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home : education : schools September 23, 2017

8/1/2017 5:46:00 PM
Running commentary | Summer reading suggestions
By Charlie Kanzig

For me, summertime means being outdoors as much as possible, whether it be running, hiking or biking. I have also found myself on my back deck stretched out on the couch or in the shady lawn in an Adirondack chair reading quite a bit this month.

When it comes to reading, I have an eclectic taste. I love biographies, but I am a sucker for mysteries and political thrillers as well. This summer, I got shamed into finally starting the Harry Potter series, certainly making myself one of the last Americans to do so.

But my absolute favorite choice of books, both fiction and non-fiction, is those that relate to running or other athletic pursuits that require the discipline of endurance training, perseverance, mental toughness and the pursuit of a far-reaching goal.

My sister Shawn, who lives in Port Angeles, Washington, gave me the best new recommendation for this summer when I visited her earlier this month. "Boys in the Boat" by Daniel James chronicles the quest of nine Americans in pursuit of the Olympic gold medal in rowing in 1936. While not about running, any runner could relate to the rigors of training described brilliantly by the author of the University of Washington team. Unlike the individual focus that most running stories involve, the beauty of this epic tale is how the young men learn to work together in beautiful harmony to reach their dreams.

The setting in the Northwest makes the story more vibrant for those of us familiar with the landscape; and the timeframe, during the rise of Hitler, makes the story particularly compelling.

The classic "Once a Runner" (1978) and its much-delayed sequel "Again to Carthage" (2008) by John L. Parker, Jr. are must-reads for anyone who ever ran track, particularly the mile or 1,500.

Every Oregonian with even the slightest interest in running should read "Pre: The Story of America's Greatest Distance Running Legend," which chronicles the life and running career of Steve Prefontaine, who died in a car crash in 1975 after an illustrious high school career at Marshfield High School in Coos Bay, Oregon, followed by dominance at the collegiate level for the University of Oregon and an epic race in the 5,000 meters at the 1972 Munich Olympics. He remains an emblem of charisma and gutsiness among American distance runners.

Related is "Bowerman and the Men of Oregon," by Kenny Moore, another University of Oregon runner and Olympian who does a masterful job of letting the reader get to know the essence of Bill Bowerman from his days as a child in Fossil, Oregon, through his career as the track and field coach at Oregon and on to being one of the founders of Nike.

One book that is on my list for the future is Matt Fitzgerald's "How Bad Do You Want It?" The book examines some high-level races to discover how some elite athletes build mental toughness. As a coach and a runner who is sort of starting over from scratch, I am thinking that this book might hold some valuable insights.

Finally, in acknowledgement that trail running, including ultra-marathoning, is becoming increasingly popular the book "Running Through the Wall: Personal Encounters with the Ultramarathon" looks very interesting as it includes stories from ultra-runners of all ages and experience levels, giving any runner/reader an opportunity to relate. The author, Neal Jamison, has written for numerous publications including Runner's World. Though not a new book, it is considered by critics to be a great introduction to the sport and a great encouragement for runners considering running further than the 26.2-mile marathon distance.

I am sure I am not alone as a runner in need of any extra motivation I can find to keep moving and perhaps one or more of these books will inspire others as well. There's plenty of summer left!

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