The Looniness of the Long Distance Runner

by Russell Taylor | Sports |
ISBN: 1842225685 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingGoryDetailswing of Nashua, New Hampshire USA on 7/13/2006
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Journal Entry 1 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Thursday, July 13, 2006
I enjoyed this book so much when I first read it courtesy of another BCer - see here - that I've picked up more copies to share when I could. This one's a nice hardcover copy that I think I'll hang onto for a while.

The book is the account of the author's attempts - semi-serious and often tongue-in-cheek - to get into shape for the New York City marathon, and is a wonderful blend of social commentary, British-style quips, and some fascinating information as well. The author's tone reminds me a bit of Dave "I swear I am not making this up" Barry, with a touch of Dan "More sentences are as follows" Leone, and maybe a little Bill Bryson - not bad company.

Some of the bits I've snickered at so far: "...my Secret Shame: I had never been to America. Having Never Been To America at the age of 38 is a bit like Not Having Lost Your Virginity or Not Having Passed Your Driving Test. You feel you have missed out on a crucial rites of passage experience without which you cannot presume to call yourself an adult. You harbor paranoid fears that you will find yourself at a dinner party one evening where the conversation gets on to fellatio or three-point turns. Suddenly someone will turn to you and ask your opinion. You will say something asinine in reply and everyone will realise... As it turned out almost everyone I confessed my guilty secret to said that they, too, had Never Been To America.... I was outraged to find I had been hanging around with such a bunch of L-plated virgins."

Upon deciding to write a book about running the marathon (and subsequently fretting about the author photo for the jacket): "To be honest, I'd always fancied one of those posed author shots on the dust jacket, nicely lit like in a corporate brochure: sitting at my desk, chin resting on hand, with a mug of sharpened pencils in the foreground (incidentally, contrary to what you might think, the modern writer does still use pencils: they're handy for prodding the 'reset' switch at the back of your laptop when it crashes)."

The next chapter features a "1066 and all that"-style history of the marathon as a race, beginning with the contradictory and confusing accounts of the actual battle of Marathon: "The situation is further confused in the nineteenth century when Robert Browning tackled the subject in a rather ditsy poem entitled 'Pheidippides'. Browning amalgamates various versions of the legend and has his hero Pheidippides running to Sparta, bumping into Pan on the way back, fighting in the battle itself, then running back to Athens and finally pegging out. The poet also throws in a few touches of his own. He has a strange obsession with fennel and goats."

There's another slew of pages-that-I'd-like-to-quote, but I shall try to be brief and save some surprises for those who read the book themselves.

Lessee... there's the bit about his "gym journal" [he basically journals his training at the gym, including how far he ran, what items he forgot, and what excuse he used to skip a session - very, very funny, especially if you've been to a gym and didn't want to be there].

He goes on to describe the races he goes out for - usually without sufficient study ahead of time, ensuring confusion on his part and hilarity on mine - leading up to the New York Marathon itself; along the way he inserts a few movie reviews for films having to do - however remotely - with running. [These included "Logan's Run," about which he says "Where the film rings true is in its accurate observation that people only take up running when they reach the age of 30. Its portrait of a society where such individuals are considered dangerous misfits and are killed on sight will probably not bring comfort to today's midlife-crisis marathoner."]

In each race he contrasts the agony and despair of the beginning, the toil of the race itself, and the euphoria of sitting down afterwards ("You may think you know all about sitting down - in fact you've probably sat down several dozen times today - but, let me tell you, you haven't sat down until you've run 13 miles and *then* sat down. I've never taken heroin, but it cannot be much better than this.").

The occasional fashion statement shows up, too: talking about cargo pants, he says "As a boy I like the practicality of them - one can keep one's mobile phone in the thigh pocket, thus preventing it from irradiating one's testicles."

Eventually he does get to the New York Marathon, and his description makes me feel as if I'd run it too [but without the actual pounding pain on my feet or subsequent exhaustion, but close enough]. The book's wrap-up is a little bit of a letdown, but the author's combination of gloominess (think Eeyore) and humor remains, and overall I thoroughly enjoyed the book - even learned a little bit about long-distance running. I'd recommend this book for sports fans, athletes, and couch potatoes as well...

Journal Entry 2 by wingGoryDetailswing at Benson Park in Hudson, New Hampshire USA on Friday, September 2, 2011

Released 11 yrs ago (9/2/2011 UTC) at Benson Park in Hudson, New Hampshire USA

WILD RELEASE NOTES:

I left this book in Benson Park, the lovely, recently-renovated park that was formerly Benson's Animal Farm, on a rock near the new 9/11 memorial, which features a girder from Ground Zero. (The book touches fondly on New York city, especially the marathon, so I think it's not inappropriate for the location.) Hope the finder enjoys it!

*** Released as part of Secretariat's 2011 September You're Such an Animal release challenge for the embedded word "loon". ***

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