Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Book Club: The Ultimate Runner

This review has been a long time in the making. I received my free copy of The Ultimate Runner: Stories and Advice to Keep You Moving by Tom Green and Amy Hunold-VanGundy back in May, at the start of my training cycle for the Akron Marathon.

Only last week did I finish the book, after my marathon was over and after a marathon reading session while traveling for business.

My immediate reaction to reading this book was that I felt as if I were reading a collection of blog posts.

Tom and Amy are the creators of the Runners' Lounge, a social networking site for runners (for which they're now trying to find another owner). In a sense, these stories are a collection of blog posts that the editors solicited from members of their website.

I don't mean to belittle anyone's personal running story. We all have our own tales that are important to us and that we want to tell others. I'm lucky that I have a faithful readership willing to read my nonsense (for now). However, it wouldn't fly in book form, and it doesn't go over well in The Ultimate Runner either.

If you're going to pay $14.95, which I did not, then you want the writing to be top-notch.

The book is broken up into seven chapters: 
  1. "Why We Run: Physical Transformation" 
  2. "Emotional and Spiritual Insights"
  3. "The Social Side of the Sneakers"
  4. "Off the Beaten Path"
  5. "Memorable Races"
  6. "Running for a Cause"
  7. "Must-Know Info"

There are a few gems that are inspirational, clever, and well-written. Sadly, too many of these stories are mediocre at best. The running know-how would benefit beginning runners, but the advice in this book wasn't anything I haven't read elsewhere.

The best section of the book was "Running for a Cause." Each of the five stories in this chapter touched the cold, black heart of the Viper. There are also some really neat pictures in the book.

Some highlights:

  • "Running for Two" might be the best story of the lot. 
  • You get a sense of the joy we get from being a part of the tribe.
  • All abilities are accounted for, and there is even a story dedicated to our wonderful cheerleaders who inspire us to new personal bests.
  • Some much-needed perspective: What more do you need?

Some lowlights:

  • Lots of "I'm not a true runner" comments. Guess what? If you run, you're a runner. 
  • A whole story about GU? Seriously.
  • Redundant redundancy. 

Another observation: Not a whole lot of male perspectives. Maybe I didn't like the book because I'm sexist. There are 49 stories in The Ultimate Runner, and 18 are written by 17 men. The bulk of those are in the "Must-Know Info."

Overall, I'm glad I didn't pay for this book, and I wouldn't suggest you run out to buy it either. There is something here for everyone, but something that can be found anywhere. If you're interested in reading this book, contact me with your address and I'll send you my copy. Otherwise, search through my blog roll to the right if you want to find similar reading material.

While I was reading The Ultimate Runner, I watched the ESPN "30 for 30" film "Into the Wind" about Terry Fox. Now that is an inspirational and well-told running story.


Jamoosh said...

The Viper has spoken. I will hold onto my cash.

Ref: Terry Fox. If every runner saw that 30 for 30 you would never hear another runner complain again.

Emz said...

Loved this:

If you run, you're a runner.

So true. Awesome.

Nitmos said...

Watched the 30 for 30 last night. Didn't want to see the end...but had to.

Nitmos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Spike said...

Must go watch the 30 for 30 movie right now.