I've seen a lot of runners and facebook pages ask the question: What is your favorite running book? I have to admit that I loved Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. But if I had to pick a true favorite, I have to say that Unbroken is not just my favorite running book but one of my favorite books of all time. Unbroken, is a running book for the masses. My dad just loved this book. When I talked to my dad today, we talked about Louis Zamperini, the subject of Unbroken, who died earlier this week at the age of 97.
97 years old! Can you imagine that? Especially after the life that Mr Zamperini lived.
Unbroken is the story of Louis Zamperini, a track standout at USC who set a record of 4:08 for the mile--a record that stood for 15 years. He was an Olympic hopeful who enlisted in the Army Air corp during WWII after the Olympics were cancelled. His plane fell into the ocean and he was captured by the Japanese and placed in a concentration camp after 47 days at sea in a life raft. Did you even know there were Japanese concentration camps? Most of the stories told about WWII focus on the cruelty of the Germans but the Japanese were just as rotten to their prisoners. There was physical torture but according to Zamperini, the mental torture was far worse. His torturer was later charged as a war criminal. But Zamperini said his athletic training helped him stay strong during his internment:
“For one thing, you have to learn self-discipline if you are going to succeed as an athlete,” he said. “For another thing, you have to have confidence in yourself and believe that no matter what you’re faced with, you can deal with it — that you just can’t give up. And then there’s the aspect of staying in shape. And humor helped a lot, even in the gravest times.”
Mr Zamperini was released from the prison camp in 1945. He was married for 54 years and raised 2 kids.
His story is being made into a movie. But don't wait for the movie. Read the book--you know the book is always better than the movie. Zamperini's mental toughness, which he attributes to athletics, is truly inspirational. Courageous and spirited, Louis Zamperini was a true American hero. And the perfect subject for a post on Independence Day!