Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Top Books About Running

The Ottawa Marathon took place on Sunday morning, and it got me thinking about the best books that are about running or feature running. I've limited the selection to books that I currently own, as I know that there are others out there that could easily make this list. However, here are my top books books about running:

1. "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" - Alan Silitoe
"So as soon as I tell myself that I'm the first man ever to be dropped into the world, and as soon as I take that first flying leap out into the frosty grass of an early morning when even birds haven't the heart to whistle, I get to thinking, and that's what I like. I go my rounds in a dream, turning at lane or footpath corners without knowing I'm shouting good morning to the early cow-milker without seeing him. It's a treat being a long-distance runner, out in the world by yourself with not a soul to make you bad-tempered or tell you what to do or that there's a shop to break and enter a bit back from the next street. Sometimes I think that I've never been so free as during that couple of hours when I'm trotting up the path out of the gates and turning by that bare-faced, big-bellied oak tree at the lane end. Everything's dead, but good, because it's dead before coming alive, not dead after being alive. That's how I look at it."
2. Once a Runner - John L. Parker, Jr.
Perhaps the most famous book about running, Once a Runner documents the story of a young college athlete as he strives to achieve a sub-4 minute mile (it's an impressive mark to reach). One reviewer writes, "Once a Runner captures the essence of what it means to be a competitive runner, to devote your entire existence to a single-minded pursuit of excellence. In doing so it has become one of the most beloved sports novels ever published."
3. The World According to Garp - John Irving
Garp is a voracious runner - equaled only by his passion for writing and cooking: "He spent his day writing (or trying to write), running, and cooking. He got up early and fixed breakfast for himself and the children; nobody was home for lunch and Garp never ate that mean; he fixed dinner for his family every night. It was a ritual he loved, but the ambition of his cooking was controlled by how good a day he'd had writing, and how good a run he'd had. If the writing went poorly, he took it out on himself with a long, hard run; or, sometimes, a bad day with his writing would exhaust him so much that he could barely run a mile; then he tried to save the day with a splendid meal."
4. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running - Haruki Murakami
One of the best memoirs I have read. He talks about his life as a writer, and as a runner. The two passions are intertwined in his life, each requiring the same tireless work ethic, commitment and devotion. Every time I put the book down I was already half out the door in my mind, going for a run.
5. The Time-Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
Henry, the time-traveler, must keep in great shape as he will never know when he must run for his life upon appearing, naked, in a strange location. There are plenty of scenes that feature him running or going for a run. However, the book's random sequencing prohibits me from locating an example, unless I were to re-read the entire book. Which I cannot do right now, as War & Peace waits quietly on the table.

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