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.

Eat and Run by Scott Jurek

“Sometimes you just do things.” – probably the best line to live by. Whether it is athletics or the hardships of life, Scott Jurek takes us through the unconventional life of a ultra-marathon, super star runner.

Uncovering the life of a super human, ultra-marathon, vegan athlete. Yes, vegan.

4/5 stars
Hardcover, 272 pages.
Read from August 08 to 09, 2016.

“Sometimes you just do things.” – this line, from this novel has not left my brain since I read it. Not only has it popped up during some of my own difficult training runs but it has also helped me though some of the everyday realities of life. I could have said the everyday struggles of life, but that is putting a negative spin on the reality of life. Sometimes you just do things , and there isn’t any better truth than that.

Scott Jurek was an ordinary boy who grew into an extraordinary adult by committing to his beliefs and just doing what he believed he needed to do. Scott is one of the best ultra-marathoners in the world. Not only that, he is a vegan. Yes, it is true. This ultra-athlete contributes some of his success to his diet and shares with his readers that not only is veganism plausible for extreme athletes, but that it is also ideal. Yes, Scott has immense natural talent but the majority of his success come from his demeanor and attitude. This book is the story of Scott’s life, from the childhood that shaped him to his career as an ultra-marathoner.

Now I am not sure I have what it takes to be a vegan but Scott sure inspired me to push my limits. I have always wanted to run an ultra-distance race and this book solidified the belief that I could do one. It has also confirmed my own beliefs about eating real food for fuel. Every runner has to find what works best for them and I know for me, I can’t cope with the nasty tasting gels and some of the energy and protein bars that are provided to keep runners fueled during long distance runs. Now, I don’t know if I am ready to start hauling out my own hummus and pita breads on a run, but I will continue to make my own electrolyte drinks and will attempt to make some of my own fuel for my runs and races.

This isn’t just a book for runners though, as the book is full of outstanding, easy and realistic vegan recipes that anyone can use. Jurek ends every chapter with a delicious vegan recipe that is appealing to all types of eaters. That says a lot coming from me, as I do not cook. I snapped a few pictures of few recipes from this book, this is one of my favourites and I am looking forward to making it once the weather cools off:

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Minnesota Winter Chili

I devoured this book. I remember when I read Born to Runand just how much I loved it. Well, this book is infinitely better. For one, Jurek is a superior writer to McDougall and has a gift not only for running, but for writing. His story line is seamless and easy to follow, which is the biggest problem I had with McDougall’s book. Additionally, while you get all the details of Jurek’s personal life, he also gives you a detailed experience of his races and what goes through his head during these times. So if you want to be inspired and want to think like a world-class athlete, then read this book. Even if you are not a runner, you will appreciate the intensity, dedication and sheer willpower that Jurek exudes in his running as well as with his personal lifestyle choices.

Fortune favours the brave, and Jurek is one amazing example of this. If you have ever been curious about the vegan diet or how it works with athletes, become inspired, or just want to read an amazing story of human fortitude then this book is for you.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running By Haruki Murakami

3/5 stars.
Read from March 10 to 14, 2016.
ebook, 180 pages.

This was a peculiar book but I suppose it wouldn’t be true to Murakami’s style if it wasn’t a bit odd. What does make this book remarkable is how modest and accomplished Murakami is, and I’m not just saying that because I enjoy his novels.

While this book is the closest thing to memoir on Murakami’s life, it’s more of a reminiscence of his life and the decisions he made in terms of writing and how much of an impact running and fitness has played in his lifestyle and his success. Saying that Murakami is ambitious is a bit of understatement. The man has some solid resolve when it comes to his decisions. He opened up a jazz bar at a very young age an put all of his money and time into making it successful. While running this jazz bar he started writing. He published his first novel while still running the bar but was not satisfied. Murakami knew, like he did with his bar, that if he wanted to be successful at the writing he needed to give it his full attention and commitment.  Despite everyone he knew thinking he was absolutely mad, Murakami closed his jazz bar and set off to write full time. From there Murakami made the most of his flexible schedule and began to start running. He reflects on how running has helped his writing process and success and details the struggles and failures of racing.

While I could never claim to be anywhere near as resilient or ambitious as Murakami, I felt that if I met the man, we would get a long. We have similar introverted qualities and run for the same reasons. He would describe certain situations about writing or people and I found myself thinking, “that’s me, that’s how I feel too”. It was a wonderful feeling to have this connection with Murakami and it perhaps explains why I enjoy his novels so much.

What made this book peculiar, is that it reads as if Murakami is having a casual conversation with you. It’s as if, the two of you sat down for coffee after going for a run, and you just happen ask him how he started running and writing. It’s a very welcoming read in that sense but the first section feels a bit strange as you adjust and immerse yourself in the style.His modesty with his racing accomplishments and dedication to writing contribute to this style.

While I don’t think Murakami intended this book to be inspirational, it most definitely is. Murakami gave 100% in whatever he chose to do, whether writing or running, and it has paid off for him. Many people don’t understand how challenging something like that can be. For example, when I started freelancing, I always felt like a fraud which held back my ability and desire to give myself fully into the profession. I didn’t commit 100%. While I found moderate success, it didn’t end up being something I could maintain full time unfortunately. However, I learned more than I can say about myself and know where my failings are for next time. I am not done with that path.

I would recommend this book to anyone aspiring to take a leap and commit to something they’ve always wanted, as well as any aspiring writers or passionate runners.