Friday, June 12, 2015

Taking the Long Way Home Book Club Book Review: The terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distances by Matthew Inman


I picked this book because it's summer and I thought, since we're all so busy, what better book to read than a graphic comic about running? It's a quick, easy read that took me all of one hour to get through. But I'll go back to it again and again, because it really hits home for me. Most of it, anyways! I've always loved the Oatmeal comics--Inman has a kind of snarky sense of humor, much like me, and the comics I'd seen previously from this book were funny and poignant.

In the introduction to the book, Inman gives a little background. He started running 10 years ago to lose weight. He says he was an overweight kid. Since he started running, he's run all the distances, including ultras. The inspiration for his comics come while he is running. Even though he's run far and admittedly fast (his half marathon PR is 1:30), he waxes poetic on the pain and challenge that running poses.

from the terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distances by Matthew Inman
Midway through the book is "A lazy cartoonist's guide to becoming a runner". This is simply brilliant, and should be required reading for all beginning runners. Because as he says, "remember, running sucks in the beginning". How many people have said to me that they "can't run", that it's "too hard"? Inman calls running "a front loaded chore". It gets better. Maybe not easier. As runners, we all know that.

Like me, Inman has a strong dislike for the treadmill. He likens the treadmill to a cyborg.
"It is like being taunted by a cyborg. A cyborg never tires. A cyborg does not know fatigue. A cyborg only know ones and zeros. Cyborgs are dicks."
I've never thought about my treadmill as a dick, but it does throw random pieces of plastic at me, so there's that.

One of my favorite sections of the book is "The Dos and Do Nots of running your first Marathon". I'd seen this comic prior to reading the book, and it never fails to entertain me. His tips could actually apply to running any race distance. And yes, gels do taste like "boob milk from a cyborg". I'm not sure what that would taste like, but I imagine that gels would just about cover it. Ugh....

I know this voice well. Image from the terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distances by Matthew Inman
I've written a lot about mental toughness while running long distances, and defeating the voice inside my head that tells me to quit. Inman actually has a name for that voice. He calls it the "Blerch". He visualizes a "fat little cherub who follows me when I run".  You can out run the Blerch, and you can silence him.  The Blerch has struck a chord with a lot of us. Inman has organized virtual and live runs "Beat the Blerch". He sells tshirts and gear on his website. The book also comes with 2 Blerch stickers, if you're into that.

The only section of the book that I take issue with is his description of running a race. He says:
"The closest comparison I can think of is if ten thousand pregnant ladies all met in the street and started firing infants out of their hoo-haws in a massive game of amniotic paintball. It would be a messy ordeal. There would be sweat. There would be tears. there would be police cars and barricades. But in the end, an army of countless baby-people would emerge, all feasting on orange slices and high-fiving one another for a job well done."
Ok, I have compared running a marathon to giving birth. A painful ordeal, but oh, so rewarding in the end. And you do get amnesia, a bit, for the whole process, and sign up to do it again. But really, firing infants out of women's hoo-haws?  I get your analogy, Mr Inman, but it's a little gross the way you describe it. Anyways, you are right, it is an "exuberant payoff" to months of tedium.

And one other thing, I don't listen to music to distract myself from the pain and tedium of running. I don't believe that listening to music "waters down the core of what it takes to be a distance runner". I don't agree with him on this point AT ALL. Trust me, I still feel the pain.

image from the terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distances by Matthew Inman
In the end, we all run for the same reasons as Inman. We run to "seek that clarity". We run "very fast because we desperately want to stand very still".
"I run to seek a void."
We run to shut out the world.
"Demons are forgotten. Krakens are slain. Blerches are silenced."
That's why I run.

How about you?

What did you think? Did you enjoy the book? Do you have a blerch?

Don't forget to link up your review below!

And by the way, there won't be an author interview this month. I tried to reach out to Inman, and never heard back from him. Then I saw a message on his website that basically said, "don't email me". And I found this comic of his:


I'm sure he's a really nice guy, but probably gets tired of spam. Anyways...If you want to learn more about Matthew Inman, here's an interview published by Wired in 2013. Mark Remy of Runners World also interviewed Inman in 2013, and asked questions similar to what I had in mind, and so that will have to suffice. You can read that interview here. For now, I'm just going to continue to enjoy his comics, his love for his dogs, and his irreverent take on running.

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Be sure to link up your review below! You know the rules; make sure you link back to this post. The badge is below. And be sure to read everyone else's reviews. Sharing is caring! Remember if you don't have a blog, or don't care to link up, post your review in the comments. Thanks again for participating!

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I hope you'll join us next month for our next book Running Like A Girl by Alexandra Heminsley. The link up will go live July 14!



54 comments :

  1. I love the Oatmeal! There is actually a race about an hour from me in the fall. I thought about doing it but it is one week before my fall A race so I didn't sign up. I may decide to anyway - how can one resist cake and Nutella?

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  2. Someone gave me a copy of that book a few months ago. Super cute. We are a crazy bunch aren't we? I read Alexandra's book a few years ago and loved it. It's great for new runners she has a fun sense of humor.

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  3. I could not get past the nastiness of his statement about his e-mail that you posted earlier. It would have colored every reading moment, so I took a pass. I'm not known for my sense of humor (ask my guys!), though I do have my moments. I can take a dose of snark, but this was too much for me. Still, I'm glad he is still providing laughs for others. And I enjoyed reading your review.

    I already requested from our library next month's selection. A nice and short summer read. I'll take it.

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    1. Definitely not for someone without a sense of humor...lol! And then there's me, silly...

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  4. This looks like a great summer read. I might have to check it out!

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  5. I love this book; he is absolutely HILARIOUS and completely on point when it comes to running - ha! Several of my running club gal pals have done virtual runs with The Blerch; they always get some cool swag! Hope you have a great weekend, Wendy!!

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  6. Sounds like a fun one to read! Thanks for the great, thorough review.

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  7. I have never heard of this guy- but this looks funny! I need to get in your book reviews! I will go look for both of them on amazon now- so I don't forget!

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    1. If you go to my page, there's a link to download the book (for free!)

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  8. I read it awhile back. It was funny but nothing that I could really take away from it. There is a Beat the Blerch race in NJ. I thought about it but it was expensive so I decided against it.

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    1. His sense of humor is definitely not for everyone!

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  9. I think most of us have a "Blerch" Sounds like a good read! Sorry he didn't get back to you.

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  10. Sounds like a cute read, I'll check it out hopefully this summer. My down time has been pretty sparse lately.

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    1. This is a quick one, so it's good for the summer.

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  11. Just want to say how much I love your blog! I've spent the last 2 days (home sick from work) reading it from the beginning. Everything you write holds my interest and resonates with me. I would love to have your determination and talent, but I will be happy with hanging on to your blogs for inspiration. I never ran in my entire life more than maybe a 1/2 mile at most. Never considered it and was not athletic although I would have loved to have been. Last year, after my mom died, I decided to get working on all the adventures that I hadn't done-- before it was too late. I signed up for a running class to just run a 5k. Hated it. But, did the 5K, then another and then another and became addicted. This past February I did a half marathon in Austin TX and this past April I did a full marathon in New Jersey. I'm signed up for another half in Rhode Island in July and a full in Hartford CT. I had such a great time doing both the half and the full. I took my time and enjoyed mostly every second of each event and felt so good at the end of each I was able to have a beer. : ). I'm a slow runner (1/2 was 2:24 and the full was 5:26 but that's ok. I'm just grateful that I can do this at this stage of my life as I'm 57 now. I, too, have IBS issues and that did cost me time during the full. Ugh....still working on those issues. Didn't mean to write so much here but you are so inspiring to me and I wish you lived closer. But, WHEN you BQ maybe we can meet up before the marathon : ) I'm about an hour from Boston. Love Boston! Maybe someday I can run it too.

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    1. I love this post! This is what it's all about, people going out and trying new things, adventures they think they have no chance of achieving, then doing it anyway. People of like interests connecting, supporting each other on their journeys.
      I could never achieve all you've done. I started at 59; last summer, just before I turned 62, I ran ten miles, all by myself. A half? A full? Not on my plate. You? At 57 to have done all this. I am in awe.
      You must be from New England; I am a Rhode Islander. Small world.
      Welcome to Wendy's. She is a great source of inspiration, a font of courage, a true role model.
      Happy running, G-Ma.

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    2. I've got to say that this comment (and Connie's reply) just made my day! Like Connie said, this is what it's all about! I'm so impressed at all you've done. You embody what I keep preaching--that age is just a number and that it's never too late to do big things. I wish you lived closer too! And the good thing is that BQ keeps becoming more attainable as we move through our 50s! Thank you so so so much! Keep in touch.

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  12. I didn't know Inman had a book! I love The Oatmeal - definitely need to read! Thanks for sharing :)

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    1. If you go to my FB page, there's a link to a free download! No excuses...

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  13. What an interesting read! I have heard of Beat the Blerch but never knew what it was or who was involved! I really need to step it up and get back to reading...I enjoy it but spend too much time online (go figure!).

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    1. This was such a fun read! Made me laugh out loud, more than once!

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  14. This was a very different, but enjoyable read. Inman has a very odd sense of humor. Though I think he gets his point across well! I think we all have heard our inner voice. Great light summer read!

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    1. I guess I have an odd sense of humor too, because I totally get him. And he gets us.

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  15. Thanks for sharing, This looks like a book right up my alley!!!

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  16. This sounds like a good book to check out. Thanks for the review, Wendy!

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  17. Thanks for sharing! Now I really want to check out this book. I love quick easy reads and I have read a few more "serious" books lately so I need a change.

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    1. Hits all the high points, but is a really quick read!

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  18. I love the Oatmeal! This book was hilarious. I have read it and laugh the entire time!

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  19. I started this book (and the May one as well!) but have been challenged by getting them read in time!! What I did start of the Oatmeal was funny... and then I needed more of a story to keep me reading! Will try next month's book!

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    1. Oh gosh, this was such a short fun read. I haven't read next month's book, but I've heard it's funny!

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  20. Oh, gosh, I haven't heard of this, but I think I'd love it!

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    1. If you go to my FB page, I posted a link to a download of the book!

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  21. Thanks for the review. Not sure its my style ... but I can definitely relate to the points you have picked up on. Have a great weekend.

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    1. Thanks for your honesty! I agree, not everyone has his sense of humor.

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  22. I think I'm going to suggest to my kids that they give this to their dad for father's day. Thanks for the idea :)

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  23. Sounds like a very interesting read!

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  24. lol I love that nike quote, I've seen it before and it always makes me laugh. I'll have to check out the book!

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    1. I do too, and I should have heeded it today! Heading to bed very soon...

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  25. I agree - that scene comparing a marathon to giving birth was a bit much.

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    1. I have compared running a marathon to giving birth, but his description was a little graphic...

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  26. Sorry it took me so long to link up! I had the book read ages ago. Thank you for having this book club. I like that it gets me outside of my normal reading routines!

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    1. No worries! that's why I leave the link up open for 2 weeks! Thanks for participating!

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  27. This really seems like an exceptional book, Wendy! I will have to give it a read!

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