Monday, April 25, 2011
A Good Summer Read
As summer approaches, you will often read reviews for books that are described as being great for taking along to the beach.In keeping with that tradition I am going to recommend a book that was revised,expanded and then republished in 1989,it's called Runners and Other Dreamers by John L.Parker. John is known best for his novel Once a Runner which is considered a classic within the running world. What many may not know is that over the decades he has written for a variety of magazines. I recall buying one magazine called Ultrasport just because John was a regular contributor to it. He also headed Cedarwinds publishing that offered excellent books and videos on running. The highlight of the catalogue he sent out periodically was an article he wrote commenting on some aspect of the running scene. John is insightful,blunt and sometimes sarcastic. He raced at an elite level and knows running like few others do. The sub-title for Runners and Other Dreamers is,"True stories about long-distance races and those who run them.....". One of the many great things about the U.S. distance running scene was that up until around 1985, it was loaded with American runners who competed and did well against anyone else in the world. These runners were,for the most part, engaging and charismatic, coming from a variety of different backgrounds. Sadly, this is no longer the case in this 21th century,at least in comparison to the amount of U.S. runners that were around back then. The book takes you back to those days and offers a veritable who's who list of great racers. It gets you into the heads and hearts of these athletes which is always insightful and inspiring. The book is also loaded with memorable quotes,a few that come to mind: "to judge a coach's ability I need only look to the performance of his or her athletes,period." On achieving running success: "You must be true to yourself and not create myths and excuses." One article entitled, "Smoke and Mirrors," offered his thoughts on Jim Fixx and his untimely death. It would not be a stretch to say that few writers would have had the courage and honesty to write the things he did about Fixx. His comments caused an outrage in many parts of the running community. I recommend this book to everyone but especially to runners 40 years of age and under. I say this because they will get an idea of what elite distance running once was in this country. It is my hope that those days will someday return.