Wednesday, September 12, 2007
1 Book Review #1: Two Classics of Running Literature - An Old Favorite & A New Twist
Hello again, readers,
This will be my last post of the evening (er, morning!).
I'd like to recommend two books, one of which is a timeless classic, and has become like an old friend to me throughout the years, and another that's sure to become one of the newer classics:
(1) Running & Being: The Total Experience - by Dr. George Sheehan
(2) Chi Running: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running - by Danny Dreyer
Let me start with the first book: Running & Being: The Total Experience is both a philosophical treatise on running, and a practical how-to guide on running. This is the book to pick up when you want to get inspired to run. Much of the book focuses on the inner reasons for why the author ran, and how running had personally affected his life. I use past tense verbs like "ran" and "had... affected" because George Sheenan passed away in 1993. In addition to writing several books, he also wrote for Runner's World magazine for several years. He was a major contributor to running literature, and IMHO, one of the giants. Possibly even more impressive was the 4:47 mile he clocked at age 50, which was the first sub-5-minute mile ever to be run by a 50-year old, anywhere.
If you're curious, you can read more about man & his life on his website.
Next up is a possibly life-altering book: Chi Running: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running is one of those books that once you start reading, you just can't put down. Not only is it a fascinating & entertaining read, but the book just makes a heck of a lot of sense. Anyone who's ever been a student of yoga, tai chi, eastern meditation, or any of the martial arts, will definitely relate to the message of this book. However, you don't need to have a background in eastern fitness practices or philosophies to appreciate & gain benefit from this book. The book focuses on how to achieve (or rather, return to) the natural state of running that we once playfully & unconsciously did as children. Many of its principles are shared by practioners of tai chi, hence the name of the book. ;-) Like tai chi, chi running is about developing movement which flows from the body's core, and releasing any tension stored in the body so that movement becomes conscious & yet natural through practice. Practioners of chi running attest its lasting effects upon their running & overall well-being: After following the chi running approach, many report being able to sustain injury-free running, while others tell of their amazing recoveries from injury, when they thought they'd never run again. And many more concur that their running form & times have dramatically improved, while ironically, their running feels almost effortless. Additionally, many of my friends who've followed the program have also noticed amazing improvements in their own personal running experiences. I've also noticed some benefits to applying these principles to my own running as well.
Although the authors come from two totally different perspectives & generations, they both teach valuable lessons about the sport of running, not only in terms of its practical purpose & applications, but also as a means for understanding our inner natures.
Comparatively speaking, George's writing style & personality are much more intense & come from a distinctly Western point of view, while Danny's writing style & personality are much more relaxed & succinct, and are obviously influenced by Eastern culture and practices.
Although my current mindset & running philosophy is frankly much more aligned with Danny's book, I have not abandoned my respect for the wisdom found in George's book, which for several consecutive years, served as my steadfast running "bible." )
Depending on your own personality, you might be drawn to the writing style of one author versus the other. If you are a type A personality, you might naturally gravitate to George's book. If you are more of a type B personality, you might normally be attracted to Danny's book.
However, I would recommend just the opposite for each personality type: If you are a type A personality, you should probably read Danny's book all the more urgently, as you probably need to relax and learn how to release the tension in your body & running style way more than the type B personalities! ;-) Type B personalities could also benefit from George's book, as they might gain insight & motivation from an intense, goal-oriented personality.
Anyhow, I'm interested to hear your own assessment of these books. As always, let me know what you think!