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.
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.