book embodies the blood, sweat, and tears of these 3 amateur running heros.

Just wait until you read about the races where they go head to head! Hard to put down!

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