Tag Archives: the power of running

Rundown

The Long Run: A Memoir of Loss and Life in Motion by Catriona Menzies-Pike (Crown, $25.00, 256 pages)

long run

In The Long Run, Catriona Menzies-Pike seeks to be inspirational when it comes to summarizing the healing power of running.  Unfortunately, the memoir comes across as flat and turgid.  The latter is the case when Menzies-Pike writes as a feminist.  It’s interesting but her heart does not seem to be in it.  The topical connection between the sport of running and social oppression is weak, to say the least.  Running appears to have empowered Menzies-Pike, so it’s unclear how the feminist complaints fit in.

“Women run when they are chased; women must run from predators to stay chaste.  It is not natural for women to run unless they’re chased; chaste women have no need to run.”

It’s troubling that Menzies-Pike gets some basic details wrong.  At one point she writes of “the weight shifting from the ball to the heel of my foot as I move forward.”  That’s not how people run; the heel hits the ground before one’s weight is transferred to the ball of the foot.  Was she running backwards?

This slim work may benefit a few by making the case that running can empower a person.  Menzies-Pike notes that there’s “nothing… as reliable as running for elevations of mood and emotion, for a sense of self-protection.”  Well and good, but there’s something removed and distant about her writing style.

A novice runner would be better off reading the modern classic What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami.  Much better off.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was received from the publisher.  This book was released on May 23, 2017.

Catriona Menzies-Pike is the editor of the Sydney Review of Books, a link to which can be found on our Blogroll.

 

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Run Through the Jungle

running after prefontaine (med.-lg.)

Running After Prefontaine: A Memoir by Scott F. Parker (Inside the Curtain, $15.00, 271 pages)

“I’m like people who meditate for the insights it gives them. They do it for a reason, but the reason is no reason. I run for a reason, and the reason is running – and this is no small joy.”

In this compilation of articles, Scott F. Parker seems to be trying to convince himself of the redemptive power of running. He offers some interesting stories, such as the one about the time he ran a marathon without preparation (been there, done that…). He comes to discover that some run simply because it’s something they like to do; doing something one likes in life is important in itself. The two best chapters of Running After Prefontaine have to do with idolizing the late Oregon runner Steve Prefontaine, and about a woman’s battle to save her son’s life from a rare disease.

“I had recently made a very conscious decision to change the way I thought about myself, with the hope that a change in thinking would be followed by a change in self. I was to be the kind of person who could do things beyond his means by a simple and persistent force of will.”

The other parts of Running After Prefontaine do not work as well because we’ve been there before. The runner as philosopher genre was created by Dr. George Sheehan, and perfected by Haruki Murakami. Parker’s attempt to write about mindfulness and running doesn’t work so well, again, because he still appears to doubt some of his own arguments.

A new runner might enjoy reading what amounts to a personal journal of a life in running, but those with more miles under their soles and/or souls may wish to investigate the real thing. Murakami’s classic, What I Think About When I Think About Running, is a very good place to start. And the late Dr. George Sheehan’s books, Running & Being: The Total Experience, Personal Best, and Running to Win, constitute a great place in which to finish.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

The complete title of George Sheehan’s second book is Running to Win: How to Achieve the Physical, Mental & Spiritual Victories of Running. “George Sheehan is perhaps the most important philospher of sport.” Sports Illustrated, 1978

For more on Steve Prefontaine, the classic account is PRE: The Story of America’s Greatest Running Legend, Steve Prefontaine by Tom Jordan.

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