I suspect the usual audience for a run memoir is runners, of the current or former variety. Running can be dreary enough without actually reading about it. (Dancing about architecture, anyone?) So, right off the bat, Tom Foreman’s My Year of Running Dangerously has a bit of an uphill battle with a significant portion of the reading public. Foreman makes a respectable effort at chronicling the descent into madness that is running.
A lapsed runner who hung up his trainers in the face of a demanding career and raising a family, Foreman barely hesitates when his daughter comes home from college for Thanksgiving and asks him to train for a marathon with her. Once the marathon passes, Foreman decides to take things up a notch by signing up for a local ultra (50+ mile race).
While Foreman is a career journalist, the first two-thirds of the book are surprisingly slow. From the book blurb, I expected Foreman’s journey to be one of reconnecting with his daughter through shared training. Foreman talks about the way his training impacts his family in a tentative way, carefully protecting their privacy. I can understand the hesitation, but I think it robs the story of a lot of its energy: Foreman talks about his wife’s growing frustration with the amount of his time training consumes, but nothing about his emotional response to it. (When I took up running after 11 years of co-couch-potatohood with my partner, we ended up in marital counseling. And I was only running 5ks.) I wanted more of the personal story.
It’s not until the back third, when Foreman actually describes the experience of running his first ultra, that the narrative gets really compelling. He manages to make the camaraderie of other participants sound charming, even while accurately portraying the emotional weight of running these extreme distances. I imagine anyone who finishes the book will either be inspired to sign up for an ultra themselves, or it will reaffirm a personal commitment to never even think about it. (Half marys are enough for me.)
Foreman loses points for a slow start, but as any runner knows, the goal is to finish strong.
If you pick up the sample, a word of warning: Foreman throws out a couple of jokes that a reader can take as either sexist or dad jokes (or sexist dad jokes, if feeling particularly uncharitable). Your mileage may vary, but it didn’t diminish my overall impression of the book.