Monday, April 11, 2016

The Inner Runner, by Jason Karp

In my mind, the chief measure of a good running book is whether it inspires me to get out and run.  Jason Karp's The Inner Runner: Running to a More Successful, Creative, and Confident You passes that test.  Karp is a runner, a running coach, and writer of books about running.  While his prior books tended to be more about training and racing strategies, there's little to none of that in The Inner Runner.  Here he writes about motivations, goals, and meaning.  I enjoyed his perspective and priorities.

Karp writes for runners of all abilities and all types.  His chapter on better runs illustrates this:
"Better runs are slow runs. . . ."
"Better runs are fast runs. . . ."
"Better runs are long runs. . . ."
"Better runs are those that are all about your breath. . . ."
"Better runs are those during which you're aware of your movements and everything going on around you and inside of you. . . ."
"Better runs are emotional runs. . . ."
"Better runs are cross-country and trail runs. . . ."
"Better runs are track runs. . . ."
"Better runs are treadmill runs. . . ."
"Better runs are morning runs. . . ."
"Better runs are social runs. . . ."
"Better runs are solo runs. . . ."
"Better runs are coached runs. . . ."
"Better runs are races. . . ."
Obviously some of these are contradictory.  To Karp, better runs are those that you are running instead of sleeping in or sitting on the couch.  One time when he was running with Joan Benoit Samuelson, who won the gold medal in the first women's Olympic marathon, he asked "where her favorite place to run has been. 'Right here, right now,' she said."  I think Karp would endorse and expand that.  What's the best run?  The run you're running now.  The best place?  Where you are right now.

Karp, who has a Ph.D. in exercise physiology, provides a great deal of information about how the body works while running.  He wrote his dissertation on how runners breathe while running, and his insights on that are very interesting (and probably easier to read than his actual dissertation).  Mostly, though, the strength of The Inner Runner is Karp's inspirational wisdom.  We all have our own purposes for running, and our own goals, but to runners running is "a very special, even holy, process that blends the physical with the philosophical, the egotistical with the emotional."  To a non-runner that sounds overblown.  But a runner will understand.

Karp also emphasizes not comparing yourself to other runners.  Most of us don't have the DNA to compete at a high level.  We can compete with ourselves and push ourselves to accomplish our goals, giving our very best.  He writes, "When you pin that race number to your shirt, you make a promise to yourself and the other runners around you to give your best effort.  And when you cross that finish line, you'll know whether or not you kept that promise."  I love that and will try to remember that next time I race.  He concludes with wisdom that all runners can live by: "Running teaches us that we are better than we think we are and capable of going further that we thought we could . . . in running and in life."

Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

2016 Reading Challenge: A book about sports

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