Thursday, March 13, 2014

Review: The Runner's Bucket List (2014)

By Denise Malan

Running magazines often have short feature stories on interesting races that are held around the country, often groups by time of the year. They can be chosen for a variety of reasons - history, scenery, size, whatever.

Writer and runner Denise Malan obviously was paying attention to those stories. She no doubt took a look, and said something like, "Why couldn't I compile the top races into one book?"

Presto. You have "The Runner's Bucket List." For those in the market for traveling to races, this ought to serve their needs quite nicely.

Malan's subtitle is "200 Races to Run Before You Die." It's grouped into 25 different categories. There are races with good finishing medals, races run without clothes, races inside, races that are fast, races that go over bridges, etc. 

From there, the author adds some touches beyond the basic stories of the races, which includes a caption. Some of the races receive first-person reviews from runners - Malan did a few of these herself but had others help each other out. There are plenty of photographs in bright color that are sprinkled throughout the book. The package more or less reminds me in appearance of a typical travel book, as in the Fodor's series.

This obviously took a great deal of work. I've heard of a few of the races listed here, but there are plenty of surprises. Who knew there was an indoor race in Kansas City on Groundhog Day?

What's the catch, then? Writing for a small niche isn't particularly uncommon in publishing, but this comes across as a really, really small niche. There are plenty of runners out there, but most of them don't travel very far to races. Yes, there are those who do bounce around looking for good events, but most can't do more than a few per year. That's partly because of the expense, and partly because a runner can only do a handful of marathons and/or half-marathons in a given year. Now, if I happened to be in Ann Arbor, Mich., when the Twinkie Run was scheduled, I'd be instantly ready to sign up. But such coincidences are rare.

This also is more of a reference tool than a book that can be easily read straight through. Malan's longer stories about specific races often work better than those from freelancers, although there are some exceptions.

Runners who look up races first before making vacation plans certainly will enjoy looking through "The Runner's Bucket List." At less than $20, it's not much of an expense for those who do such things, and it will serve their needs well. But, I know a lot of runners, and I can't think of many who would give this more than a passing glance.

Three stars

Learn more about this book.

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