Runners sometimes speak of “banking” time early in a long race. For instance, if they want to run a time of X at the midway point so they can run a Y total time, they might run X minus 2 minutes so that they have those extra 2 minutes at the end in case they get tired. Rarely is this a wise strategy. Runners choose to run at a pace that suits their skills (or slightly faster if they are hopeful) and running faster than that usually means they are running faster than they have trained for.
However, with my goal of reading a book a week for the whole year, I am glad to say I have “banked” some pages. With Dick Beardsley’s autobiography already devoured, I turned my sites to another Christmas present I had received. Next on my list was Benjamin Cheever’s STRIDES: Running Through History With an Unlikely Athlete.
I call Cheever’s STRIDES the perfect bathroom reader, and I say that with utmost praise. STRIDES is a collection of thoughts and stories Cheever has pieced together from his many years as both an author, a son of an author, and more importantly, a runner. With a cohesive storyline of “running,” the chapters can nonetheless be read separately and out of order. Each chapter succinctly wraps itself up and I would not be surprised if they were originally intended to be placed in a periodical by themselves before Cheever got an idea to tie them all together. Regardless, it is an effortless read, spiced with humor, facts about running, and personal experiences with some of the elites of running that many runners would envy. I am most thankful for his chapter dedicated to 26 books to read on running. While I have read some of them, he has helped alleviate any trepidation I had about finding enough books to read for the year. Thanks, John!
Through self-deprecating wit, Cheever mocks his speed, although, in this book alone he eludes to a 2:50 marathon time. Elite? No. Plodding? Hardly. (Which is why I am curious he calls himself an "unlikely athlete".) Then again, perhaps Cheever feels exactly the same as I do. You see, in a recent speech, I told a group of people that the faster I run, the shower I realize I am. Right now Cheever has me beat by 5 minutes. I expect to be much lower than that by the end of 2008.
Which will put me right smack dab in the middle of the “Who the heck cares?” category. Not fast enough to matter; too fast to get the sympathy “congrats”. But I’ll take it if it comes.