Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Tue, 19 Dec 2000 09:08:46 -0500

Book Learning

(from RC 334)

John Reinhart is the type of runner I like -- one who reads books. The Kansan goes beyond his own reading to comment, "I've wondered from time to time what books that all runners should have in their collection.

"I think The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Jim Fixx's Complete Book of Running, and several by George Sheehan must absolutely be on the short list. But what else -- Meditations From the Breakdown Lane, something by Bill Rodgers, Kenny Moore, Hal Higdon, you?"

Reinhart left me a perfect opening for self-promotion, but I won't step into it by naming any of my own books. I won't even list all of my favorites, having done that before, but will repeat only one title.

My first choice is Arthur Lydiard's Run to the Top. It validated and systematized the type of training I already preferred to do.

In an upcoming article for Marathon & Beyond magazine, Scott Hubbard picks 25 books that belong in every runner's library. "I could have come up with a list of 100," says Scott.

Now I'm turning over the selection to you. Think of the one book that has influenced you most.

It doesn't need to be the best written book or a best seller. It's the one that said exactly what you needed to know at just the right time.

I asked this question of my newsletter readers, and it proved to be a tough task. One of them, Ron Marinucci, tried and failed.

"I have wracked my brain trying to single out one book," he wrote. "Just when I find one that I think might fit the bill, I see another that makes me hedge. There is no single book that I can pick, just as there is no single race that I can choose as my favorite."

Michael Musca worked through the same dilemma by ignoring my ground rule. He asked, "How can you ask us to limit our list to ONE book? Cruel. As a reader/runner/wannabe author, I'll provide my top five."

Others of you did the same. So I'll relax the rule and list, alphabetically, all books named.

(Some are mine. But, please believe me, this exercise wasn't meant as an excuse for such self-promotion.)

-- Best Efforts, by Kenny Moore. "The title says it all. His best efforts are the best running writing around." (Michael Musca)

-- Better Runs, by J.H. "No contest for my choice. This book has its pages red-pencilled with stars, asterisks, exclamation points, arrows, brackets and underlinings." (Cathy Troisi)

-- Boston Marathon, by Tom Derderian. "Best compilation of this classic race. Each year's race is a separate 'story,' not just a chronicle." (Musca)

-- Cold Clear Day, by Frank Murphy. "Timely book about Buddy Edelen just before his passing." (Musca)

-- Conditioning of Distance Runners, by Tom Osler. "A gem!" (Pete League)

-- Did I Win?, by J.H. "I hand somebody the epilogue from this book at least once a day." (Mark Siwik)

-- Front Runner, by Patricia Nell Warren. "A charming and romantic account of forbidden love and hard-bodied distance runners. The best running books, of course, are never really 'about' running." (Susannah Beck)

-- Galloway's Book of Running, by Jeff Galloway. "It got me out of a non-running period and renewed my passion." (Michael Pedro)

-- Legend of Lovelock, by Norman Harris. "In my opinion, the story on the 1936 New Zealand 1500-meter Olympic champion still is the finest, the most literary running biography ever written. You just cannot express the beauty and excitement of a runner's life any better." (Matti Hannus)

-- Long Run Solution, by J.H. "I think it's the book that most changed the running world." (Richard Watson)

-- Long Slow Distance, by J.H. "LSD gave me a way to train year-round at a volume that produced noticeable improvement." (Rich Englehart)

-- No Bugles, No Drums, by Peter Snell. "No book ever gave me such an irresistible will to train as this one, the biography of one of greatest milers of all time. It made me a competitive runner." (Hannus)

-- Once a Runner, by John Parker. "The best novel on running." (Al Hromjak)

-- On the Run from Dogs and People, by Hal Higdon. "I'll always remember reading it at my local library on a sunny winter day -- in one sitting. Thanks, Hal!" (Musca)

--Purple Runner, by Paul Christman. "A real runner's novel." (Watson)

-- Run Gently, Run Long, by J.H. "I was enchanted by the accounts of your weekend long-run group with people of both sexes and varying ages who weren't on a school team and who made the effort to get together to train. That thought really contributed to my deciding as a 16-year-old that I wanted to be a runner for the rest of my life." (Scott Douglas)

-- Running the Lydiard Way, by Arthur Lydiard. "It's tops." (Watson)

-- Self-Made Olympian, by Ron Daws. "A virtual cookbook for metamorphosing yourself from jogger to Olympian. No shortcuts, just hard work." (Musca)

-- Women's Running, by Joan Ullyot. "I almost committed it to memory. It gave me the idea that maybe I could become a serious runner, even at my advanced age. I was 38 at the time." (Diane Palmason)

-- World History of Track and Field Athletics, by Roberto Quercetani. "This was the first book I ordered from abroad, and made an everlasting impression on me. This is the way to write about track and field and its heroes, I thought. Later, I have written many of those myself!" (Hannus)

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