Its basic premise is relatively straightforward. Daniloff is a recovering alcoholic who decides to confront his past "one marathon at a time". His quest takes him to seven cities or town in the space of a year and a half: Boston, Burlington (Vermont), Moscow, Gill (Massachusetts), New York, Middlebury (Vermont) and Washington DC.
What I liked about book: Daniloff is a professional writer and journalist and it shows in the quality of his prose. His descriptions of the races, his past life and the city and towns he visits (especially Moscow, New York, and Washington) are entertaining, evocative and often quite moving. I also appreciated his frank, sometimes darkly funny reflections on past events. Most intriguing though were his insights into the ways running has helped him to address the issues that fueled his alcoholism.
...Over the years, I'd let myself be choked by numbers - carbs, pounds, fat grams, miles, minutes, calories, bib numbers. The sub-four had become not only a barrier to break, but a tool with which to judge myself. The digits on my Garmin, the same thing. The self-criticism that drinking first softened, but ultimately exacerbated, still echoed somewhere deep inside me. It was here in DC where I first started judging myself, feeling shame at being me, too young to realize the far-reaching implications. And it was here where I could snuff them out for good.What I didn't care for about the book: As a slow runner who takes regular walk breaks during long runs, I was a little put off by Daniloff''s assertion that he couldn't say he'd "run" a marathon if he walked any part of it. In my experience, walk breaks are an effective strategy for going the distance that in no way diminishes the achievement. Indeed, many runners have found their marathon times improved as a result of taking walk breaks. In addition, the book doesn't include much detail regarding the author's training which may be a disappointment to some readers.
In summary, I'd highly recommend this book for any "mindful runner" - by which I mean any runner for whom running represents something more than just exercise.
Incidentally, other great books for the runners on your Christmas list include:
Once a Runner by John L. Parker, Jr. According to Runner's World, the best novel about running ever written. I liked it enough to say that claim may well be true.
Born to Run by Christopher MacDougall. A highly entertaining and informative exploration of the extraordinary human capacity for distance running, it also provides fascinating insights into what motivate the most extreme ultra-runners.
Chi Running by Danny Dreyer. Highly recommended for those interested in learning techniques that can help them run with greater ease and fewer injuries.
Eat & Run by Scott Jurek. A fascinating account of the forces that came together to make Scott Jurek one of the world's great ultra-marathoners. As a bonus, the book includes a terrific selection of Scott's favourite vegan recipes.
Happy reading and running, everyone!