Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Book Five: Boston: A Century of Running

Recently, when my car was broken into and a vast amount of personal possessions were stolen, I was obviously distraught. While the despicable person(s) (who should rot in hell contaminated with syphilis, by the way) took much from me, luckily they left behind my half-read copy of the history of the Boston Athletic Association Marathon. While some of my possessions cannot be replaced, and a simple repurchasing of this book could have put it in my hands again in a snap, having it close by kept me centered. In fact, the last thing I did a few hours later before falling asleep was to read one more chapter of it.

While the vast bulk of my marathon career was in 2006 and I am still relatively new to the sport, the days are passing further in further since my first marathon attempt in 2001. I knew absolutely nothing about running a marathon then and honestly, until 2005 could not have pulled Paul Tergat out of a line-up of all-white men (Paul, a Kenyan was the world record-holder in the marathon until very recently and someone who I actually had the vast pleasure of meeting by chance in a running store last year. Read more here). Since then, however, I have begun to steep myself in marathoning lore. Well, one cannot consider themselves even learned in marathons until they get more intimate with the Boston Athletic Association Marathon; known simply as "Boston".

The way to do that is to read Hal Higdon’s wonderful history of this race which starts all the way back from its humble beginnings and takes the reader all the way up to the eve of the 100th running of Boston in 1996. If it is lacking anything, it is an addendum to include the 11 years of running, and all the changes that have occurred since its publishing. Other than that, it is a treat for both the mind and the eyes. Glorious photos, some you have seen a hundred times (yet never get sick of reliving) populate the book as it chronicles the history of the world’s most famous marathon. Even though I knew some of the stories, hearing a different perspective on them is so exciting. I still think that if I read it just the right way, I can will Dick Beardsley to a victory over Alberto Salazar at the 1982 Boston and am still shocked when I fail to do so.

The only drawback to this book is that it is a wide book, making it difficult to read on an airplane. But I did make a friend on one plane who had just recently run a marathon herself and inquired about whether the book was any good. I will tell you what I told her.

With my move to Salt Lake City happening in less than a week, I have no plans to run Boston this year. The Salt Lake City Marathon is the same weekend and I have designs on giving that a try. Plus, I made a bet with myself to never run Boston again until I am able to run it by its old (and fastest) qualifying time of 2:50. However, having read this book, and being exposed to not only stories I already knew, but also tons of new and interesting facts about the history of Boston, my fervor is up. I am not quite sure if I can wait until 2009. That’s what the book did to me.

Thanks, Hal. Now I have to buy a plane ticket.


Yellow Scuba said...

Now I can't wait to read my own copy of this book, which has been on my shelf for about four years since Hal's last printing of it. I am so glad that you liked the book, and that it was a positive aspect in an otherwise awful day. Can't wait for the next review! :)

Have fun in the next Boston Marathon, goober!

Lisa Smith-Batchen said...

Your going to love your move to SLC...once you get there we can introduce you to many others!