Benjamin Cheever is most famous for what he isn't: his father, John Cheever. It's obvious that this fact niggles at Ben Cheever because he brings it up repeatedly throughout his latest book, Strides: Running Through History with an Unlikely Athlete. These passages come across as whiny and detract from the overall story. Mr. Cheever, you're not your father. Get over it.
It's also obvious to me that Rodale has depleted its copy editing and proofreading staff, as the first edition is riddled with annoying errors like repeated words or phrases, inconsistent style and missing punctuation. However, as someone who works in the publishing industry, I recognize that these errors bother me more than most. That being said, I can be hired away from my current job for the right price.
Strides is part memoir and part history. Cheever bounces between topics from his own first marathon to Pheidippides' mythical run from Marathon to Athens, Greece. He juxtaposes marathon training from the Kenyans to U.S. military forces in Iraq. And he investigates various health issues such as the stress running puts on the body and the runner's high (or is it agony?).
The pacing of Strides makes for a fast and fancy free read, but it doesn't delve deeply into any of the topics Cheever presents. Instead, it feels like a series of running vignettes that comprise the enjoyment that Cheever--and I suspect nearly every runner--feels when he laces up his shoes.
Team Booze Hounds was particularly happy to read a few good drunkard passages, especially Cheever's experience in the Marathon du Medoc, which is more of a wine tasting than a race through one of France's most famous wine regions.
Strides is definitely worth a read, but not worth the buy. Dust off your library card for this one.
[Drunkard note: Read an interview with Cheever at Runners' World.]