Book Reviews

 

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

 

This is a difficult book to categorise. It is not a running book, yet it will be of interest to runners, giving you an insight into one person’s approach to training for marathons. The publishers describe it as equal parts travelogue, training log and reminiscence. The training log part is a huge piece of poetic licence, but I suppose the sentiment is about right.

 

I liked the book as it was easy to read, entertaining and thought provoking. It made me look at myself and my running in a different way. I did wonder why it was not called ‘What I think about when I run’ because I cannot see Murakami talking about running very much. I found the answer on page 16* ‘What exactly do I think about when I’m running? I don’t have a clue.’

 

Murakami is a very successful author and this shows through. If you are an aspiring writer then this book contains some good tips and comments. If you are also a runner then in the middle of page 71* there is a great paragraph on the theory of training which I will not repeat here because I want you to read the whole book. And in the second paragraph on page 73* there are some profound words on why you should keep running.

 

However most of the book is a reminiscence of Murakami’s journey through life, from running a jazz bar in Japan to becoming a successful and contented author and runner. It takes you from Japan to Boston, USA and back to Japan, meeting Olympic athletes and pretty women on the way.

 

An excellent read.  *(the page numbers may be different in some editions)

 

 

Feet in the Clouds - A Tale of Fell-Running and Obsession – Richard Askwith 

 

If you are a runner this book is a must read. Fell-running is a very specialist sport which few of us will ever participate in but this book still has a wide appeal because it is essentially about people, their characters and their obsessions. 

 

The book is well written, with passion and with authority. Richard Askwith laced on his trainers and entered most of the races he describes. The framework for the book is the fell-running calendar and interwoven with this are details of Richard’s attempts to complete the Bob Graham Round. 

 

I found it absolutely fascinating to learn about a sport so full of history and drama that takes place not in some remote place but in the United Kingdom yet, until I read the book, I knew nothing about it. We learn about the events, the racers, the organisers, the history and the politics within this very specialist part of the wider sport of running. It came so very much alive and enticing that I was tempted to train for the Bob Graham round. Fortunately, a moment of sanity saved me.

 

A great book well written, but it should have a health warning. “Getting hooked could seriously damage you.”

 

Eat & Run My unlikely journey to ultramarathon greatness  By Scott Jurek

Eat & Run is a fascinating insight into the life and thoughts of Scott Jurek, an extremely accomplished ultrarunner. Seven consecutive victories at the Western States Endurance Run, a 100-mile trail race in northern California, which he dominated from 1999-2005. Three  consecutive wins at the 152-mile Spartathlon, 2006-2008. Two wins at the 135-mile Badwater ultramarathon and podium places on many, many other races of 50km and more.

 

The book is well written, perhaps due to the work of his co-author Steve Friedman, who Scott acknowledges "helped narrate my life in a way I never would have been able to do". That narative produces a book that is very readable and relevant to all runners, not just ultra marathoners. This does mean that very experienced, hardened ultrarunners may find some of the content not relevant and leave them wanting more.

 

He deals in an open and honest way with all aspects of his ultra running and personal life without moaning or evangelising. The book does deal in some detail with his vegan lifestyle and includes some of his favourite recipes for both meals at home and food for long runs, but it is done in a way that says this is what works for me; it may be different for you.

 

The book is primarily about his life, it is not about how to train for ultramarathons. There are little sections of advice at the end of some of the chapters. My favourite is "You don't have to be an ultrarunner to take advantage of the social rewards of running. Try running - at least on some of your routes - with a friend. Join a running club or weekly group run. Enter a 5K or 10K race. Do something for running that doesn't involve running. Working at the finish line or at an aid station or joining trail work parties."

 

While it is not a training manual reading it will make you think about running differently and probably help you improve and enjoy running more, you may even find yourself trying some vegan dishes. I'm sure you will find at least a few thoughts that resonate with you.

 

I have always struggled to put into words why I run, Scott Jurek, in Eat & Run, gave me those words.

 

'I love the feeling of moving over the earth, with the earth, the sensation of being in the present, free from chores and expectations and disappointment and worry.'

 

Available from Amazon

 

 

Fartleks & Flatulence – David Berridge

I approached this book with some trepidation, David is a friend so I did not want to have to say anything unpleasant. I’ve come across quite a few books that people have written after taking on a few challenges; most are not very engaging and are often poorly written.

I’m pleased to say I liked this book and not because I get a mention in the chapter about the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon. It is a very absorbing account of some very big challenges, from multi-day races in deserts to epic events in the Arctic with a few mountain events and a couple of triathlons thrown in as well. It all started with a 10 minute TV clip about the Marathon des Sables and things snowballed from there. David tells it as it is, no hype just good honest observation in a very engaging style. I couldn’t put the book down; I wanted to know what happened next in each event and did he finish (not all had happy endings) and then I wanted to know what his next adventure was going to be.

Read this book and you will know what it is like to take part in some of the toughest footraces in the world. You will also know what it takes to succeed. I like his words right at the end.

 “Do you think you should have a go? You should. Will you finish? If you really want the finish line you will.”

Buy this book if you are even half thinking of taking on a big challenge. Buy this book if you want to be inspired. Buy this book and give it to someone who doesn’t understand why you do the crazy stuff you do. Don’t buy this book if you don’t want to leave your comfort zone and experience that incredible feeling you get when you complete an extreme challenge.

 

Available from Amazon