The looniness of the long distance runner – book review

The title of this book, The looniness of the long distance runner, really appealed to me and the subtitle (‘An unfit Londer’s attempt to run the New York marathon’) just underscored that. As much as I love reading about elite athletes and what they do, I love even more reading stories of everyday athletes who turn up to events with no intention of placing in them. Hence why this book seemed right for me.

I will confess to being slightly disappointed when, a few chapters in, I realised that the author is actually one of those significantly faster people I see at events. Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against fast people and am pleased to have running friends of all speeds, running styles and clothing preferences. It just changed the perspective of the book somewhat – listening to him complain about struggling and missing frequent training sessions (yet still achieving better and better times) rankled.

However I persevered. There are quite a few laughs in this book and he has a self deprecating, witty writing style which makes it an easy read. The content is a mixture of his journey towards the New York marathon, some history of the event and tips for beginning runners.

Interspersed with this are various comments about slow runners, old runners, uncoordinated runners and, basically, how it is his goal to ensure he beats them all and doesn’t come last at an event. As, apparently, that is the worst thing that could possibly happen to a runner. And there I have been, worrying about nuclear war all of these years. I have been last in an event or two and can confirm for those who are concerned – you don’t spontaneously combust. But I digress.

If my review seems a little undecided, that’s because it is. I really did enjoy this book, particularly the first time I read it. Going back and reading it again, I probably was casting a more critical eye on it and just found some of the things pushing beyond funny and into mean. I know that wasn’t the intent, it’s just not an attitude I’ve seen too much in the running world so wasn’t expecting to see it here, even for the sake of getting a laugh. I’m pleased to say that in the running world I inhabit, last place is celebrated as much as first and times are compared to previous times rather than anyone else’s.

Check out the other reviews on Goodreads and, if you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂

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