Friday, April 5, 2013

Another Round of Book Reviews

I've been doing a lot of reading lately.  It helps me settle my mind before bed which is a good thing as the stress from my busy work life has been wearing on me pretty nasty lately (with a couple sleep deprived nights when even a good book wasn't enough).  Just finished the last of my stash so I'll have to hit the library or Amazon again soon and see what I can rustle up - or maybe catch up on my boring engineering magazines - who knows.

First up: "Running with the Kenyans" by Adharanand Finn

This book was ok.  It passed the time and served the purpose, but it was a little slow.  Generally, it is a story about a guy who picks up his family (including wife and two kids) to move to Kenya for several months and live with some of the fastest runners on earth in hopes of learning their "secrets" and improving his own running.  There were definitely elements of adventure to this undertaking that were not nearly as interesting to read as Chrissie Wellington's in her book, but that showed a bit of the culture in a part of the world I am unlikely to ever see.  It was interesting to learn about some of the simplicity of their daily living - especially for the athletes who are nearly single-minded in the way that they eat, sleep, run and repeat.  I also thought the sociological aspect of how running is often the only way out of poverty for some of these people (and yet, how success can doom them as well) was interesting though could have been more explored in the book.

At the end, the secrets are that there aren't a lot of secrets.  The Kenyans who become successful get that way the same way that a lot of athletes get there - through an awful lot of hard work and maybe a whiff of natural talent.  They run everywhere (typically barefoot) throughout their formative years.  They eat a diet very low in fat, high in produce and get their carb energy from ugali (a cornmeal porridge).  If they choose to be athletes and pursue it as a livlihood, they don't do anything else.  I don't know that these are "secrets" per se - just insight on how some of the fastest men and women on the face of the planet happen to be Kenyan.  I did like the way it becomes obvious that introductions are all related to races they've won or records they hold.


"Eat and Run" by Scott Jurek and Steve Friedman

It was funny.  This book was sitting on my nightstand waiting to be read when I did my last book reviews and BDD suggested that I read it.  I finally got around to it this last week or two.  It is an interesting mix of memoir, recipe book, and running book.  For those who have been living under a rock, Scott Jurek is one of the greatest ultramarathoners of our time.  He has won crap tons of races - most in the 100 mile range.  He has a way of transcending pain and fatigue that is nearly zen like.  He attributes a lot of it - throughout the book - to the way his dad raised him with the mantra "Sometimes you just do things" along with eating an extremely "clean" vegan diet. 

I barely made it through the first couple chapters as he laid out his childhood dealing with his mom being diagnosed with MS and how it affected him (and this came up a few times throughout the book with a later chapter making me put the book down in tears).  It hit a little too close to home with losing my dad to diabetes less than 3 years ago and the pain of watching his decline over the decades he battled the disease.  That later chapter was also in a relatively dark part of Scott's life - a bit of a midlife crisis if you will - where he was feeling very lost.  I know of those dark times and it touched me greatly how he shared them with the reader.

I'm not sure I have much interest in the plant-based way of eating that Scott subscribes to, but I also felt like he respected the choices that other people make even when he doesn't agree with them.  I can't imagine how I'd even find some of the ingredients he espouses.  Though he managed to do it long before it was in vogue and even in areas of the country that are pretty meat and potato folks. 

Scott has a few times in the book when he is faced with an injury during a race or another obstacle in his path and I liked the self-awareness review that he does where he seems to (while still running it seems) take stock of how he is feeling and acknowledges what he is feeling.  Then he assesses the pain/injury.  And then he lets it go and keeps going - with his dad's theory that "sometimes you just do things".  While at times, I found his story to be self-involved, I can see how this self-awareness has led him to great things.  At times, it may have also cost him as he doesn't seem to pay near as much attention to what is going on with others.

I felt like the book ended somewhat abruptly though maybe that was as much because of the timeline (ending in 2010) than anything.  But the book was relatively well written (no doubt thanks to the co-author) and enjoyable with some good quotes to reflect on and maybe a recipe or two I should try. 

As usual, these books were acquired from the Daniel Boone Regional Library for free.  I was not compensated in any way for my review.  Just sharing my love of reading about inspiring people.  Stay tuned as I've drafted two more reviews that I'll share soon. 


  1. I agree with the ending of Scott's book, I was like "umm, is that it??" When reading it, I felt like he was an average face in the crowd, there was no "wow factor" about him that made him stand out while growing up, unlike Dusty

  2. Haven't read Scott's book yet though I did buy it and download it. I got sucked into a book that my wife downloaded called "let's pretend this never happened" by Jenny Lawson. My wife quit reading it but I read the whole thing and found it entertaining. Not training related at all, just someone documenting their messed up life and family. Guess I needed a distraction.