The common feature of these books is that each person comes from life circumstances that the average person can relate to … sort of. These are not the tales of high school stars gone on to Olympic glory or talent rewarded with advertising sponsorships. These are people who chose to to pursue triathlon and/or running in spite of, and sometimes because of, disappointments in their lives. They did this while having some semblance of family life and other normal daily responsibilities.
Two of the books do generate some of the “story” from a past of seriously bad habits. This unfortunately perpetuates the stereotype of extreme and unbalanced behavior in those who decide to set athletic goals. The third author had an attitude that I could relate to more. But let me give a short summary of each book.
Triathlon for the Every Woman is the story of one woman’s journey to just. start. moving. She is funny and painfully honest in describing her suffering and successes. Since she is trying to do all of this as the mother of 2 young children and while working full-time as a lawyer, I was forced to conclude that her children were not seeing very much of her. Be that as it may, there was a lot I could relate to as a basically novice and woman triathlete. I learned some things and was inspired by her, whether I was laughing or cringing. She is very detailed in her telling, usually doing well at avoiding getting bogged down in those very details. I actually listened to the book via audible.com and the reader was very good.
If I had to do it again, I would get the paperback or kindle version of Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself simply because I grew impatient with reliving his years of debauchery and rehab. Trying to skip ahead with an audio version is not that easy. However, once we got past that, it was fun and interesting to follow along with his endurance triathlon training. He did emphasize that his exercise was part of a spiritual journey, and that the rest of us are probably idiots for not being vegans. I came away from his book both thinking I could enjoy training more (his is an example of the go slow to build endurance method that I have recently begun to implement), but also thinking that endurance racing will never be the priority to me that it was to him.
Running with the Kenyans: Discovering the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth was the most completely well written book of the bunch. This author seemed the most balanced of the three, and told his story with understatement that spoke volumes. I really enjoyed listening to this one from beginning to end, not only due to excellent writing, but because of the voices employed for different characters. The story teases you along, as he takes you on his search to discover why the Kenyans are fast. He doesn’t sugar coat his experience in Kenya with his family. Nor does he put the Kenyans on a pedestal. They are what they are. This story has some interesting perspectives on barefoot running. A very competitive person might end up discouraged by the story, but for the rest of us, it is a useful journey through culture, it’s affect on running, and the author’s own journey of running.
I don’t think you have to be training for a triathlon or marathon to enjoy these stories. I think they would be entertaining and encouraging to anyone who likes a good biography. Someone who is trying to find ways to be move for fun and health would find them inspiring and thought provoking, but not always in the ways the authors seemingly intended. They each have their own little touch of crazy perspective, but then, don’t we all?