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