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The Looniness of the Long Distance Runner: An Unfit Londoner's Attempt to Run the New York City Marathon from Scratch Paperback – 2 Jan 2007
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"Taylor is a humor writer...and he puts his talent to prodigious use in documenting his odyssey-by-foot...Beginning with his first visit to the gym - not to run, but to use the shower when the hot water goes out in his building - I laughed out loud at sketches made funnier by the resonance of recognition...."
About the Author
Russell Taylor is the copy-writing arm of the partnership that produces the "Alex" cartoon strip in The Daily Telegraph, and is published annually by Prion. He likes his sport but until this challenge not quite enough to get him out of the pub and into a gym. He lives in Muswell Hill, north London. He was awarded an MBE in 2003 for services to journalism.
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I particularly liked reading his accounts of the other, smaller races he participated in prior to the NYM, and his humour throughout made it a fun read. Some of the other reviews seemed to expect a more detailed/scientific training plan, this is not what the book is about!
As someone about to run my first marathon, I found the story relatable, encouraging and inspiring - if he can do it, so can I!
Bubbling over with a wonderful and very British sense of humour this is a book to savour for all runners and non-runners alike.
I particularly enjoyed his description of taking part in events such as 'Race The Train' and the research he undertook has shone through.
This is a must for all who can love running whilst seeing the absurd beauty of the sport.
For a start there is an odd discrepancy between how he describes his runs (red faced, panting, stopping frequently to walk etc) and the impressive finishing times that are casually recorded at the start of each chapter. As someone who has been running for a couple of years I was surprised to find him covering 5KM only slightly more slowly than my usual pace after only a couple of visits to the gym and 20-odd years of no exercise. But it doesn't really matter - maybe he's just very gifted or I'm not quick enough.
Far more serious is the sheer nastiness of the author, which he isn't able to suppress. For someone billing himself as a humourist he is remarkably mean-spirited - at one point he describes his worries about being "boxed in by dawdling idiots" who have committed the crime of only running at the pace of 8 minutes per mile.
Am I missing something here? 8 minute miles would get you round the marathon course in three and a half hours - a remarkably quick time for a first time runner!
Elsewhere he talks about taking a long detour to the start line to avoid being mistaken for someone running a 10k race, which he pours scorn on. At regular intervals people wish him well, but he despises them for this and cuts them dead. He spends several passages describing how much he dislikes the other runners that take part in his races. He has nothing but contempt for everyone who is slower than him. Most of the brief account of the marathon itself is spent berating the crowds of New Yorkers who turned out to cheer on the runners - he finds them irritating and would prefer them to be silent.
One thing is for sure, he feels no kinship with people undertaing the same challenge - for him it's all about beating them and then being silently pleased with himself.
All in all I didn't enjoy spending 224 pages in Russell Taylor's company. One for the charity shop.
Taylor doesn't come across well here portraying himself as the playful just-for-fun runner who doesn't take it too seriously before berating the rest of the field for not running at his pace.
The book is simply a diary of his training schedule (which contains nothing noteworthy), followed by a short account of his marathon.
There is some interesting background to the Marathon at the beginning and this is the only reason it doesn't get 1-star.
I would recommend "Born to Run" by McDougall as a much more interesting book on running - this has a place on my shelf, Taylors effort is now languishing in the charity shop.
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A genuinely funny book that I couldn't put down.Read more