The Incomplete Book of Running

THE INCOMPLETE BOOK OF RUNNING
By Peter Sagal
208 pp. Simon & Schuster. $27.00.

“The Incomplete Book of Running” speaks well to the stereotypical middle-aged male, married with 2.5 kids, and runs to find peace (there certainly are a lot of us). Based on the number of occasions I found myself Googling definitions, Sagal is a true wordsmith. In a therapeutic sense, he uses these pages to navigate the divorce proceedings he’s processing. The title, “The Incomplete Book of Running”, is appropriate. It’s a scattered collection of (mostly) running-based topics. Throughout, Sagal invokes his great wit and wisdom, successfully illuminating a path to better wellness.

There’s no shortage of Boston-themed running in “The Incomplete Book of Running”. While Sagal has run it previously as a qualifier, his 2013 journey as a guide is detailed (Team With A Vision). Next, Sagal reflects upon Jim Fixx’s 1977 book “The Complete Book of Running”, encapsulating it’s discussion of running’s bare essentials (at the time, $20 to $40 run shoes and a pair of shorts were sufficient). Sagal continues to impress with his charitable run accomplishments, detailing his award as top fund raiser in the “Cupid’s Undie Run” for the Children’s Tumor Foundation. He ponders if the $4,000 raised is actually his top running achievement.

A consideration for running without headphones is introduced, then detours into a non-running related subject: Why our Constitution works. After reading it twice I’m still not certain why it’s discussed. Nevertheless, I found it interesting but can understand why some might question it’s inclusion. Next, Sagal takes us through his experience of the Boston Marathon bombing. His vivid descriptions did much for my mind’s imagery of that fateful day.

Reflecting upon both healthy and unhealthy choices, Sagal is forthcoming with his travails of proper weight management through food selection and running. Earlier in life he survived, what he now believes, were episodes of anorexia. Presently, he’s much more at peace with his diet, as well as his physical self, and to the betterment of the reader he shares with us how he arrived at this tranquility. Next, a running accident is shared (Sagal breaks his back due to a car collision). Also, he describes how troublesome GI issues have impacted his running.

Moving on, an endeavor from which Sagal gained a helpful dose of perspective is detailed. He volunteers to discuss his Boston Guide experience and runs with a group of visually impaired students. As a result, Sagal is compelled to re-assess his own troubles. Later, the internet hawks come after Sagal for banditing 20 miles of the Chicago Marathon. Anyone with an opinion on the matter (e.g., @MarathnInvestgr tweets) will be engrossed in this content as Sagal weighs the severity of his sin.

Sagal’s knowledge of training plans is shared. He forgoes the “Run Less, Run Faster” plan (run every other day, off days consisting of cross training, providing time for the body to heal) for a more aggressive plan in a marathon PR push. By 11+ minutes he succeeds, finishing Philadelphia in 3:09. Finally, the book comes full circle as Sagal runs the 2014 Boston edition. He’s compelled to return after the bombing. Sagal contemplates the dangers of running as he had witnessed a death due to cardiomyopathy in Philadelphia. The odds are incredibly small but real. Realizing he’s running Boston that very day, Sagal decidedly moves on from this train of thought. Afterwards, he tells the tale of Jacob Seilheimer’s entertaining Boston (bandit) run. With no running background, and 3 month’s before the marathon, Jacob would drop his weight from 450 to 360 lbs. Jacob doesn’t start the race until all registrants had already done so and finishes in roughly 8 hours. Further details of Jacob’s background are revealed: Lyme’s disease and a brain tumor leading to surgery, radiation, and chemo. The cancer would later return. It’s difficult to not cheer for Jacob.

Darker days now seemingly in the past, a new house, finance, and adding a couple dogs to his life have buoyed Sagal’s outlook. While suggesting his PR attempts have been put to rest, running continues to play a critical role in Sagal’s life.

🏃‍♂️📚

#DidYouKnow courtesy “The Incomplete Book of Running”: At the 2013 Boston Marathon, a runner and her wheel chair bound daughter were shielded from bomb shrapnel by a relative that was banditing the race.

#Follow Peter Sagal Here

Reborn On The Run

REBORN ON THE RUN
By Catra Corbett and Dan England
240 pp. Skyhorse Publishing. $24.99.

Catra Corbett found a path. It was necessary, of course. The alternative was death. That path (or trail) was discovering ultra running and runners will surely enjoy it’s discussion in “Reborn On The Run”. However, Corbett’s brutal life experiences, which seemingly both feed into and are produced by her list of maladies (depression, anxiety, addiction, anorexia, and suicidal thoughts) paces the ultra topic. Without filter, she shares her darkest days and explains how running helps illuminate the way to a better life. Her discourse in ultras brought delight to this reviewer. The physical and mental challenges a successful ultra runner needs to circumvent are artfully described.

In Catra’s 20’s, life circulated around working at a salon and Goth scene clubbing. She loved club dancing and it was also a means of staying lean. Meth gave her the ability to do it endlessly. At times, meth could lead to hallucinations and later she connects that to ultras. When ultra peers raced 75+ miles and started seeing demons in the darkness, she could relate. Returning now to her pre-running former self, Catra’s drug addiction spirals out of control and she’s arrested for selling. The experience of jail shakes her to her core. She moves into her mother’s house and begins the slow climb to normalcy. At this time she finishes high school (as Valedictorian, no less).

In “Reborn On The Run”, Catra’s early life struggles dominate the initial chapters. The running subject mingles with these troubles and increasingly holds the focus as the book unfolds. Ironically, Catra hated running in her childhood years but ultimately it’s her savior. First, however, more personal troubles would be divulged. Upon reading of her father’s early death (heart attack) and molestation at the hands of a family friend, one easily associates Catra Corbett with the title, “survivor”.

On to recovery, 3 mile dog walks would lead to a 10K and road marathons. She runs past the clubs she would formally visit while on meth. Her running focus has now eclipsed that low point in her life. Her desire to run becoming increasingly insatiable, trail marathons follow and then ultras. Also, she credits running with helping her stay connected to her late father, who shared an interest in the sport. The magnitude of Catra’s ultra successes, as well as lessons learned in the sport, are now presented. Her eating disorder leads to difficulties with proper nutrition and, of course, blisters would have to be overcome. In particular, bladder infections would be an Achilles heel. While tough times persist (a divorce as well as more deaths including her mother and sister), Catra’s ultra-based conversations are thoroughly enjoyable. A long list of experiences are shared (Western States 100, the John Muir Trail, Bad Water, a trek across the continental U.S., and more).

“Reborn On The Run” has it’s share of grammatical (autocorrect?) errors. Don’t let that preclude your selection of this book (her recounts of connecting with nature on the run has me considering ultra registrations). However, it’s an occasional nuisance.

Catra Corbett has run hundred-milers a hundred times and a few two hundred milers. She’s an overall winner of The Razorback Endurance Race (100 miles) in San Martin, CA. As she ages, Catra’s now setting comparable goals. Running forty-eight straight days upon turning fort-eight, running fifty hours upon turning fifty, etc. Running’s been good to her. It’s saved her. Clearly, she’s been reborn.

🏃‍♀️📚

#DidYouKnow courtesy “Reborn on the Run”: The Western States 100 was a horse race before it was a human racing event. In 1974, while horses were competing in the event, Gordy Ainsleigh was the first to do it on foot, completing the 100 miles in 23 hours, 42 minutes.

#Follow Catra Corbett: Here

Running Is My Therapy

RUNNING IS MY THERAPY 👍
By Scott Douglas
288 pp. The Experiment. $19.95.

“Running Is My Therapy” delves into the therapeutic link running provides those dealing with depression and/or anxiety. It does so at a level intended to embrace all individuals. Without declaring his greatness, author Scott Douglas is a great runner. Don’t let that intimidate you. Early on he succeeds in conveying the notion: if you run, you are runner. His words are comforting as he explains how running can ease the aforementioned afflictions by way of both scientific study and his personal experiences. Like antidepressants, it’s unknown exactly how running helps. However, Douglas goes about connecting the dots in such a way that it’s hard not to believe. As in, no one can prove fewer greenhouse gas emissions helps curb global warming, but…

Douglas doesn’t limit the book’s direction to running’s impact on solely managing depression. He discusses in depth running’s impact on overall brain health. The expectation is not that every reader is both a runner AND impacted by depression (but if that’s the case for you then all the better). Douglas acknowledges his depression but lack of anxiety and this may well be the reason depression holds much of the book’s focus. That’s not to say anxiety is not discussed as an entire chapter is dedicated to it. Without yet enlisting antidepressants or therapy, Douglas discusses how running and better lifestyle choices can improve your mood (ie: run exertion level, time of day to run, running in natural environments, social connections, diet, sleep, etc.). Moving on, he also describes some potential side effects of each of the more widely regarded antidepressants available. What’s appreciated in this book is just as Douglas shares his robust research on the different topics, you also get his personal accounting when the matter applies to him. Also, the reader will better understand the potential of both professional and non-professional talk therapy. You’ll become familiar with the terms Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and mindfulness (“Stop looking at your damn watch and just run!”) and how they can lessen depression’s severity. Finally, a discussion of maintaining run goals at all times will keep you moving forward even when you may not have a race on the calendar.

In conjunction with running, Douglas goes about describing the many tools available for tackling depression. He references numerous scientific studies to support the logical conclusions of these different tools. In my view, it seemed “study-heavy” at times as I found myself re-reading this information in order to make sure I fully digested the science he’s conveying. However, maybe that’s my deficiency (and not his problem).

It’s refreshing that Douglas doesn’t try to represent running as the cure-all for maintaining mental health. He calls out this point making sure to declare running’s impactful limits. He also makes it deeply personal. Douglas describes in detail the different arrows in his own quiver he uses during his depressive episodes and why they may, or may not, work for others. If you’re like me, his accounting for his troubles will have you considering some experiences in your life. A pre read cursory look at “Running Is My Therapy” seemed to confirm my anticipation for this book. I eagerly jumped in and found this was an incredibly appropriate read for me. I’ve never been medically diagnosed with, nor have I ever sought treatment for, depression. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t wondered. As Douglas explains, for some, running is enough to manage depression. From a very early age, running has always made me feel better. Per Douglas “a healthy mind (or soul) in a healthy body” is Asics translated. Coincidentally, I’ve only ever worn Asics. Perhaps “Running Is My Therapy” will put your mind at ease, too.

🏃‍♂️📚

#DidYouKnow courtesy “Running Is My Therapy”: Alberto Salazar once ran the Falmouth Road Race with such exertion that he was administered last rites.

#Follow Scott Douglas: Here

Duel In The Sun

DUEL IN THE SUN
By John Brant
224 pp. Rodale Books. $15.95.

Curious is how I would summarize my pre-read thoughts for “Duel In The Sun”. Marathons are long, but how could the 1982 Boston Marathon fill 200+ pages? Well, multiple journeys would ensue. The deliberations of that Patriot’s Day are woven in and out of the life experiences of Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley. The 1982 race discussion never strays far (the individual chapter number illustrations reflect the long shadows cast that day). However, this book’s center stage is also shared by what occurs prior to that Hopkinton start and beyond that Boston Finish. As book contributors, both Salazar and Beardsley offer sincere, honest accounts.

One comes away from this read accepting that Dick Beardsley is a cup is half full kind of guy. That said, he describes Salazar as a non-braggart and welding a simply honest persona. However, Salazar’s pre Boston words give pause to that status. “…well, the facts are plain; I’m the fastest man in the race.” Beginning in childhood, it’s Salazar’s work ethic that persists. However, as his physical prowess had not yet arrived, he was his own greatest challenger. Dealing himself repeated anguish. Charging towards athletic goals before his body was ready. That mentality fueled a fire. As his physical maturity caught up, the fire raged on. Further, in those rare cases that his physicality did not warrant top seed, he would outwork an opponent. His pain-threshold beyond comprehension.

Post 1982 Boston, Salazar is broken. The extreme stress of that day would illicit both a physical (asthma) and mental (depression) change that hampered his running ability for much of his remaining prime athletic years. He sets out on multiple journeys attempting to resolve these maladies and eventually discovers a modicum of relief (Prozac), leading to a 1994 Comrades Marathon victory. Trying to fend off injury, his self-prescribed buildup to winning that grueling 55 mile race put him in his basement doing the bulk of his training on a treadmill. His unquestionable, personal belief that no one would work harder had not wavered.

One of Salazar’s methods for mitigating his health woes involved a couple religious pilgrimages to Yugoslavia. While this matter is undoubtedly relevant, I found the number of pages devoted to it to be excessive. Perhaps others will embrace this content and won’t share my sentiment.

Beardsley’s pre-1982 Boston account follows a coming of age stemming from the Minnesota wilderness. It’s in these lands he finds several means (fishing, hunting, farming) of coping in an effort to steer clear of the alcoholism-fueled behaviors of both his mother and father. Beardsley then follows a much more aptly path in cross country running after a brief football try-out and subsequent trouncing. Next would be a moderately successful college career and then a return to farming until the draw of running would again capture Beardsley’s attention.

Much like Salazar, Beardsley post-Boston road is more associated with trauma than success. He would quickly succumb to an Achilles injury and then inevitably invite another round of Minnesota farming. It’s in this period that he tragically injures himself in a tractor-related accident. Brant (with Beardsley surely contributing) writes with frightening clarity the brutality of this event. Somehow avoiding death, it’s this dire occasion and seemingly impossible recovery that puts Beardsley on the path of a full-on drug addict (pain meds). The law catches up with him which enables Beardsley to narrowly escape death from addiction. Ultimately, he succeeds in finding a path to normalcy and, incredibly, Beardsley returns to running (for pleasure). He would post marathon times later in life in the 2:40s.

The post 1982 Boston upheaval for both men well in the past, Beardsley and Salazar do recognize their appreciation for one another. A greater mutual respect than was apparent on that fateful Patriot’s Day is real. A Beardsley-built half marathon brings Salazar to Minnesota. Now, whoever finishes first is irrelevant (and not disclosed).

🏃‍♂️📚

#DidYouKnow courtesy “Duel In The Sun”: Bill Rodgers was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War and gave up running during his CO service at a state mental hospital.