I read a lot. Maybe not the epic levels of a couple of friends – one of whom read in excess of 100 books last year – but still far more than average. In the past few weeks in particular, I have been devouring books. But here’s the thing: I don’t read non-fiction. In fact, I just took a look through my reading list, and the last time I completed a non-fiction book was in 2010.
So when I’d won Fat Man to Green Man in a competition on Twitter, I have to admit that I wasn’t all that excited. It was nothing specifically against the book, or its author, Ira Rainey. I just didn’t read non-fiction. I’d never read a book about running, although I do get through most of Runner’s World each month.
But in the last 24 hours, I completed the whole book. Admittedly, I’ve been off work with a hideous cold that has me convinced that I’ll never run again, which means I have plenty of time for such things. I didn’t have high hopes for the book – the title suggested that it would have nothing to do with my own running journey: I’ve never been fat, and I have little desire to run ultra-marathons.
What an idiot I am.
By the end of the first chapter I was sold. It might not be my literal story, but with a few details changed most runners can connect with it: because it’s the story of driving yourself to improve. And of definitely not breaking into building sites to get across the M5. Rainey’s writing style, and perhaps general attitude to life struck a chord with me. I’m generally a pretty positive chap, and often do things without completely thinking the consequences through.
As the book progressed I realised that my expectations didn’t meet up at all with reality. I’d thought that anyone who pushed themselves to complete an ultra-marathon, and then wrote a book about it would be some kind of superhero. But actually, as the book repeatedly points out, this is not the case. Rainey is a normal chap with determination. There was no sugar-coating, nothing which was overtly offering coaching tips.
Despite this last point, the book probably has offered some coaching advice. I’m eager to add some more variety into my running, adding more hills and more trails, especially hilly trails! I also think that maybe I should be pushing myself a bit harder sometimes, a conclusion I’d already been slowly coming to. But has the book convinced me that I should run an ultra-marathon? Maybe, but still not for a long while yet!
In conclusion, this is a brilliantly written, down-to-earth story about a runner, not a superman. I would recommend it to any runner, and I’m convinced that all of them would find a parallel story to their own. Apart maybe from Dean Karnazes, who might actually be a superman.