Friday, December 13, 2019

Peter Sagal's The Incomplete Book of Running

I read Peter Sagal's The Incomplete Book of Running, which is his extended reflection on what running means to him, especially in the context of facing middle age and going through a difficult divorce.

As a middle-aged runner, I identify with the former, though I have to say that Sagal is such a fast runner that I would occasionally roll my eyes at his pace frustrations, which for me would've been triumphs (a 3:09 marathon in your 40s is inconceivable to me). But he's a funny person and perfectly brought out the various ways the middle-aged body responds to marathon training (just read about egresses). He describes the Boston Marathon, which he's run several times (and in fact was quite close to the bomb in 2013) and I talked about those passages with my wife, who ran it in 2000 while I made my way to cheer her on late in the race around Heartbreak Hill.

He sees running as a very social activity and encourages others to follow his example, though I am not sure how much he realizes extroversion plays into that. His accounts of running groups, talking to everyone he sees, and dressing up in weird costumes made think about how I would hate running if it involved all that. My own enjoyment of running stems from it being a bit social and mostly solo.

But overall, I feel like he nicely summarizes how running provides a structure within life's chaos. I have started training for a marathon in the spring, and my wife and I set up a mileage schedule. During the week, I run almost exclusively in the evening on treadmills, which (as he accurately points out) is sub-optimal but for a variety of reasons unavoidable for me. No matter what's going on during the day, though, I look forward to that time, when I can clear my head. No matter how tired I feel at the beginning, I feel better as I go, and I sleep really well. On weekends, we run longer distances together.


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