Sunday, January 23, 2011

Those Great Old Running Books

I suppose one of the many signs of getting older is becoming nostalgic for things that were around when you were younger. For me,it's simple things like being able to go somewhere and buy a cup of coffee for less than a dollar,walking on the beach where I live and not seeing almost every young girl covered with more tattoos than your average trucker,wishing the running shoes I bought this year and loved,weren't changed the next.There is one thing however that I really miss and something that was so readily available in the '70's, great running books.Be they "how-to train" or biographies,the '70's were the golden age for running books.For me,it only takes a trip to the local bookstore to confirm that this era is long gone. To make matters worse,most of the books that were such an integral part of a runner's bookshelf way back when,are now out of print, occasionally available online at outrageous prices.If you want to see proof of this, look on Amazon for some of the books by John L Parker and any by Percy Cerutty. As a matter of fact,the bio on Cerutty by Graem Sims,Why Die,is selling used for $99. and $ Until a few years back when they finally re-released Parker's classic, Once a Runner,it was selling used for over a hundred dollars.
My hope in this brief article is to acquaint some of the readers to the books that offered timeless instruction and inspiration.
One of the guys I trained with in the late '70's and throughout the '80's was Ralph Zimmerman. He was a very successful masters' runner who ran the 1980 Olympic trials' marathon. I recall the time he showed me the training schedules that Arthur Lydiard had sent him. I should add here that Arthur would always respond to inquiries. I still have the two letters he wrote me in the early '90's that were in response to some training questions I'd had.It's interesting how many of the great people like Lydiard do not regard themselves as too important or busy to take a moment and write back. Sometime after copying the schedules, Ralph lent me Lydiard's book, Running the Lydiard Way and what a treasure it was. I ended up xeroxing most of it at work.It was loaded with biographical info as well tons of schedules for a variety of distances and age-groups.It also explained the hows and whys in respect to why you train and race the way he recommended. As Lydiard used to say,if a coach can't give you a good reason as to why you are doing a particular work-out,then you need to get another coach. I believe this book is still available at a reasonable price online.It's a must have for those who live for the run.
In the early '70's, the people who published Runner's World put out a series of booklets on runners that are classics and very hard to find today. There was The Frank Shorter Story by John L.Parker,Tale of the Ancient Marathoner(Jack Foster),one about Gerry Lindgren and another about ultra-legend Ted Corbitt.I recently looked at Amazon for a price on Tale of the Ancient Marathoner and saw that it was going for $250., used!
Another great book was the one that I featured in an earlier post called,The Self-Made Olympian by Ron Daws. Other books that were similar in subject and content were, Running to the Top by former world marathon record holder(12 years) Derek Clayton and Always Young,a bio about George Young,a four time Olympian. I will always remember Derek Clayton's comments in response to Bill Rodgers and other top American runners who said they needed to be sponsored so they could train full-time and not work. Clayton said that he believed there were just so many hours in a day that you could devote to training and that having a job was,if anything,a help, not a hindrance to his running.
Then there was a book called,Van Aaken Method by Dr.Ernst van Aaken which heavily stressed long slow distance with careful monitoring of food intake.Some of his students included Olympic medalist Harold Norpoth and Manfred Steffney,marathoner and author of another excellent running book,Marathoning.
Some other must have books are, Serious Runners Handbook by Tom Osler,Marathoning by Bill Rodgers and Joe Concannon,anything by John L.Parker,especially Runners and Other Dreamers.Include on this list any of the Percy Cerutty books but number one should be, Athletics:How To Become A Champion. Occasionally you will see this book available on Ebay but it isn't cheap. There are probably a few other books that I have forgotten but I would be remiss not to include Kenny Moore. Fortunately,his books are available through his website and he will sign them for you if desired. His book, Best Efforts, is a phenomenal book that offers a variety of profiles on such runners as Pre,Mary Decker,Ron Clarke,John Walker,Lassen Viren,Bill Rodgers as well as several others.
There are two things that all these books I've mentioned have in common,one, is that almost all of them are out of print,the other is what I wrote about earlier,they all offered instruction and inspiration. There was a sense of optimism and getting personal in these books that I find lacking in the running books published today.This is just my opinion but the only really good running book I've read in the last 15 years was Born to Run.But, that's just my opinion. Perhaps I think like this because I've been spoiled by those great running books of decades past. To those who would like to get some of the books I've mentioned I'd suggest you continue to look online and never pass by a used bookstore without going inside.Take it from me,you may find a book that is going for a $100.+ online selling for two dollars on some grungy bookshelf.
I call it modern day treasure hunting for those who live for the run.

1 comment:

  1. Big mistake--I forgot Pre by Tom Jordan, a must have for every runner.