It’s now July and summer’s long days provide me with more time for reading. While I have a variety of interests — historical fiction, mysteries, spy thrillers, and travel—I tend to enjoy most those books that have to do with running or related endurance challenges.

 A fellow cross-country coach recommended my latest read, titled “Running to the Edge: A Band of Misfits and the Guru who Unlocked the Secret of Speed” by Matthew Futterman, which chronicles the coaching career of Bob Larson and the impact he had on helping to resurrect truly elite distance running in America, which had waned terribly by the 1990s after some golden years in the 1970s and 80s. It sounded good, so I headed straight for Paulina Springs bookstore and purchased it.

 Larson, a runner himself in high school and college, believed through his own struggles with injuries and inconsistent performance that there had to be a better way to train for races ranging from 1,500 meters to the marathon and he set out to figure that “secret sauce.” He began this quest in the late 1960s.  After four years of coaching high school runners he moved on to San Diego’s Grossmont College, a junior college, which before long, produced running teams that could rival most of the best four-year universities and clubs. The author weaves characters from Larson’s long career, which eventually includes coaching for the U.S. Olympic team, throughout the book. You don’t have to be a coach, or even an experienced runner, to appreciate the passion, hard work, innovation, and drive represented in the book. I especially appreciated Larson’s belief in building camaraderie as a team.

The latter part of the book focuses mainly on Meb Keflezighi, whom Larson coached for nearly 20 years and who became not only an Olympian but the winner of the 2014 Boston Marathon a month before his 39th birthday.

Other books that I recommend to stoke your summer running include three books by John L. Parker. His first book “Once a Runner,” published way back in 1978, is considered a classic in the running community. The story follows young Quentin Cassidy’s journey to the upper echelons of racing the mile on the track. Parker waited many years to write a sequel, “Again to Carthage,” which finds an older Cassidy rekindling his competitive fire, this time at the marathon distance. Parker’s third book, published in 2015, is a prequel called “Racing the Rain,” letting the reader meet the teenaged Cassidy. I recommend reading this “trilogy” in the order they were published.

A pair of books with foundations in Oregon include Tom Jordan’s Pre, which was written following the tragic death of Steve Prefontaine, the University of Oregon runner who became an American running icon in the 1970s thanks to his ferocious approach to racing, which made him basically unbeatable in America. He helped cement Oregon’s Hayward Field in Eugene as the centerpiece of what is now considered “Track City USA.”

On a side note, Hayward Field’s renovation is expected to be complete by May 2020 and will be the site of the 2021 WORLD Track and Field Championships, which have never been held on American soil.

Hayward Field and Steve Prefontaine cannot be mentioned without including Bill Bowerman, the long-time University of Oregon coach and co-founder of Nike. Reading “Bowerman and the Men of Oregon” by Kenny Moore is a tremendous close-up look at the man and the history he created here in Oregon.

My final book to suggest for now is one I have heard a lot about, but have not yet read. It’s called “Running Home: A Memoir,” by Katie Arnold. Arnold explores the healing power of running, particularly in dealing with grief after her father’s death. Arnold takes to running trails and eventually becomes an ultra-distance


I have read my share of running-related books and have noticed most are written about male runners. I am still waiting for some writer to come up with either a novel or a well-written biography with a woman runner as the main character. Maybe that will be on next summer’s suggested reading