So, spoiler alert, I would like to one day run a marathon. Until I am back to my spritely running form, I have decided to read one book a month about running in order to keep my enthusiasm up and learn a thing or two. I don’t have a lot of runner friends that READ about running, so getting good recommendations has been mostly trial and error. As previously stated, I don’t like to read reviews prior to reading a book because I don’t want to taint my own feelings. I had already started this one when I added it to my goodreads.com profile. Unfortunately, I caught a glimpse of some negative reviews so this might feel like an apologist essay. If so, I apologize (do you see what I did there?).
Ed Ayres began running in high school on a cross country team. He continued to run races throughout his life and founded the first running magazine, Running Times. In 2001 he ran the JFK 50 Mile and set a record for his age group. Ten years later he wrote a book about his experience in the race mingled with his musings on life. The book begins as he is watching his toddler grandson learn to run and poses a question: We are teaching our kids how to run but are we teaching them how to endure? This question is two fold. Ayres discusses the obvious methods of running as a metaphor for how to live a full life and leave something for others. Some of the criticisms of this book are that he is overly moralistic (he is) and that he name drops. I just want to clarify, I don’t prescribe to everything Ayers is saying, but I do like some of his ideas of conservation. We live in a fast paced world where information and people are quite literally one click away. Sometimes, I feel that this makes people focus on a moment rather than realize that each individual is a speck on something larger. Sure, Ayres gets self righteous about this and that, but you have to realize he is basically writing this book when he is in his late sixties. Do we not get passes for being a little old and maybe a little crotchety? I certainly hope I do when I get into my 60s. As for the name dropping… I didn’t perceive his references to famous or well known individuals as malicious in any way. It did not seem to me that he was trying to win glory by association but rather that he was an older guy trying to be concise so the reader is left in no doubt as to who he is discussing. It was a little tedious, but not overbearing.
Overall, I liked this book. It made me want to run, and it actually made me want to pay closer attention to the world around me. It didn’t drastically change my ideals or my politics (Ayres has a bit of a man crush on JFK which makes me roll my eyes) but Ayres writing style is vivid and comfortable to read. There were a series of essays at the end of the book with tips for people planning to run an ultra-marathon (really, not my cup of tea) that runners might find handy, but I would consider this book more of a philosophical tome than a running guide.