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From Last to First Paperback – 4 Sep 2009
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"Any athlete who wants an extra edge will treasure From Last to First. But Charlie Spedding's advice goes way beyond the finishing line, to getting the very best out of yourself whatever your talent." --JOHN BRYANT, former Editor in Chief of the Daily and Sunday Telegraph newspaper.<br /><br />"Charlie offers real insight into what it takes to succeed as a marathon runner and this is one of the best athletics autobiographies you will read."
--TOM KNIGHT, Athletics writer.
About the Author
Charlie Spedding is the English record holder for the marathon, a winner of the London Marathon, and the last British athlete, male or female, to win a medal in the Olympic Marathon.
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The clear impression given on the jacket is of something like a fairytale triumph, where someone with little or no athletic ability somehow battled his way to an Olympic medal.
The reality is very different. The "last" element turns out to be about one page, mentioning that Charlie was academically low in the class and came last in a primary school sprint race. Within the space of another two or three pages, however, he finds out that he's better at longer distances, and within a few more pages, he's running in AAAs and National schools events at Crystal Palace and the like and well established as an elite English youth athlete.
The transformation aspect of his story is really just going from being a middling / top 20 English long distance runner to stepping up to the marathon and winning Olympic bronze and the London Marathon. He does that partly through the psychological and self-motivational stuff he writes about, but also with the benefit of prolonged spells of training in the USA in addition to being a member of a stellar Gateshead Harriers and golden British long distance running generation.
I'm not knocking it, or his achievements, in the slightest. It's just that the blurb is clearly designed to suggest that this is an extraordinary tale of a triumph against the odds, by someone who could barely run when he began. It is nothing like that.
Some of the technical stuff will be of interest to improving runners, although you might query the need for him setting out his 1984 training schedule in an Appendix.
All in all, not a bad memoir of 1970s/80s distance running, but if you want a better written and more focussed running improvement book, by someone from the same era, try Julian Goater's "The Art of Running Faster".
With no interest in the subject, why did I read it? I was attracted by the “Last to First” achievements of Charlie and what I could pick up by way of ideas to help improve my own personal focus. To that end, the journey that Charlie steps the reader through was highly illuminating. As a work to help you get your own head lined up and ready to rock, it really hit the spot for me.
To add context to that, I’ve run my own small business for twenty years and sometimes my performance has been great and sometimes it’s been … erm … less than optimal, shall we say. I could never understand why and at times wondered if I was just in fact crap. Hence, the theme and messages in this book resonated amazingly and after reading it I feel both enlightened and considerably lighter mentally, physically and emotionally. I’m now much less concerned about the ups and downs I’ve experienced because I know that I can turn it on when I both need to and want to. The solution is so simple, yet so powerful, I’m left shaking my head in surprise.
This book really cuts straight to the heart of such issues so thank you again for writing it, it’s probably a shed load of beers I owe the author, not just one.
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