Review: To Be a Runner

Runs last week:

Still sticking to the treadmill for now. Given the effect slipping and sliding has had on my left ankle just from walking during the week (why, oh why, did I think I could get on the bus in a single bound?), this seems the better option. I can’t wait until that changes.

✧ 2.85 miles, 30:00 – 10:31 pace
✧ 2.92 miles, 30:00 – 10:16 pace
✧ 2.65 miles, 30:00, hills program – 11:19 pace

To Be a Runner: How Racing Up Mountains, Running with the Bulls, or Just Taking on a 5-K Makes You a Better Person (and the World a Better Place) by Martin Dugard

To Be A Runner

Having finished Born to Run and finding myself wanting to read something, anything, that could keep my attention (it is a sad time when a self-proclaimed “voracious reader” can find nothing to read), I headed to the Harold Washington Library and scoured the modest selection on running. Although most books are how-to-run type books, there were a few of the memoir style for which I was searching. While I enjoyed Born to Run, I didn’t feel particularly inspired by the story of the Tarahumara runners. I was intrigued by the scientific aspect of the book, but I am not an ultramarathoner or even a regular marathoner or someone who wants to devote their entire life to running. I’m just a regular person, hoping to one day run farther and faster than I do today. I wanted to read a regular person’s story.

Martin Dugard both is and is not a regular person. He coaches his son’s cross-country team, has run with the bulls in Pamplona, and has completed the Tough Guy in England, and yet is the guy who needs to get up in the morning and just run. Though it is clear that running is an integral part of his life, he doesn’t write as someone who believes this makes him special. He writes as someone who has learned the highs and the lows of this common activity and who is grateful for all it has given him. He writes as someone who believes it can give the same to you.

Perhaps most enjoyable about Dugard’s book is that in addition to being an accomplished runner, he is also a fine writer. There are a number of snippets that could be pulled out for easy inspiration for the floundering runner. There is his thought on the benefit of slow runs:

Slowing DownThere is his belief that the tracking habits of elite runners can suck the joy out of the sport:
Fun Out There
And there is his take on the struggle and the suffering that all runners endure:
Suffering Dugard credits running for saving him. He touches briefly on personal losses he suffered, but focuses more on the periods of time when running was not a part of his life. He gave up running several times and found himself out of shape and overweight, unable to immediately return to the speed he once previously possessed. It’s these struggles that make him more like you and me than the career runner whose training and practices seem alien to those of us who just lace up our shoes and step outside. He is impressive in recounting his quest to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team, something many of us never dream to do, but he is even more inspiring in telling of his personal adventure trail runs and of his uncoordinated efforts to impress the woman who would be in his wife in the early more aerobics classes she led. He is no superhero, but he is moving in his assertion that every once in a while, running can make you feel like you are one.

What speaks to me most about Dugard’s story is that although he was an elite athlete, although he has competed at a level that many of his readers will never know, he never forgets that running is a sport of the people. It is a sport that anyone can do and yet not everyone does. It is a sport for the common person who may never go far and may never go fast, but may one day prove to themselves that they are capable of far more than they ever believed. It is the running is more important that the medals and the gear and the specialized training terms. The running is what matters every day.

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