Books that can inspire you to run

Sudbury's libraries have a selection from which to choose

Kathrine Switzer, of Syracuse, N.Y., center, was spotted early in the Boston Marathon by Jock Semple, center right, who tried to rip the number off her shirt and remove her from the race. Switzer's friends intervened, allowing her to make her getaway to become the first woman to "officially" run the Boston Marathon on April 19, 1967. She has written a book about her experiences, Marathon Woman. (Paul Connell/The Boston Globe via Getty Images) Not Released Boston Globe / Boston Globe via Getty Images

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“If you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far. It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run.” ― John Bingham

Running is generally something that people either love or hate. It can be something that sparks joy or it can be something that causes pain and misery. This week’s book list goes out to the runners. It can also be the inspiration for the people who want to be runners or who have been thinking about running – reading books about something we want to do can inspire action and can be the first step towards starting to do it. Whether you consider yourself a runner or not, there are many inspiring and engaging books about running by runners to check out this summer.

  • How to Lose a Marathon by Joel Cohen. In this book, Cohen (a writer and producer for The Simpsons) takes readers on a step-by-step journey from being a couch potato to being a couch potato who can finish a marathon. Through a hilarious combination of running tips, narrative, illustrations and infographics, Cohen breaks down the misery that is forcing yourself to run. From chafing to the best times to run, explaining the phenomenon known as the “Oprah Line,” and exposing the torture that is a pre-marathon expo, Cohen acts as your snarky guide to every aspect of the runner’s experience. Many times while reading this book I had actual laugh-out-loud moments at some of the stories he shared, but I suppose that is to be expected from someone who writes for The Simpsons.
  • My Year of Running Dangerously by Tom Foreman. Foreman is a journalist with CNN and this is his journey from half-hearted couch potato to ultra-marathon runner, with four half-marathons, three marathons, and 2,000 miles of training in between; it’s a poignant and warm-hearted tale of parenting, overcoming the challenges of age, and quiet triumph.
    What started as an innocent request from his daughter to train for a marathon quickly turned into a rekindled passion for long-distance running —for the training, the camaraderie, the defeats, and the victories. Told with honesty and humour, Foreman’s account captures the universal fears of aging and failure alongside the hard-won moments of triumph, tenacity, and going further than you ever thought possible. I listened to this one as an audiobook; it is read by the author and I do recommend the audio version as he is a great storyteller. Despite the misadventures he runs into, it may encourage you to want to run your own longer distances.

– Running Like a Girl by Alexandra Heminsley is inspiring for any beginner runner who knows what it’s like to attempt that first run and how hard it is to get started. In her 20s, Heminsley spent more time at the bar than she did in pursuit of athletic excellence. When she decided to take up running in her 30s, she had grand hopes for a blissful runner’s high and immediate physical transformation. The stories of her first runs turn the common notion that we are all “born to run” on its head—and expose the truth about starting to run: it can be brutal.
Running Like a Girl tells the story of how Heminsley gets beyond the brutal part, makes running a part of her life, and reaps the rewards: not just the obvious things, like weight loss, health and glowing skin, but self-confidence and immeasurable daily pleasure, along with a new closeness to her father — a marathon runner — and her brother, with whom she ultimately runs her first marathon.

– Running by Jen A. Miller. This book is Miller’s witty, brutally honest account of her lifelong relationship with running, and an exploration of the many ways that the sport carves a path to empowerment. As a middle-of-the-pack but tenacious runner, Miller hones her skill while navigating relationships with men that, like a tricky marathon route, have their ups and downs. As she pushes herself toward ever-greater mileage, running helps Miller learn to love herself first, revealing independence, discipline and confidence she didn’t realize she had.

– Marathon Woman by Kathrine Switzer. An inspiring book to read for any of us who take for granted the idea that women can run pretty much any race we want to these days. Switzer was a trailblazer when it comes to creating opportunities for women in running. In 1967, she was the first woman to officially run what was then the all-male Boston Marathon, infuriating one of the event’s directors who attempted to violently eject her.
In what would become an iconic sports image, Switzer escaped and finished the race. This was a watershed moment for the sport, as well as a significant event in women’s history.
Including updates from the 2008 Summer Olympics, this book details the life of an incredible, pioneering athlete, and the lasting effect she’s had on women’s sports. Switzer’s energy and drive permeate the pages of this warm, witty memoir as she describes everything from the childhood events that inspired her to succeed to her big win in the 1974 New York City Marathon, and beyond.

– For those of you looking for tips on running technique consider a book by John Stanton and for food and fuel advice Eat Slow, Run Fast by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky is a great kitchen companion.

– Jessica Watts is the Coordinator of Outreach, Programs and Partnerships at the Greater Sudbury Public Library.

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