Sunday, September 8, 2013

Review: My Best Race (2013)

Edited by Chris Cooper

Simple, simple, simple.

Go find some famous runners, and ask them what's the race that they never forget.

It's another one of those slap-your-forehead-and-ask-why-you-didn't-think-of-it books. Thankfully, Chris Cooper did.

He's the editor of "My Best Race," although he probably could have gotten away with a writing credit. Cooper supplies the background information around the quotes, and handles those duties well.

He talked with 50 different runners. All of them are accomplished in the sport in one way or another. Luckily, they aren't all marathoners, so there's diversity in their backgrounds.

What's more, the stories go in unexpected directions. Few give their most famous races in describing their favorite races. Some go back to high school, for instance. Ed Eyestone knocked off an undefeated prep athlete in a very unexpected time and place, and went on to become a two-time Olympian.

A few even go to the end of their careers, like Bart Yasso's participation in an ultra-marathon in South Africa. I wasn't expecting Kathrine Switzer to talk about anything about her first Boston Marathon - but she did, talking about her trip to Athens to run a marathon. But all the stories are quite interesting.

If you follow the sport of running, you know many of the names. Jeff Galloway was a pretty fair runner until he became one of the nation's leading authors on the subject. Zola Budd was a sensation when she came out of South Africa in the Eighties. Steve Scott is one of America's greatest milers. And on it goes.

Each chapter has a little tip for the running population that more or less relates to the story. It's probably not necessary, but if it helps get someone out the door - fine.

I didn't count the non-Americans in the book, but I don't recall many if any. The biggest names of the sport aren't overly represented, although Kara Goucher - which leads the book - is a fine exception. Wonder if Bill Rodgers, Frank Shorter, Alberto Salazar or Joan Benoit Samuelson were asked to participate?

This is an e-book, so it's not available to everyone, and might not be something you'd want to keep forever anyway. But it's a nice quick read, with many worthwhile tales, and at a low price. You'll be happy with your investment of time when you reach the finish line of "My Best Race."

Four stars

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