Tag Archive | Haruki Murakami

Let’s Talk About Shoes

The internet is fraught with loss and grief over the past few days. I thought about writing my own post in memoriam of both the indelible Robin Williams and the legendary Lauren Bacall. But it’s all been said, and better than I could ever say. I’ll just say two things. To Robin Williams, your empathy as a performer drew me in so close. Watching you perform I witnessed what it costs an actor to truly live and breathe your character, the heart pain, well it was in your eyes. I’m sorry the heart pain was in your life as well. And to Lauren Bacall, Betty, you were so divine. When I fell in love with my man it was not too long before I picked up your autobiography. I wanted to hear all about your romance and love for Bogie. Perhaps I wanted a little inside peek at the most notorious December-May romance of all, finding myself in a similar situation without the notorious part. I wanted to read about a love like that, one that sort of looked like mine. A love that was not fraught with scandal or intrigue, but seemingly made up of true-ness, a love that defied time, defied age. Your story did not disappoint. From By Myself:

“No one had ever felt like that about me. It was all so dramatic, too. Always in the wee small hours when it seemed to Bogie and me that the world was ours—that we were the world. At those times, we were.”

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I hope you are together again. Bogie and Bacall.

So what to do, what to say, now that world is just a bit darker. Remember, say a prayer, and keep living. That’s all you can do.

I wanted to lighten things up today. I wanted to depart from the philosophizing, the mourning, the analyzing. I wanted to get back to running a bit. So today I’m here to talk to you about shoes. Yes, shoes.

My name is Rebecca Light, and I have a running shoe addiction.

Hi Rebecca Light. (I just love to write that out).

I keep my addiction pretty well in check, but I think about running shoes waaaay too often. It comes in waves. I’ll buy a new pair, get my fix, as it were, and I’ll be good for a few months. Then suddenly the bug will bite me all over again and I’ll see this new pair, or new model, and it will just get into my head and won’t leave.

It’s a problem.

Like I said though, I keep it pretty well in check. There are problems to acquiring running shoes, however, that really just make the addiction worse. The biggest problem being that you simply don’t know if shoes are going to work for you until you run several miles in them, and of course everyone knows that once you’ve run several miles in new shoes you can no longer return them (save a few exceptions which I’ll get to later), so every new purchase is fraught with risk and requires a great deal of research ahead of time to mitigate said risk. In short, shopping for running shoes is a big ol’ time suck.

But I love it so muuuuuuch. I thought I’d walk you through my madness a little; give you a little inside glimpse at the shoes that are running through my mind.

Let me start by saying something pretty controversial. Part of me truly believes that we have all been duped by the most ingenious marketing strategy of all time. The running shoe industry has it made. Runners are into shoes. Makes sense. It’s arguably the most important accessory a runner could purchase. I however, have been running for over 15 years and only recently taken any interest whatsoever in running shoe technology. The only criteria I would previously follow in my purchase of running shoes was did I like the color, and were they on sale? I have also never endured a use injury. I’ve fallen on my face and twisted my ankle, but only my clumsiness and lack of spacial awareness can be blamed for that. I’ve never had plantar fasciitis, no knee trouble, shin splints, or back pain. Now, I realize that perhaps the resilience of my youthful limbs has been a credit to my dodging of injury, and not my discount neon green New Balance’s from Nordstrom Rack, but who knows? Maybe we’ve all been hoodwinked by the likes of Nike and Saucony. I do know that since I started to invest more heavily in researching shoes and their respective technologies and bells/whistles, I have had some subtle pain in my arches, crinks in my lower back, and numbness in my forefeet. What gives? Perhaps it’s my 30 year old muscles and bones catching up with me, but sometimes I wonder if it’s these fandangled shoes.

There are many factors that may also contribute to my new aches and pains other than my shoes, so I don’t want to smear any names here. A little over a year ago I read Born to Run and it kind of blew my mind. It all just made so much sense. I started to change my running gait to consciously strike more on my midfoot than my heel. You may be wondering, hey Becky, if you’d never been injured and you’d been running for years why would you change anything that you’re doing? If it ain’t broke… Well, maybe you’re right. I guess after reading Born to Run and doing some more research about the concept of where you strike on your foot (I know, more research, ugh) I honestly started to believe that a midfoot strike would be a more sustainable gait. Like Haruki Murakami said “I hope that running and I can grow old together.” I didn’t want to run recklessly, getting by on the agility of my youth. I wanted to develop a stride that would last my entire life.

There’s just one problem, 99% of running shoes are not developed for a midfoot strike, they’re developed for a heel strike. I totally made up that 99% by the way. I have no idea what the actual statistic is and I’m sure it’s different now that the industry has caught on to the newer midfoot theories but you get my point. Most running shoes have that big cushy chunky heel; so purchasing discount shoes from Ross in pretty bright purple worked for me most of the time because they had that big squishy heel and I was a heel striker and so it all pretty much worked out. Now, however, I’m not striking on my heel and those shoes from TJ Maxx just don’t do the trick anymore. Have you ever tried hitting a midfoot strike in a running shoe with a big heel? It’s hard. It does not feel natural and it does not feel nice. And so, at my own doing, whether I liked it or not, I catapulted myself into the world of running shoe science by simply changing my stride; and consequently pretty much shut myself out of the easy discount shoe market. Goodbye Marshall’s. How I loved scouring you for deals.

If I was going to continue to run in this new way I really did need shoes that would accommodate. Now, if you’ve read Born to Run, you may say at this moment that the best shoe to accommodate the kind of stride is your own little footsie wootsie. To run as God intended! Barefoot through the fields! I did what all early Born to Run fans did, I went out and bought some Vibrams. I had run barefoot off and on for years once a week or so out on the beach, so it didn’t take me too long to transition into the barefoot shoes. I like them. People like to make fun of them and I really truly don’t understand that. It seems so arbitrary. Like making fun of people for wearing gloves. Is it so offensive to see articulated toes? People gotta have a reason to complain I guess.

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There’s one main reason I quickly realized however that I couldn’t run in the Vibrams full time. I’m just not there yet. I believe it truly does require being in tip top shop with an ideal bmi and proportionately built up leg and back muscles to support your frame and feet. In short, I’m just not in good enough shape right now. I’m a little overweight, and I’ve been real lazy when it comes to strength training. I’m not quite committed enough to barefoot running to do those things. And then of course there’s the secondary (and let’s be honest perhaps more important reason). Fashion. Hello. I am not prepared to say goodbye to shoes. Real shoes. Vibrams may be smart but they are not what I’d describe as cute. I know there are many runners out there who may look down on me for saying so but aesthetics are very important to me and I want to run in cute shoes. If, for example, a dude at a running store tells me THESE, these Asics are the absolute best shoes for your exact feet, but they are gray and look like they were cut out of a 1995 Jazzercise catalogue, I will not buy them. I will buy the second best pair of shoes for my feet that are a pretty shade of orange I’ve been looking for. Call me shallow. When I look good, I feel good, and when I feel good, I run good. When I run good (well), I’m happy. It all fits together. So yeah, Vibrams? Not that cute. Since I bought my pair (pictured above) I think the company caught on to the value of a good looking shoe and they’ve released some pretty new ones in pinks, yellows, and blues. I like. But I already have my pair and they aren’t worn through so I can’t justify more.

So now I find myself stuck with my sort of rather ugly Vibrams and old teal New Balances from Nordstrom Rack that have too many miles on them and too chunky of a heel. What’s a girl to do?

Buy more shoes.

I research, I surf, I scour the internet for “barefoot style” shoes or shoes with a low heel drop. The Nike Free series gets my fancy. They’re alright. And they’re cute. Maybe.

1396350097-3-nike-free-4.0-v3-women-A10I keep my options open. I keep searching. Asics is a brand I’d been interested in for awhile but most of their shoes are so chunky. However their Lyte series got my attention. Super cute, and lightweight.

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Reviews aren’t stellar on this puppy though so I keep looking. I ask around on my Facebook running group. I hear Newtons recommended. I’d never even heard of Newtons. I look them up. Behold!

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They are sooooo cute. I am in love. They are superhero shoes. AND they have a low heel-toe drop. AND they are designed with a midfoot strike in mind. AND they are suuuuper expensive.

😦

This is where Facebook is awesome. Someone in my running group works for Zappos and hooks me up with a sweet promo code. Combined with the fact that these are already on sale on the site, I got them for about 40% off. That sealed the deal.

So I’ve been running in these for about 6 months. Dammit if the bug kept on biting though. As much as I love these, I’m not sure they are enough shoe for the first ever marathon I’m about to run. After all of the research and sole searching (see what I did there?) I’ve done, I’ve determined that the best fit for me currently is one with a low heel-toe drop, a considerable amount of cushion, and LOTS of room in the toe box (I like my little piggies to spread out). With that in mind, I kept searching for the equivalent of Newtons but with more squishiness. That led me to Hoka One Ones.

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I mentioned these before. Got them at the super secret speakeasy lightly-loved shoe department at Road Runners in San Diego. They so pretty. They look like mermaid shoes. I buy them. But sadly, they’re not for me. They are in fact a bit too narrow for my wide berth feet. Also, I really jumped to the other end of the spectrum with these as far as cushioning goes. The amount of cushion on Hokas is record breaking. As squishy as it feels, it’s just a bit too much shoe for me. I will definitely use these often though, whenever I know I’ll walk a lot. These will likely be my new go-to Disneyland day shoes.

Another brand caught my attention ever since Meb won Boston. I’m as surprised as you are are, but Skechers caught my eye. The last time I liked Skechers as a brand, Clinton was in office and I had Backstreet Boys posters on my wall. Let’s be honest, they haven’t been cool since 1995. Maybe with the younger set, but we children of the 80s and 90s moved on. In the past few year they’ve actually kind of repulsed me as a company. Shape-Ups were such blatant hucksterism, they made me angry. How dare you promise women that they will tone up their tushes just by wearing your shoes to work. And Bob’s are such a blatant ripoff of Tom’s that I’m actually embarrassed for them. Really? Bob’s?

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Maybe they deserve a bit of credit for the brazenness of their ability to ripoff another company. Can’t say they’re not bold. Needless to say though, the ethics of this company remained questionable in my eyes. But then they took a chance on Meb. Meb, too old for any other major sponsors to pick him up. Meb, everyone else thought he was probably done. Skechers, undeniably an underdog in the running shoe market, took a chance. I respect that. And damn, it paid off.

boston-marathon

 

Not to mention that Skechers had also hired one of the designers of the Nike Free project to come in and work on their GoRun series. They were interested in minimalist running. I started to get the impression that Skechers was really taking this whole running shoe thing seriously. Top that with a Best Debut Shoe award in Runner’s World, an incredibly affordable price tag and super cute design (I know! Skechers! Cute! I can’t believe it either), they really got my attention. So I bought them of course.

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Took them out for 4 miles last night and I have some things to say. They are super lightweight. I love that! After veering minimalist I can’t stand too much shoe. They have a decent amount of cushion in all the right places. A low heel-toe drop and plenty of cushion in the midfoot (something I actually miss in my Newtons). Unfortunately I think I got the wrong size. They were a bit snug in the toe-box so in my quest for the perfect Rebecca shoe, that’s where these may just come up short. I exchanged them for a larger size so we’ll see if that helps. If not, I may just add them to the pile of walking shoes I’m acquiring (with all these shoes I should become a walker instead of a runner).

So what to do? Marathon training is fast approaching and I feel like I haven’t found that Goldilocks shoe. Not too tight, not too bulky, not too flat, not too squishy. It’s tough, but there is one more brand I’m going to investigate before I declare my Newtons the victors. Altra. I don’t know y’all, I think these may be winners. I have a funny feeling about these. And by funny I mean good.

Altra

 

They also really help make my decision for me as to what costume I’d wear for the Walt Disney World Marathon. Can you guess?

So what are Altras? Altras are unique in that they boast a ZERO heel-toe drop differential. That means there is absolutely no incline from the forefoot all the way back. I love that. It’s like, you know, a foot. What a concept! However, they do provide a decent amount of cushioning without entering Hoka honka territory. Also among their technical specs is a “foot shaped design.” I swear, that sounds so ridiculous to me. Shouldn’t all running shoes be “foot shaped?” Have we interfered so much with the natural design of the human foot that we now have to point it out when we create a shoe in harmony with our own shape? It’s hilarious, and sort of sad. But I’m glad Altra does it. That means there should be lots of room in the toe box for those little piglets (that’s a hint for the answer to my question above) to splay out as I run. I get these on Saturday. Can’t wait to try them out and to report back to the 2 people who are still reading this.

In the quest for the Golden Goose of shoes I also picked up some Mizuno Wave Sayonaras. Mizunos have a huge following. Runners who wear them love them. I hate them. Well, hate is a strong word. I really really really dislike them for running. For style and for, you guessed it, walking, they are great. So I’ll still wear them a lot. But they are so stiff and although they are light in weight they feel heavy on my feet. Brad actually noticed how clompy I sounded on our first run where I was wearing these. I felt like an elephant. It was so bizarre. I attribute their clompiness, a technical term, to how stiff they are, how snug in the upper, and how little forefoot cushioning they offer. I think Mizunos are better designed for a super speedy heel striker, not a slow, slightly overweight, midfoot runner. They’re super cute though.

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Don’t they look tropical? They remind me of Tahiti. I wanted them to be the shoes that got me to Tahiti :(. Alas, add to the walking pile.

That’s my shoe obsession in a nutshell! Sooooo interesting right? I know. You’re welcome.

Happy running!

 

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Balancing Act: Running vs. Friends

Today I’m struggling with balancing priorities of equal importance. My days are full. I work a 40 hour work week (sometimes more), and I come home and have approximately 4 or 5 hours to do the following: have dinner, clean the apartment, feed the cats, make and process Whimsy Do orders, write, spend quality time with the man who will be my husband, socialize with friends, do the dishes, do the laundry, and run. Somewhere in there I would like to be able to squeeze in some relaxation, when I can. I’m not complaining by any stretch of the imagination. My life is full, but it’s full of goodness. I love my life. I pinch myself daily. The problem is that there really are limited hours in the day to accomplish such massive quantities of goodness, and usually something falls by the wayside.

Lately it’s been running. Who am I kidding, also cleaning. Our apartment sometimes looks like a few empty pizza boxes away from an episode of Hoarders.

But I can’t let running fall by the wayside. It brings me too much joy, helps me feel sane, and most important of all, gets us to Tahiti! Running must be mandatory from this point out. When struggling with how to squeeze in a mandatory activity there really is only one option. Do it. If that means you have to NOT do something else, then that’s what it means. Today that something else involves friends and it’s making me wish there were two of me.

There’s a fundraiser at Theatre of NOTE tonight called “Stand Up for NOTE.” It’s an evening of stand-up featuring several friends of mine, and all of the proceeds benefit an upcoming production at the theatre. You should go! ;). BUT, we are behind on this week’s mileage and today’s run is crucial to keep us on track for the longer run this weekend. I couldn’t run this morning because I had an 8:00 am dentist appointment and I just can’t get out of bed to run before 7:00. I’m like a robot. I don’t switch on until usually 7:30.

In his book “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running,” Haruki Murakami pretty succinctly describes the struggle of balancing life’s priorities:

It’s a lifestyle, though, that doesn’t allow for much nightlife, and sometimes your relationships with other people become problematic. Some people even get mad at you, because they invite you to go somewhere or do something with them and you keep turning them down. I’m struck by how, except when you’re young, you really need to prioritize in life, figuring out in what order you should divide up your time and energy. If you don’t get that sort of system set by a certain age, you’ll lack focus and your life will be out of balance. I placed the highest priority on the sort of life that lets me focus on writing, not associating with all other people around me.

It’s a bit harsh, and many may say selfish, but there’s truth there wouldn’t you agree? There are only so many hours in the day and I have to preserve as many as I can to allocate to my personal goals. It’s the only way they’ll get accomplished. But my personal relationships are also very important to me. I don’t want them to be diminished by my aspirations.

One solution is to kill two birds, or as many birds as possible, with one stone. (I really hate that a metaphor about killing birds is so useful.) I’m grateful that Brad enjoys running with me because then I can check running and spending quality time with my man off the list at the same time. Maybe I should start a running club with my friends and bring my social life and running life together. What say you friends? Would you go for it?  I suppose combining priorities is one way to solve this problem of mine.

In the meantime, you should go to this in case I can’t. Check out that line-up! And hosted by the one and only Kirsten Vangsness. It really is going to be incredibly hilariously awesome.

How about you? Do you have trouble balancing your personal goals with other obligations? I’d love to hear what you do to get it all done.

RTT Book Club: Haruki Murakami’s “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”

Welcome to the Running to Tahiti Book Club! I don’t intend to actually start a book club. I’m already trying my damnedest to get momentum going on a book club in the physical world. Lord knows I don’t have time to start one in the internet world. So I suppose this is more of a Book Corner. A corner of my blog dedicated to books pertaining to the journey of running. There are so many great ones out there! I will read them. Hopefully some of you will either have read them and start a dialogue in the comments section, or you will be so inspired by my brilliant reviews that you will dash out to the library and get a copy for yourself. I wrote about this idea several months ago, and I’m picking up the mantle, as I just finished one of the books on the list. 

I recently went through a literary drought. It was awful. The problem was, I started to read a book that, truth be told, did not captivate. I love the author so much that I couldn’t bring myself to quit the book. I felt I owed it to him to stick with it and give the book a chance to measure up to the author’s previous brilliant works. It never did; and it took me almost 6 months to finish! So awful. I just didn’t want to read, but I also didn’t want to start a new book until I finished the current one. Long story short, I finally finished this book that shall remain nameless, and breathed a huge sigh of relief. Finally I could get started on my running book list!

I decided to start the RTT Book Club (or corner) off with a bang and picked up a copy of What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. I have so many things to say about it, the most important being that it was fantastic and you should read it.

Murakami I believe Haruki Murakami might quickly become one of my favorite writers. I say “believe” and “might” because I’ve only read one of his novels, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and this memoir. His writing is whimsical, yet concise. His ideas are fantastical, yet stark. There is a sub-conscious to his writing; an underbelly like a nihilistic wonderland. I could not say that I “liked” The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, because I don’t particularly like to feel unsettled and morose; but it made me feel those things in such an understated, subtle, and inviting way that I felt compelled to investigate the darkness it welled up in me.

But this isn’t a review of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I only give that back story so you have a little bit of an idea as to what kind of writer Murakami is. He’s not generally a first-person memoirist. Certainly not in the traditional sense.

Let me start you off with the biggest selling point. This book is short. I read it in one day. I believe it’s only 180 pages (not exactly sure of the printed count as I read it on my Kindle), and it’s a quick read to boot. 

Murakami is honest. He begins the book by stating that he doesn’t really know exactly what he wants to say or how it will manifest, but he feels compelled to write down his thoughts about running. Running has been a huge part of the author’s life for 30+ years and he feels he can’t really talk about himself without talking about running. How many runners out there feel this way? Raise your hand. Am I right?

If you’re looking for a time-lined account of the author’s life, this isn’t it. This is a lovely patchwork quilt of running anecdotes and musings on the greater implications of endurance sports. Murakami runs 6 days a week, usually 6 miles a pop. He has done so for decades. One of my favorite aspects of this book is how he illustrates his running discipline as an active metaphor for his accomplishments as a novelist. He points out how people always ask him, how does he keep up that running schedule when he gets so busy? His response is so simple and true, it hits me in the gut. He points out that if he used being busy as an excuse not to run, he would never run. He requires the same discipline as a writer. He has to write everyday. Even on the days he doesn’t feel like it. Even if he just sits in front of his computer and doesn’t type a thing. He has to sit there. He has to be present. He learned that discipline from long-distance running.

How many of us can relate to that? How many goals in my life could I substitute for running in that sentence? If I used being busy as an excuse not to paint, as an excuse not to write, as an excuse not to eat healthy, as an excuse not to be creative. If you let being “busy” get in the way, you will excuse yourself right out of living. It’s not a valid excuse. There will always be obstacles that get in the way of the things you love in life, the things you want to do. You have to jump over them, or run through them. Being disciplined enough to run everyday (or run to Tahiti) is not easy, and some days I don’t want to do it. But you must, and if you do, you will reap the jewel-encrusted rewards of your hard efforts some day. 

This is the kind of metaphorical-speak that Murakami does SO much better in his memoir than I am doing right now. I think the best thing about this memoir is that it’s not flowery. He’s so conservative and blunt with his prose. This book inspired me deeply, and yet is the farthest thing from self-help or motivational speaker type fare. It’s a practical no-nonsense love letter to the sport of running, and to the value of setting aside time for yourself to reflect and to make plans that will take you in the direction of your destiny.

Highlights of the memoir stick with me, like the time he ran a 62-mile ultra-marathon in the very northern tip of Japan. Imagine running for 12 hours straight! His experience was transcendental and not altogether inspirational. Another highlight was when he decided to run a solo marathon in the place where marathons were born, the road from Athens to the town of Marathon. We all dream of such a trip to “Mecca.” However, my favorite images from the memoir have to be his stories of running along the Charles River in Boston. A month ago I would have said that this was simply a personal treat; a nostalgic jog along the running path of the dirty dirty Charles that I frequented so often; but after what happened last month I think we could all appreciate his passages about running in historic Beantown. This book was published several years ago, long before runners had to worry about explosives going off during a race. Murakami resides in Boston when he’s in the states, and talks a great deal about the city and its running paths. He talks briefly about the Boston Marathon specifically and what a carrot it is for so many runners all over the world. I read this book very shortly after the Boston bombings and my heart broke to read his comments about what the marathon means to that city. It made me want to fly back there and run from the Boston Harbor all the way to Brookline, via Boylston Street, like I used to do 7 years ago. It’s a privilege to run in such a beautiful city. 

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running gets 5 out of 5 running sneakers. If you’re a long-distance runner, and if running means more to you than just exercise, if it’s a part of your DNA, your fabric, I highly recommend this book. I’ll finish by sharing a few of my favorite passages:

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Say you’re running and you think, ‘Man, this hurts, I can’t take it anymore. The ‘hurt’ part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand anymore is up to the runner himself.”

“For me, running is both exercise and a metaphor. Running day after day, piling up the races, bit by bit I raise the bar, and by clearing each level I elevate myself. At least that’s why I’ve put in the effort day after day: to raise my own level. I’m no great runner, by any means. I’m at an ordinary – or perhaps more like mediocre – level. But that’s not the point. The point is whether or not I improved over yesterday. In long-distance running the only opponent you have to beat is yourself, the way you used to be.”

“So the fact that I’m me and no one else is one of my greatest assets.” 

“People sometimes sneer at those who run every day, claiming they’ll go to any length to live longer. But don’t think that’s the reason most people run. Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive then in a fog, and I believe running helps you to do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life — and for me, for writing as whole. I believe many runners would agree”

“Of course it was painful, and there were times when, emotionally, I just wanted to chuck it all. But pain seems to be a precondition for this kind of sport. If pain weren’t involved, who in the world would ever go to the trouble of taking part in sports like the triathlon or the marathon, which demand such an investment of time and energy? It’s precisely because of the pain, precisely because we want to overcome that pain, that we can get the feeling, through this process, of really being alive–or at least a partial sense of it.”

“I’ll be happy if running and I can grow old together.”

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the man himself

 

Have you read Murakami’s memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running? If so, share your thoughts in the comments below! Also feel free to share recommendations for the next book we should read in the RTT Book Club (or corner :))!

running to tahiti book corner

Recently I’ve come across so many great books on the subject of running. At least, I think they seem great. I haven’t read them yet, but the dust jacket blurbs are fantastic 🙂 

I thought it would be nice to compile them all in one place and share with my fellow running enthusiasts. If you love running as much as I do, or are perhaps just in the market for some inspirational reading, I think these should do the trick. As I read through them I’ll be coming back and doing some book reviews on each. Here’s what I’ve come across so far:

What do you think? Have I missed any? Do you have any favorite novels or memoirs that inspire your love of running? If so, please share in the comments below.