Petestack Blog

1 August 2009

Recent running books

Filed under: Running — admin @ 10:12 pm

Having a certain amount of time to kill with some rainy summer holiday days and an increasingly tidy house, I’ve got through three recently published and purchased running books over the past week.

The first, Running for My Life by Ray Zahab (published 2007), is a simple autobiographical account of one man’s journey from smoking and drinking youth to accomplished ultra runner, and makes a pleasant day’s read in a more humble Ultramarathon Man sort of way. Since finishing it, I’ve also watched a TV interview with Ray Zahab on the web and have to say that he comes across as a nice, unpretentious guy with laudable zeal to bring meaningful adventure to young people.

The second, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (published 2009), is a gripping blend of natural history (humans evolving ‘to go running’?) and building action story (long distance racing with the Tarahumara) that’s closer to what’s possibly been my favourite running book of all (the hitherto incomparable Why We Run by Bernd Heinrich) than anything else I’ve read. So, despite the odd statement leaping out at me as needing checking (Peters ‘ten minutes under his own world-record pace’ after ten miles of the 1952 Olympic marathon?), I’d have to rate this alongside the Heinrich as fascinating, revelatory and uncommonly absorbing.

The third book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami (published in Japanese in 2007 and English in 2008), is another personal memoir, but (as you’d expect of a celebrated novelist) given a more poetic twist than the Ray Zahab book. Which is not to say that it’s ‘better’, but just that Murakami’s writing not surprisingly comes across as more accomplished and polished.

Regardless of literary merit, however, where all three books ultimately work together is in stressing what a natural thing it is to run and making me just want to get out and run. Which has to be a good thing. :-)

1 Comment

  1. Just tweaked my blog settings to keep articles open for comment for 28 days instead of the 14 allowed before, so quoting Richie Cunningham’s comments from my later ‘Not quite more climbing’ post where he’d have liked to post them in the first place:

    Hi Pete, I couldn’t post a comment on your running books post so thought I’d post it here. I didn’t know Ray Zahab had a book, he features in the film “Running the Sahara” about 3 runners who attempt to run over the Sahara desert (available from Blockbuster!). It’s an excellent film, very interesting so I’ll have to seek out his book. “Born to Run” is also one of the best running books I’ve read for a long time. Everytime my motivation for running needs a boost I pick it up and have a quick read. I’m not totally convinced about all the barefoot stuff though (and I say that as an owner of a pair of Vibram FiveFingers). Murakami’s book wasn’t for me, I managed about 50 pages but lost interest pretty quickly. I think it’s heading for ebay soon!

    To which I might add that it took me a chapter or two to get into the Murakami book, but found it repaid the initial effort with more flow as it progressed. So perhaps something was lost in the translation or perhaps that’s just the way it is, but I still thought it a good book as a whole.

    Comment by admin — 16 August 2009 @ 2:01 pm

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