It is a truth universally acknowledged that nothing good can come from reading.
Let us observe Joel Cohen. Cohen, a writer for The Simpsons and noted couch potato, found himself under the spell of Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run (reviewed by Halbs) and decided to take up running. When running didn’t kill him, he decided to run a marathon.
See where reading leads you, dear reader?
But it seems the damage is done for you and I, and if one must read, I can wholeheartedly recommend this delightful book to anyone who is beginning to run or thinking about taking it up (which I don’t recommend). Cohen doesn’t delve into the how-tos of running, but he acts as a buddy explaining the world of organized races with humor and patience. (This is important to note: the book is not a training plan! If you want something that tells you a bit more about the science of running and a marathon for beginners type of book, look elsewhere.)
Cohen begins his running career where many of us begin: setting an alarm and heading out to run. Then he walks the reader through the next logical steps with advice on how to find routes with longer distances and a discussion of buying running shoes. Which of these apps and gadgets do I *really* need? (Don’t get it twisted: runners like gadgets as much as any hobbyist.) Should I join a running group? Why do people keep asking me about gels?
He then steps it up and walks the reader through the experience of running their first organized race. What’s a bib? A corral? Whither the expo? Cohen is laugh out loud funny as he walks the reader through the little things that runners usually have to pick up by osmosis or inference. The book is relatable and rarely condescending (more on that below); I think it works best as a “my first race” primer.
I’ve never enjoyed running. […] The thing that kept me running was the one thing about it that I did really like, a lot, and that was having run. I loved the feeling of being done…
I can related to that so, so much.
I have a handful of minor gripes with the book.
The first is that I feel like the book is a little too long for what it is. It’s almost non-stop humor, and the chapters are breezy morsels, but some of the bits drag a little.
Second, Cohen has a bit early in the book about not fitting in with “real” runners. He mentions a sort of “pace-ism” from other runners about how slowly he runs, and he makes several references to his incredibly slow pace.
Spoiler: Cohen ran the New York City Marathon in 4:26. That’s a 10 minute mile for 26 miles. He finished in the middle of the pack. While he’s not giving Meb something to fear, he’s not *slow*.
Cohen also dips a toe into a bit of pace-ism himself:
Al Roker, the TODAY show weatherman, ran the 2010 New York City Marathon in 7:09. At around sixteen minutes per mile, the verb “ran” may be questionable here.
Nah, man. I don’t need pace shaming in an upbeat book about running aimed at beginners. It’s a fairly small thing, but I would feel someone out on before recommending the book.