It’s been a while since I blogged about a running-related book (if you missed my last book review check out Something for runners and non-runners alike, which highlights Caleb Daniloff’s book Running Ransom Road: Confronting the Past, One Marathon at a Time), so I figured I’d share with you another highly recommended book…you know, since I have more time on my hands to read for pleasure again now that I’m done with grad school. 🙂
And so, today I would like to introduce to you Two Hours: The Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon by Ed Caesar. Unlike Daniloff’s book, this one is definitely geared more towards the running community, as it captures the true essence and the (sometimes heartbreaking) love affair we have for endurance sports, such as marathons. However, even for those of you who don’t run or who are just starting out, I think there is still something in here for you–something to make you fall in love with the history, evolution, and mindset of marathoning, both the casual and elite styles.
Why people run–any length, let alone endurance lengths like marathons and ultra-marathons–is always something that is questioned by non-runners. What is the answer to why we run? Why we put ourselves through the ringer during training periods? Why we go to bed extra early to get up early to run extra far? Why do we put ourselves in pain-sometimes both physically and mentally-to run great lengths? Everyone probably has their own personal stories and reasons; I’m personally still writing and conceptualizing my own, but in the meantime like to refer you all to Boston blogger Jana Ross’ post on “Why I Run Marathons.” I know that I already linked to her blog in my last post about 10k training, but I really do think she hits the nail on the head with her reasoning.
Anyways, back to the book! I actually got Two Hours as one of my Christmas gifts from my boyfriend, Ryan-he’s always extremely thoughtful with his gifts and intentions (one of the many reasons why I love him). To be honest, I actually had never heard of this book before, but he assured me that he did research on the book and that it not only had great reviews and received lots of praise by the running community. Say no more-I was excited to dive in!
After reading the inside cover, I expected the book to really follow one marathoner’s journey on his quest to hit a world marathon record of a two hours, but it was so much more than that–his story was only one part of the overall message of endurance sports. To take a quote directly from the inside cover: “It is a book about running that is about so much more than running.” I learned about the history and evolution of the modern marathon, about technical race rules, terms, and strategies (like “rabbits” and the “Stotan approach”), and even gained some insight and inspiration about the human body and kinesiology.
As I turned the pages of this book, Muhammad Ali’s famous “Impossible is nothing” speech kept coming to mind. A couple of hours later when I breezed through the book’s 217 pages, I found myself left in a state of amazement and awe for the human body-more so than ever before. I also found myself questioning what actually, if anything, is the limit that we can push our bodies and spirits to when we set off to accomplish great physical feats?! To paraphrase the great, local athletic company New Balance, I think when you’re always in beta that success is not the end…that there is no end to what we can become.
I consumed Two Hours in probably about two hours or less–it was just that captivating and insightful! One of my favorite takeaway quotes about run training can be found on page 147 of the book: “Mutai doesn’t spend a minute of his working day on a flat surface, and so his muscles are always working to balance and respond. ‘They learn to listen with their feet,’ says Lancini.” How could an insight into running get more poetic than that?! I don’t want to ruin the great experience of reading this book for you, so I won’t go into anymore detail and instead just tell you to pick up a copy for yourself to enjoy!
Did I walk away from reading the book ready to sign up for my first marathon? Not necessarily anymore than I’ve already considered doing so, but I don’t think that was the point of the book. What I was impressed with, however, was how much I learned about the fascinating details of marathons and world records and it was definitely enough to get me to look up some more information afterwards. What about you? What’s your favorite book about running? I’d love to compile a big list of books to read and ultimately review to fuel my passion for this sport. Feel free to comment below with some of your favorites or send me a note on Twitter: @meggielukes.
In the meantime, I hope enjoy your weekend–looks like we finally got the warmer weather, but not the sunshine quite yet. Either way, make sure to get out there and do something active that you love, just because!
Talk with you soon,