Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Try This, Ditch That: Books on Running



I'm pretty sure the recommendation for Running Like a Girl: Notes on Learning to Run by Alexandra Heminsly came from Kerry from Entomology of a Bookworm. I've gotten lots of reading recs about running lately, and this was the first book I ate up. Gobbled, in fact. 

When Alexandra Heminsley decided to take up running, she had hopes for a blissful runner’s high and immediate physical transformation. After eating three slices of toast with honey and spending ninety minutes creating the perfect playlist, she hit the streets—and failed spectacularly. The stories of her first runs turn on its head the common notion that we are all “born to run”—and exposes the truth about starting to run: it can be brutal. (Goodreads)

Fail spectacularly she did. But she endured, which is what most of us find we have to do in order to like this running thing. It takes getting over the hump, finding the way for one's self, and let's face it...getting a bit addicted. 

I read this book in about a day and a half and would've finished it much quicker if I'd had more downtime. I woke my husband up with my laughing several times, and I cried like a freaking baby (heaving sobs) when Heminsley met her goals by fighting through the mental and physical anguish of the tough days. 


On the down side, I did not jive with Haruki Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (translated by Philip Gabriel). Put this one in the DNF column. 

I love Murakami's fiction, so I figured a book combining running and writing would be a big, big success. What I actually found was a blasé attitude about running and some lazy writing. Early in the book he refers to his fitness level as somewhere between a high achiever and an overweight runner whose doctors told him 20 minutes ago that he needs to start exercising. So, yeah, maybe I took that personally, but it's just such a lazy sterotype, and I expect more from an award-winning author. So after a quick, mental "fuck you, Haruki Murakami" I endured to page 75 before I tossed this one. 

While the stereotypes died down, on the whole I found the book repetitive and his entire attitude about running was lacking for me. For Murakami running is easy. If I'm going to relate, I think I need to read about a bit of a struggle. There was nothing motivational or moving about this one. 

21 comments:

  1. Hate to run. Love running books. I'm posting about A Year of Running Dangerously tomorrow

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    1. LOL, I didn't give two shits about running books before I started running myself, so I admire that you like them at all! Can't wait to see what you wrote about Running Dangerously!

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    2. Oh, I liked a Year of Running Dangerously! More than I expected to since Ultras aren't my jam.

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  2. Running Like A Girl sounds really good - I need to check it out!

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    1. Definitely do, Brandie! Such a fun, relatable, touching book!

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  3. Heh - I actually enjoyed Murakami's book, but mostly for the writing sections. I've never read his fiction though, heh.

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    1. I liked the writing bits more than the running bits, but the way he just sort of fell into everything irritated me. Jealous? Maybe! lol I love his fiction. I started with Norwegian Wood. I have the GIGANTIC 1Q84 waiting for me.

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  4. I found Murakami's running book to be a let down. I still love his fiction, but this one didn't work for me. I ended up DNFing it as well. I'm inspired to read Running Like a Girl though (eventually :)!

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    1. I hope you like Running Like a Girl when you get to it! I waffled on whether to finish What I Talk About When I Talk About Running but ultimately, it just couldn't hold my attention.

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  5. Oooh - interesting about the Murakami! I'd had my eye on that a bit and now will cross it off, so thank you! I'm so so glad you're getting into this running thing! Another running book I loved was Born to Run - about ultra marathoners and a really cool tribe of people that live in South America (I think?) and are amazing runners.

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    1. Sarah, I was about to recommend Born to Run as well. I loved that book. During the first half, I was like, WTF, why do people feel compelled to run ultramarathons in the desert, and in the second half, I was like, I totally want to do that too. (Not that I ever will, but it was fun thinking about it.)

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    2. Born to Run sounds awesome, y'all! I'll definitely have to give that one a go!

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    3. Chiming in with another vote for Born to Run over here, for what it's worth ;-)

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  6. I don't think I have ever read a book about running... I go on the treadmill, but never picture myself as an actual runner...

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    1. Oh I definitely think that qualifies you!

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  7. I am SO SO glad you liked Heminsley's book. I'm due for a re-read, I think, and this has me all excited to get back to it. And you hit the nail on the head for the Murakami book... I did finish it but it really never came together in any meaningful way for me, and I hadn't thought about how much of that was because he approached running in a very blase way that I could not relate to at all.

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    1. Yeah, I was really disappointed. I expected something magical and got...well...his crap. lol

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  8. So gonna check out Running Like a Girl. I wasn't crazy about that other book, either -- it felt flat to me.

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    1. I hope you have much better luck with Running Like a Girl than you did with Murakami's book!

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  9. Why did I think that I'd already commented on this when, clearly, I have not? So, anyway, my impression of Murakami's book is that this is supposed to be some kind of art house crap on his reflections while running, some sort of magical inner dialogue that we should all appreciate for its mindfulness...in other words, let's all pat Murakami on the back for thinking while he's out running - ha! I didn't understand what all the fuss was about...oh, well. I figured it was simply another case of a small-town Texas girl not understanding the "significance" of some artsy-fartsy book again. :)

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  10. I am impatient with Haruki Murakami anyway, to be honest. It is sort of unfair, just a function of the fact that a lot of bros and pretentious people and pretentious bros are really fond of him and want to tell me about him? Which is totally not Haruki Murakami's fault, but it does put me several jumps closer to "fuck you dude" than I would be at baseline. :p

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