Sat, 02 Feb 2019

The Incomplete Book of Running: A Short Review

The Incomplete Book of Running

Peter Sagal’s The Incomplete Book of Running has been my enigma for several weeks now. As a connection, Peter and I have at most one degree of separation: a common fellow runner friend and neighbor who, sadly, long departed to Colorodo (hi Russ!). So we’re quasi-neighbors. But he is famous, I am not, but I follow him on social media.

So as “just another runner”, I had been treated to a constant trickling of content about the book. And I had (in vain) hoped my family would get me the book for Xmas, but no such luck. Hence I ordered a copy. And then Amazon, mankind’s paragon of inventory management and shipment, was seemingly out of it for weeks – so that my copy finally came today all the way from England (!!) even though Sagal and I live a few miles apart, and he and I run similar neighborhoud routes, run (or ran) the same track for Tuesday morning speedwork – and as I noticed while devouring the book, share the same obsession for FIRST I tried to install onto my running pals a decade ago. We also ran the same initial Boston Marathon in 2007, ran many similar marathons (Boston, NY, Philly) even at the same time. But bastard that he his not only owns both my PRs at a half (by about two minutes) and full (by about four minutes) marathon – but he also knows how to write!

This is a great book about running, life, and living around Oak Park. As its focus, the reflections about running are good, sometimes even profound, often funny, and show a writer’s genuine talent in putting words around something that is otherwise hard to describe. Particularly for caustic people such as long-distance runners.

The book was a great pleasure to read—and possibly only the second book in a decade or longer that I “inhaled” cover to cover in one sitting this evening as it was just the right content on a Friday night after a long work week. This was a fun and entertaining yet profound read. I really enjoyed his meditation on the process and journey that got him to his PR – when it was time for mine by now over ten years ago it came after a (now surreal seeming) sequence of running Boston, Chicago, New York in one year and London and Berlin the next. And somehow by the time I got to Berlin I was both well trained, and in a good and relaxed mental shape so that things came together for me that day. (I also got lucky as circumstances were favourable: that was one of the many recent years in which a marathon record was broken in Berlin.) And as Sagal describes really well throughout the book, running is a process and a practical philosophy and an out and occassional meditation. But there is much more in the book so go and read it.

One minor correction: It is Pfeiffer with a P before the f for Michelle’s family name as every viewer of the Baker Boys should know.

Great book. Recommended to runners and non-runners alike.

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