The Incomplete Book of Running
BOOK: The Incomplete Book of Running by Peter Sagal (Amazon)
SUMMARY: Sad man goes running, learns things along the way.
READ THIS BOOK IF: You’re a runner looking for motivation, are not a runner but like the idea of running, you love a good memoir, or you’re a huge Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me fan (Sagal is the host).
I’ve never been a runner. Until recently, the closest I had come was shuffling my way through a few amateur 5ks every year in order to justify the aggressive Saturday day-drinking of my early 20s. At one holiday race a few years ago, I actually planned on exerting myself so little that I wore bright red lipstick and a headband shaped like a Christmas tree.
In the spring of 2018, though, I found myself planning a wedding, with all the anxiety that entails. After subjecting my loved ones to more than one meltdown over whether the bridesmaids should wear flower crowns (spoiler: they didn’t), I decided to take up running to help reduce stress, or something.
One or two gasping miles turned into long runs every weekend, and that turned into training for a half marathon. Before I knew it, I had somehow become the kind of person who enjoyed running (gross, I know). The wedding came and went, then the holidays arrived, and my husband got me a gift perfect for a newly minted runner: Peter Sagal’s recent book, The Incomplete Book of Running.
Part how-to and part personal memoir, The Incomplete Book of Running (the title references this old-school book) is mostly the story of how NPR host Sagal used running to work his way through a painful divorce. Sagal starts at the beginning of his own running career, which began as a rebellion against his teenage body, and continues through years of elite marathon running (including being near the finish line during the Boston Marathon bombing).
He weaves in musings on marriage, divorce, friendship and fatherhood, and touches on running issues both big (body image, the inherent elitism of fancy running gear) and small (whether or not you should wear headphones, all the weird bodily functions that tend to happen when you force your body to run long distances). It’s darkly funny and well-written - I found myself turning down pages nearly every chapter to mark sentences I wanted to come back to.
Reading this made me remember, begrudgingly, why I love running so much - and even made me put on my sneakers and get out the door a few times over winter break, which is more than I can say for most books.
(PS: I did run a half marathon in November, and I did not wear lipstick).