My Best Race by Chris Cooper

Include this book into your training. You will find no better motivation.

4/5 stars.
ebook, 239 pages.
Read from May 4, 2017 to May 9, 2017.

I love books like this; books that just make you feel good and validate your feelings, well in this case it’s feelings on running.  I was really eager to read it after getting a copy from Netgalley. However, I must have been on the cusp of the archive date of this book because I did not get a chance to read it. I was so wanted to read this book that I actually went out and bought a copy.  I have no regrets.

This is book holds about 50 unique recountings, from pros to amateurs, as they share the one race that they won’t ever forget. Some stories are ones of winning, medals and Olympic trials, while others are memorable regardless placement or perceived failures. There is even a love story for romance fans! From World Champions and Olympians, to the average avid runner, all the stories share the same passion for the sport. The stories also cover a variety of distances and generations giving a history of some very memorable moments in running. There are contributions from:

Kathrine Switzer – The first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon in 1967 despite women being barred from the race.

 

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Kathrine running the 1967 Boston Marathon. Her then boyfriend, now husband, is trying to stop the race official from physically removing her from the race. 

 

John Galloway – a pioneer of the run/walk method, a top marathon runner,  member of the 1974 Olympic team in the 10,000m, coach and writer for Runner’s World. 

Pam Reed – 2002 Badwater Ultramarathon overall winner and the first woman to become the overall winner in the Badwater marathon, one of the toughest ultras in the world.

I wanted this book the last forever. This book motivated me through all my runs this week. Seriously, I think I am going to start including works like this into my training regime as it gets me so stoked to go out for a run and inspires me to perform better.  I know I could have definitely used this sort of boost in my last marathon!  The format of the book actually caters really well to this as each story is only a few pages making it easy to bookmark and return to specific passages or stories that spoke to you. After each story, the narrator provides a short piece of running advice as well, the best one that I took away from the book is one by Pam Reed who recommended using club soda on endurance runs to keep the stomach moving and receptive to food. I am seriously going to give this one a try.

The best thing about books like this is that it puts these amazingly talented pro-runners on the same pages as the joe-schmo runners and that is because at the root of it, whether fast or slow, we all love to run. If you are not a runner, the unique feeling that comes with running and the community it invites is not one that is easily explained.  I know my boyfriend sure doesn’t understand why I would want to run for such long stretches at a time or why I racing 42.2 is my idea of fun versus a form of punishment. While running does require a little bit insanity, the main concepts revolve around pushing yourself to your limits and the infinite rewards it brings. I swear to you, nothing is more satisfying and confidence building. Running also enables you to get outside to enjoy the little things, to take some time for yourself, and offers ample opportunities to meet like-minded people in one of best supporting communities around. Runner’s are a special bunch of people.

I would recommend this book to runners of all types. Add it to your training repertoire and return to it when you need a boost.

The Right to Be Cold by Sheila Watt-Cloutier

The Arctic is the world’s air conditioner and if we cannot protect the Arctic than we are all doomed to face the effects of climate change.

3/5 stars.
ebook, 263 pages.
Read from March 14, 2017 to March 22, 2017.

This is the last book I tackled in the Canada Reads 2017 shortlist. I happy to have all five of the book read and reviewed before the debates take place starting on March 27th. This is the one non-fiction submission in the shortlist and while it was not my favourite book the content of the book is a warning that we should all heed.

Sheila Watt-Cloutier was born in Kuujjuaq, Nunavik to an Inuk mother and a white father. Her book recalls fond memories of country foods included seal, whale and caribou, as well as dog sledding trips, and hunting. She was shortly shipped off to Southern parts of Canada as per government regulations for schooling. As she got older she saw how the environmental and cultural changes were taking a massive toll on the Inuk people. Their whole life was be altered against their will and they were not adapting to the changes well. After failing to become a doctor, Sheila became involved locally and internationally in helping improve the way of life for her people. While not initially meaning to be an environmentalist, it became clear that the biggest problem facing her people was climate change.

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs), from around the world settle and find their way to the coldest points on earth. These pollutants poison animals and contaminate the food the the Inuks eat which inadvertently poisons them. Climate change is a real and is being seen in Arctic first. The Arctic is the world’s air conditioner and if we cannot protect the Arctic than we are all doomed to face the effects of climate change. Sheila’s book is memoir, but it is really more of warning of what is to come if we do not take action. She goes through heartbreaking details of the suffering that her people have had to endure at the selfishness of others and is looking for justice and help, not only for her own people, but to ensure that the rest of the world is protected.

Shelia has been given numerous awards and accolades for her work, including a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 along side Al Gore. For a full list of her awards and honours, click here.

The information in this book is undoubtedly valuable and of extreme importance, however I didn’t sign up to read and poorly delivered essay full of committee meeting details. Portions of the book became tedious with this type of detail and detracted from the important message that Sheila was trying to portray. As an editor, I would have focused on the emotional specifics of Sheila’s upbringing and the outcomes of the current climate situation for the Inuks. While it is important to recognize the extensive councils and impacts that Shelia has had, her novel is bogged down with political nuances that don’t add to her cause.

Is this “the is the one book that Canadians need now?” In terms of the cause, absolutely. This type of issue needs to be laid out for everyone to see. Just because you may not be suffering the effects of climate change at this time, it doesn’t mean that others are not and we need to do our part to get a handle on the climate change situation. However in terms of the readability of this book, I would say no.

I would still recommend this book for anyone that doubts or needs more information about climate change and especially for those who have little understanding of the ways different people live their lives.

A Moth To The Flame by Debbie Sands

I knew Amy. Lots of people I grew up with could say that but did anyone know her struggles?

5/5 stars.
ebook, 162 pages.
Read from September 14 to 15, 2016.

I knew Amy. Not as well as I would have liked or for very long, but we grew up in the same town and had solid year together in the Studio Theatre class in our high school, the very one mentioned in this book. Her death hit the community and anyone that ever knew her hard. Perhaps this review is a little biased because of that connection but I am thankful that Debbie shared Amy’s story and her struggles.

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Amy as I remember her in 2003 – Studio Theatre – Foothills Composite High School -Okotoks, AB

Amy passed away in the summer of 2012. She was shot through a garage door with a bullet that never should have been shot and was not ever intended for her. She was 27 years old. Amy was eccentric, fun, independent, beautiful and confident. I’ll never forget some of fun times we had or the few inside jokes we created together. I remember envying her. However, few would have ever known the struggles that she dealt with and the problems it would cause in her adult life. Even more, few would have known about the struggles Amy’s family went through in trying to help her.

Amy had borderline personality disorder (BPD). A mental health condition that is characterized by overt and unstable emotions as well as abnormal behavior and relationships with others. Sufferers often have an unstable sense of self and extreme sense of abandonment that can often lead to dangerous behaviors.

Amy’s condition drove her to abuse drugs and mix with a crowd of people that ended up resulting her death. The book details the intimate struggles that her family had to endure while trying to deal with Amy. I cannot fathom the amount of pain and how trying it would have been trying to manage Amy. Her family loved her dearly but at the same time did not want to be enforcers to her behavior. They knew she was troubled but it wasn’t until after Amy’s death that they came to determine that she had BPD. The book spares no details and gives the deep down trauma of living with BPD and what it does to loved ones. While the book was heartbreaking to read, it is also immensely insightful.

I had the pleasure of working with Debbie on during a Dewdney theatre production of The Importance of Being Ernest around 2005. Debbie made a stellar Lady Bracknell and she never ever showed any signs of the potential turmoil that was effecting her private life. I am so glad that she wrote this book. Not only has she shed light for all that loved Amy but she is spreading awareness of about BPD. I hope that the writing process has been a healing one for her. No mother, or family for that matter, should ever have to endure what she went through. It was very brave of her to publish this book.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone with BPD or has a loved one with BPD. Or for those who have had mental illness effect them or someone that the have loved. And especially for anyone that loved or knew Amy.