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November 15, 2010

The Running Life: What's It All About?

A few administrative notes before today’s post …

1) You’ve got a little more time left – until 5PM PST on Wednesday, precisely – to sign up for the CLIF SHOT gel contest, so leave a comment here if you haven’t already done so.

2) Without revealing too much too soon, let me say that this giveaway stuff is going to continue in upcoming weeks, and it would be a great idea for you to stay tuned by subscribing to my website so you don’t miss anything. I’ll just leave it at that for now. And speaking of subscribers …

3) It recently came to my attention that my mother now subscribes to the blog. So, you know … best behavior, everyone. And clean up after yourselves – I don’t want to get in trouble for this mess.

“What's it all about? They scream and then they shout -
Don't ask me, ‘cause I don't know.”

- Public Image Limited, “Don’t Ask Me” (video after post)

Sitting inside a race expo all day gives a guy some time to think – and one of the questions I pondered most frequently last weekend also happened to be the one that Mike and I were most commonly asked: So what’s this book about?

You’d think that after six years of writing columns, and endless hours of revision and editing that took place in order to bring our Running Life book to life, I should have a pretty quick answer to that one. If so, you’d be wrong. In fact, it was this very question that practically paralyzed me throughout the process of pulling everything together.

Mike and me at our book signing booth at the Big Sur Half Marathon expo. Not pictured: the huge throngs of people lined up eagerly awaiting our signatures and words of wisdom. Or maybe I just imagined that part.

While we sat at the Big Sur Half Marathon expo on Saturday, a handful of people asked pointed questions about the book. Is it a training guide? Well, kind of. Is it a biography? Not really … but we talk about ourselves a lot. Is it one of those inspirational stories? Um … parts of it are. Does it use running as a metaphor for something? In some cases, perhaps. Is it funny? I guess that depends on your sense of humor.

The truth is, there’s really no unifying theme to the book; it’s simply a compilation of the best stuff we’ve written over the past six years. It’s very similar to the writing style I employ here – and if you’re familiar with this website, you know that virtually any topic is fair game. And if anyone out there can discern some kind of common thread through all that I’ve written, please fill me in, because I’d love to know.

Ultimately, the book’s basically a reflection of the people who wrote it: two lifetime runners who have found more reward and joy and adventure from this activity than we ever imagined. It’s a glimpse of the world from the perspective of a runner, and demonstrates how nearly anything – family life, social issues, popular culture – can have a connection to running if you’re passionate enough about it.

Yes, it’s also packed with training advice we’ve learned through the years, but I wouldn’t say that our primary goal is to coach someone through running a marathon, or an ultra, or anything else. Rather, we encourage people to have the mindset of a runner, whether it’s to finish a 100-miler, set a marathon PR, get out of bed for a training run when it’s dark and cold outside, or simply to drag your butt off the couch and begin an exercise program. That mindset – optimism combined with determination – is common to every one of those runners; the level of accomplishment from that point forward is merely a matter of scale.

There’s really a lot to be said for the running life … and hopefully many of those benefits come across in The Running Life. That’s not the most specific answer I’ve ever given, but I suspect that’s probably the best I’ll come up with.


As for the song: this one reaches way back into the cognitive archives. I was a little too young to fully appreciate Johnny Rotten when the Sex Pistols were in their prime, but his follow-up band was second only to The Clash when it came to post-punk bands that fueled my rebellious teenage spirit. By the time this song was written, P.I.L. had mellowed out a bit, but it’s a tune that somehow managed to stick in my brain on the long strange trip to adulthood.

Public Image Limited, “Don’t Ask Me” (click to play):

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jeff 11/17/10, 7:18 AM  

haha! i love that the video is from mtv's 120 minutes show. that was one of the few places we could find fuel to our rebellious musical repertoire.

i'll pick up a book, but it'll have to wait until after the holidays. tight budget and all.

Angie Bee 11/17/10, 8:44 AM  

I love your blog and will love the book too I am sure!

shel 11/18/10, 7:55 AM  

seriously donald, i am really liking the book. i like your blog and your writing but was worried how universal the themes would be since you write for a local paper. it is really great! it deserved to be made.... there are quite a number of books that i've read that i cannot say the same about. congratulations, i hope it sells a bazillion copies and you can retire at 50 :-)

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