Matthew Inman, a.k.a The Oatmeal, has captured, for me, the essence and the joy of running in The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances. He's not an elite ultrarunner, but he's out there, running and loving it more than most. His stories and drawings are goofy, hilarious, thoughtful, and, in fact, inspiring. That, to me, is the measure of a good running book. When I'm done reading, or, better, while I'm reading, do I feel like going for a run? TTAWRWIRLD passes that test with flying colors.
Inman's trademark contribution to running lore is "the Blerch," "a fat little cherub . . . a wretched lazy beast" who tells Inman to "slow down, to walk, to quit." When Inman is "sedentary at a time when [he has] zero excuse for being sedentary," he is "blerching." The good news is, the Blerch "can be outrun. He CAN be silenced." I can relate to Inman. I have done more than my share of blerching. But, as Inman comically yet profoundly illustrates, running can be a time that transcends the noise of the world.
Among the wackiness, Inman does actually have some practical advice. His "DOs and and DO NOTs of running your first marathon" includes helpful tips like:
--DO let those pre-race jitters fly! Start out at a completely impractical pace. This will demoralize other runners into quitting early, and you will be crowned marathon champion at mile two.
--DO NOT stop running when getting a drink at an aid station. By enduring the "sprint-choke," you could shave three, possibly four seconds off your 5+ hour finish time!
--DO delude yourself into thinking there is anything enjoyable about eating energy gels. ("This tastes like boob milk from a cyborg.")
Runners will be laughing in recognition and looking for another race to sign up for. The running tribe can be a bit odd, and Inman one of us. Pick up TTAWRWIRLD, silence the Blerch, and then go for a run!
You can read a substantial excerpt at The Oatmeal. But, trust me, you'll want to read the rest of it, too.
(I should add a content advisory: Inman uses some, uh, colorful language. It may be a cartoon book, but it's not for the little ones. . . .)
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!