Like many runners, myself included, Chris Spriggs took up running rather late in life. As he got into running, he looked to his Uncle Andrew, an avid runner, for advice. Andrew was one of those nuts (I mean that in the most affectionate, admiring way) who ran several marathons and ultramarathons every year. His passion for running rubbed off on Chris.
When Andrew was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND), it was a shock to Andrew and all who knew him. (MND is what we Americans call ALS. According to the International Alliance of ALS/MND Associations, "Although MND is the widely used generic term in the United Kingdom,
Australia and parts of Europe, ALS is used more generically in the
United States, Canada and South America.") Once Andrew was no longer able to run, Chris decided to ask Andrew if he would agree to running a marathon together, with Chris pushing his beloved uncle in his wheelchair.
This is the story Chris tells in The Reason I Run: How Two Men Transformed Tragedy Into the Greatest Race of Their Lives. Chris writes with such passion, heart, humor, and love, that I couldn't help but be inspired by the joy with which he runs and the love and admiration he has for his uncle. I felt like I was welcomed into Chris's extended family and into the family of runners.
As part of his research and preparation, Chris tracked down "Mick n Phil, Marathon Lads." Mick has pushed his son, Phil, who has cerebral palsy, in dozens of races, including 12 marathons. Besides practical tips about the chair and running form, "Mick helps [Chris] see that running is many things. It is friendship. It is sacrifice. It is dedication. It is also play." Chris and Uncle Andrew seems to keep a good grasp of running as play. Children "remind us that running is more than obsessive clock-watching and teeth-clenching defiance as we lunge across a finish line. What do children to most easily when they run? They laugh. Like the two are twins, running and joy, hand in hand." I love that! It's so easy to forget when I'm cranking out miles on a training run or in the second half of a tough race.
It's not always easy. Chris shares the experience of many runners: "Rarely do I feel in the mood for a run. . . . Yet I'm always glad I've conquered the apathy and clocked up a single mile, or many miles in one go." By Chris's account, he has been pretty successful in overcoming that apathy and accomplishing the goals he and Andrew have set. But it goes way beyond running. Uncle Andrew taught Chris "to live like I'm running at my best. With my head up, leaning into the day I'm given. To cherish the body I'm resident in and encourage others along the way. To remember that some miles are for enjoying, while others are for enduring, but that we should live them all until the finish, always searching for our personal best."
The Reason I Run is an inspiring read for runners, non-runners, and future runners. If you have forgotten why you run, Chris and Uncle Andrew can help you find a reason.
Here's a nice article about the pair: http://www.express.co.uk/life-style/life/590618/running-MND-stephen-hawking-illness-muscles-marathon
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!