What I Learn From Books About Running

As a runner, do you enjoy reading books about running? I recently read Running with the Buffaloes by Chris Lear. Though I never ran 100-mile weeks in college like the team at the University of Colorado, it was relatable, emotional and inspiring. I couldn’t believe I had never read it before. I also couldn’t get out of bed (except for runs) until I finished it and sobbed (both happy and sad tears) all weekend. I think if I had read it in college, I would have been better at running beyond my pain threshold in races until I literally thought I would die. I could have been better.

I did read Once A Runner before my senior year. I think it was the first running book I’d ever read, which is surprising because running and reading are two of my favorite things to do. It was incredible. I am filled with nostalgia when I reread it now. I used to flip through my highlighted pages before big races for inspiration. I often think of Quentin Cassidy and Bruce on runs.

While I wish I had read many of these epic novels when I was competing, I appreciate them no less now. I am reminded of my regrets and also that some of the world’s greatest athletes have similar regrets. I think of wonderful memories of being on a team. I think of races that were fun, challenging and strengthened our team bond. I am engaged while reading pages written by someone who fully understands the part of me that is a runner.

Now that I am not surrounded by runners daily, it’s hard to find another person who relates to this aspect of my life. Luckily, I do have a boyfriend who I can share these conversations with because we started as teammates. I love reading a running-related book when I really start to miss it or am seeking extra motivation. It renews my feeling of connection to the sport.

Does anyone actually ever reach their running potential? I think that no matter how many accomplishments we reach as runners, we are never satisfied. We always think we could have been faster, raced smarter or run more fearlessly. Even if you win the race, could you have maybe won by a couple more seconds? If only we had done it this way, had run more miles, had done more strength workouts, hadn’t gotten injured, had a different mindset, completed 15-mile long runs instead of 12…. The thoughts we sometimes obsess over are never ending.

To me, all of the “what ifs” aren’t depressing. I’ve learned to not let them make me feel unfulfilled. They are just representative of the runner’s mentality which is, after all, the reason many of us were drawn to running in the first place. Runners share an insatiable need to always improve. This is a quality many of us probably possessed before we even knew we liked to run. Happiness is challenging ourselves and constantly striving to be our own best person. I’m currently reading Running the Edge which explores a lot of these ideas. It’s cool that we are never content with our current state, or else there is so much we would miss out on. Maybe I didn’t reach all of my goals when I was at my peak fitness, but I sure got closer than I would have if I hadn’t set those goals to begin with.

I know that my prime running days are behind me. I don’t expect to ever break a college PR again, nor do I feel like I failed if I don’t. I do have the desire to be the best runner I can be now. I still have goals. I try to increase my mileage from week to week. I want to run new places, stay in shape so I can always keep up with old teammates on visits and meet new running friends. It’s a part of my life and always will be. The best part is, I’m still learning as a runner. For one, there’s a whole new book genre I need to devour.

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