Review: Futterman’s To The Edge

Running to the Edge: A Band of Misfits and the Guru Who Unlocked the Secrets of Speed

Matthew Futterman

A history of modern American distance running told from the perspective of Bob Larsen, one of the most influential coaches in the sport and (most famously) the coach and mentor of the most decorated American marathoner of the last twenty years, Meb Keflezighi.

I listened to much of this book on a drive with my wife who commented “at first it was interesting, but it’s a lot about running”. Which it is. I found the story of Larsen developing a winning formula for distance racing fascinating. A lot of what we take for granted, like training at altitude, and the formula of easy miles, long tempo efforts, and some track work, wasn’t at all apparent until Larsen and a few others unearthed it in the 1970s. The way he then put it to use in working with Meb to basically bring American distance running back from the dead makes for an amazing read.

If you care about the story of running in America, you’ll eat this up, if not, you might want to pass. .

Recommended for the enthusiast

Review: Hutchinson’s Endure

Endure: Mind, Body and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance

Alex Hutchinson

Anyone who has followed this site for any length of time knows I’m obsessed with human endurance. Why (and how) do we push through pain, how do we keep getting faster? Why are some people so much better at this, and how did they get that way? How much is genes, how much is training and how much is will?

If you care about these questions, and I certainly do, then this book is a must read. Hutchinson writes probably the most scientifically based journalism in Runners World and Outside magazine and here he takes that experience, and PhD in physics smarts and melds it with years of personal running experience and real journalistic chops. He meets with some of the best runners and scientists in the world and does as good a job as anyone has in explaining the science and psychology behind remarkable endurance performances, such as Nike’s attempt at a sub-2 hour marathon.

If you have any interest in the science of endurance sports, you’ve probably already this gem, if not, you should. Even if endurance sports aren’t your thing, there’s lot to learn here from Hutchinson’s clear writing on the possibility of human performance.

Recommended for the Enthusiast

Alex Hutchinson

Alex Hutchinson

Review: Jurek’s Eat and Run

Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness
Scott Jurek
Its rare that I’m without a book, but it happens. Last summer, it happened when I was on vacation in Vermont. Little dude was sleeping better than expected, and I had more time to read, so low and behold, three days into a seven day trip, I was out of books. I was running a lot that week, and had just finished Bernd’s Why We Run.  I was inspired to keep the running theme rolling. Heading to the local bookstore, I browsed the relatively small running book section and grabbed Scott Jurek’s Eat and Run, his combo memoir/ cook book.

Jurek in 2014

I have to say, I didn’t have high hopes. I’ve long admired Jurek as a runner – he has one of the most storied careers in ultra-running — but Jurek is an evangelical vegan and, after spending much of my twenties eating seitan and drinking soy milk, I’m not much for vegan lectures.  Thankfully, this book isn’t a polemic. Instead, it’s a moving memoir of a poor kid from Minnesota, from a family plagued by health problems who, through the usual mixture of determination, hard work and luck, became one of the most celebrated ultra runners in history.

The book is broken up into chapters, followed by recipes linked to the chapter’s theme. Jurek’s early years get vegan versions or mid-western staples; his chapter on running with the Tarahumara gets a Mexican influenced recipe, etc. The recipes look good, for vegan food, yet I haven’t made any of them.

But recipes are not why anyone is reading this book.  You’re reading it learn about Jurek’s adventures, as a multiple winner of Western States, a winner of Badwater, a winner of the Spartathon, the U.S. record holder (for a time) at the 24 hour race… and well, I could go on. There was a time when Jurek just dominated ultra-running and he recounts those years here with humor and thoughtfulness about what pushed him to such extremes as well as what it taught him, and cost him.  It isn’t all roses for a fulltime mountain runner, and Jurek’s honesty in dealing with the low points is admirable and makes up for the basically work-a-day prose.

If you’re interested in ultra-running, you’ll want to read this one. I’m giving this the recommended for the enthusiasts tag.