Reading to Run; Running to Read

I just finished reading Footnotes by Vybarr Cregan-Reid. It was an excellent book… as much a travel diary and literary history as a book about running.

I normally do a bit more research before starting a book but this one came highly recommended so I jumped right in. I was unaware that the author was a Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Kent. Cregan-Reid underpins and punctuates his running journey with numerous literary references and quotations. They are all apposite, detailed and creatively employed.

I can certainly recommend the book to fellow runners as I came away feeling that Cregan-Reid unearths the very essence of running and its role in our relationship to the world around us. But, I can also recommend the book to those who have an avid interest in literature and travel; particularly those with an enthusiasm for writers who extolled the virtues of nature like Blake, Coleridge, Hardy, Tolstoy and Woolf.

This was my sixth running-related book during what has been a very good reading running year:

  1. Askwith, Richard – Today We Die a Little: Emil Zátopek, Olympic Legend to Cold War Hero
  2. Cregan-Reid, Vybarr – Footnotes: How Running Makes Us Human
  3. Finn, Adharanand – Running with the Kenyans: Discovering the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth
  4. Finn, Adharanand – The Way of the Runner: A Journey into the Fabled World of Japanese Running
  5. McDougall, Christopher – Born to Run: The Hidden Tribe, The Ultra-Runners and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
  6. Murakami, Haruki – What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: A Memoir

They are all well written and each is uniquely different.

Today We Die a Little by Richard Askwith was the most interesting read. I knew nothing about Emil Zátopek prior to reading the book. I had never even heard of him! Askwith’s biography is rich in detail; profoundly inspirational; and deeply heartbreaking.

However, I feel that Born to Run by Christopher McDougall has had the most significant impact on my running. Not only is there a fantastic over-arching story about the Tarahumara and Micah True’s tireless efforts to organise a race in the Copper Canyons (Mexico), but weaved into the narrative is a well-researched argument for barefoot running.

McDougall uses historical facts, scientific data and a wealth of anecdotal evidence to present a compelling case for freeing one’s feet from the tyranny of running shoes. I am not fully converted. My feet remain shod when I run but I spent three months focussing intently on my running form. I now land mid to forefoot; run with a slight forward lean; and have increased my cadence significantly. The impact has been huge. I am quicker; I can run further; and I have been close to injury free ever since. No plantar fasciitis here!

Next up is… The Runner: Four Years Living and Running in the Wilderness by Markus Torgeby.

I’m currently reading Footnotes by Vybarr Cregan-Reid. My run on Sunday morning reminded me of this passage from the book:

We runners know that once you settle down deeply into pace, you settle just as deeply into the landscape; you huddle into it. The reason that the experience of the landscape can be so intense is that you become part of it. What you are feeling is an analogue for what the place is feeling as it feels itself, and you.

Following the downpour on Saturday and seeing the thermometer read one degrees Celsius, I decided it was best to stick to the trails. I was rewarded by finding myself ‘huddled into’ my surroundings. The sun shone through the gaps in the trees; the air was crisp and fresh; and the trail was familiar – like an old friend. I had ‘settled’ in and found myself ‘deeply’ connected to the landscape around me.

It is these moments, and they happen more and more often, that have turned running into a necessary part of my life.

I don’t want to run. I have to run!

Stoked to get back out on the road and trails after taking a week off from running to nurse a pulled muscle in my back.

Here be stats:

  • 6.02 Km: 00:32:42
  • Run Pace: 00:05:26 (Min/Km)
  • Run Speed: 11.05 Km/hr

This website is really useful if you are into your running/pace statistics.

I also finished reading Richard Askwith’s excellent biography of Emil Zatopek. 🇨🇿 🚂