Friday, August 12, 2016

Book Review: Boston Bound

How many of us have that one pinnacle event, that must-do marathon, that bucket list race? For me, it was the Big Sur International Marathon. For Elizabeth Clor, that race was the Boston Marathon. But as many runners know, even if training runs are on the mark, qualifying isn't as easy as it would seem. In her memoir Boston Bound, Clor chronicles her journey through multiple marathons as she attempts to slay the demons that kept her from lining up at what most long distance runners consider to be the ultimate race of marathoning.




It took Clor seven years before she finally achieved a qualifying time that would get her to the Boston Marathon. Training always went well, but with every race there was something holding her back from reaching her potential. After multiple setbacks, Clor started working with a sports psychologist to explore what she needed to do to reach her goal. I think a lot of us can identify with some of the things that were holding her back--Clor is a perfectionist who struggled with anxiety and lack of confidence.  She would drop out of a race if she knew she wasn't going to make her time goals. By working with her sports psychologist, she identified 5 goals to overcome the obstacles that were holding her back:
  • Making comparisons to other runners
  • Learning from setbacks and moving on
  • Patience
  • Tempering emotions
  • Expecting to make mistakes
Throughout the book, Clor shares with us not only her experiences with training and racing but also insight she achieved from her psychologist. Clor writes a blog, Racing Stripes, and the book includes a lot of insightful snippets from past blog posts. As a fellow perfectionist, I could really relate to Clor's story, and found it interesting to see her work through all her issues, eventually achieving her dream. I had a few questions after I read the book and she was more than happy to answer them for me.

photo courtesy of Elizabeth Clor
1. What one word would you use to describe yourself and why?
Passionate. I'm extremely goal-oriented, and I'm passionate about achieving my goals. I give 100% to whatever I choose to pursue, and I never do anything halfway. 

2. Your psychologist told you not to call yourself a runner, but a person who runs. I found that really interesting—we all identify ourselves by what we do, for example, I’m a runner, I’m a yogi, I”m a mom, I’m a nurse practitioner. Were you ever able to fully let go of your self-image as a runner? Do you agree with him? Did it help you to change your thinking like that?
I do agree with him, and I was able to separate myself as a person from myself as a runner. I basically started thinking about the things I value in other people: honesty, reliability, dedication, empathy, and authenticity. I love my husband and my close friends because they possess these traits, and so that's why I should love myself. When it comes to running, I now think more about how my core values/traits play into my running. I'm good at running because I'm dedicated, passionate, focused, and disciplined. These things matter because they determine if I live up to my full physical potential or not. Now, when I go into a race, I don't think to myself "I'm a runner, so I need to run a fast race to validate that." Instead I think, "I am someone who pushes hard during races and doesn't quit when it gets tough." That way, I'm more in control of the standards by which I evaluate my performance. So yes, changing my thinking along these lines absolutely helped.

photo courtesy of Elizabeth Clor
3. You say that you “got the monkey off your back” by qualifying for Boston, but that you realized you let it go before your qualifying race. Do you truly believe that? What if you had never qualified for Boston? At what point would you have been able to move on?
I absolutely believe that. Having the monkey "off my back" is what enabled me to truly run relaxed. At some point, I made the decision to stop focusing on Boston and start focusing on trying to maximize my potential. I stopped focusing on what other people thought of me and started focusing on my own journey. I stopped focusing on tangible things like race times and BQs and started focusing on less tangible things like pushing hard and getting outside of my comfort zone. I now run because I want to see what I'm capable of.  

If I had never qualified for Boston, I think I would still be trying to get there (so long as I was physically able to run and didn't have any health issues). But it wouldn't be for the reasons that I originally wanted to get there. I really think I "moved on" about two years before I actually qualified. I let go of the obsession and I started to embrace the process of achieving a goal.

photo courtesy of Elizabeth Clor
4. I know you are currently struggling with health issues again. Once you are recovered, do you have a goal in mind? Are you going to run another marathon?
Yes, I plan on running marathons as long as I am physically able to and I would love to run Boston again. It would be great to be one of those people who is still running when she's 70!  Once I am fully recovered from my current health issues (which I think should be very soon) I will work with my coach to pick a target marathon. Before I became ill at the end of June, I was targeting the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, with a goal of 3:20. This is based on the fitness level I was able to attain when I trained for Boston this past spring. But given this setback, I imagine I will have to revise that goal in the near term, and hopefully, shoot for it next year.

5. What do you like to do for fun?
Aside from running (which I do consider fun), I enjoy playing the piano, writing, and traveling with my husband.

photo courtesy of Elizabeth Clor
I really enjoyed Clor's book and found so much here that I could relate to. As long time readers of my blog know, I work as hard on mental toughness as I do on physical preparation. It's not easy being a perfectionist! I'm so happy that Clor was able to qualify for and run the Boston Marathon. It wasn't easy, but she proved that nothing is impossible. I plan on implementing some of the lessons she shared in her book once I start training again. I believe this book would be helpful to anyone who has struggled with race anxiety or needs encouragement to pursue a difficult goal. The book is so easy to read and was so hard to put down.

What did you think? What's your bucket list race? What obstacles have you overcome to realize a goal? Have you ever achieved a bucket list item? How far would you go to reach your dream?


Here's the link up badge! You can find the link up at the end of this post. The link up stays live for 2 weeks. You can link up your blog post, Facebook post, or Instagram post here. No post to link? Comments stay live forever! Please remember to link back to this post. Try to read and comment on the other reviews. If you want to review a different fitness-related book, please feel free to link those posts up as well. I'm so grateful to all of you who participate in the book club.


Next month's book is another story about overcoming obstacles. Alisha Perkins, who is the wife of Minnesota Twins closer Glen Perkins, tells the story of how running helped her manage her struggle with anxiety and finding her own identity. Running Home: Big League Wife, Small Town Story has been described as funny, honest, and inspiring. I'm honored and excited to feature this book for September's selection! Review and link up date is September 15.

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28 comments :

  1. I listened her podcast with Denny (SO glad that you guys finally got around to doing an episode on you!) and I definitely want to read her book. Thanks for the interview! You know that I would love to run Boston, but I think after this it will be a long, long time before I qualify again. We'll see what happens.

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    1. I didn't listen to her podcast and I need to. This book was so inspiring. I'd love to run Boston, but I don't know if it will ever happen at this point.

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  2. What a great book suggestion! I am so impressed with the dedication. And very interesting to be a person who runs.... umm....

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  3. You are putting books out for the book club faster than I can get around to reading them... that only means that I have to get ready ASAP! Thanks for another great suggestion!

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    1. Haha! It's monthly. Surely you can read one book per month? :p

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  4. Oh wow, I need to read this book...race anxiety, shoot, even just regular running anxiety, is huge with me. Thanks for the review!

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    1. I love all the work she did to get mentally tough!

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  5. Sounds like an inspiration read for someone who is trying to BQ or just anyone trying to reach a goal that seems unattainable to them.

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  6. I was "a person who runs" for about 15 years before I considered myself a runner! Funny how we all view ourselves through a different lens. Sounds like a great read.

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  7. I have not read her book but enjoyed reading the questions and answers here. I found it very interesting that her psychologist told her not to call herself a runner. It is weird because for most of us we are told to do the opposite (I am a runner).

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    1. Which is why I asked her that question. Maybe she was told that because he wanted her not to wrap up her whole identity in that label? It's interesting.

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  8. This sounds so inspiring. I enjoying hearing stories about people who had to work hard and keep trying -- it's motivating and gives me hope!

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    1. After reading this, I thought--should I go for that BQ again? My foot told me what's what with that...

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  9. Sounds like a fascinating book, Wendy! I'll have to see if my library has it.

    I like the part about id'ing yourself as a person who runs. As much as it would hurt to not be able to run, it's still not who we are. It seems like it is, but no one thing defines us.

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    1. I found that so interesting! I think you'll like the book. It was really well written.

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  10. Great review! I just downloaded it and can't waitfor the kids to go to bed so I can start reading it :) Thanks for sharing!

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    1. yay! If you write a review, please consider linking up!

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  11. This sounds like a great read. I do find it interesting the whole thing about not being a runner but being a person who runs. Which in my mind makes you a runner and a person who runs. I guess a lot of life is about perspective and whatever works for you.

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    1. That was kind of my thinking. I guess he didn't want her to get all wrapped up in the being a runner thing.

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  12. While I'm not a runner that aspires to run Boston, I have SO much respect for all the runners that put in the work to qualify. She sounds like a very hard worker and true inspiration

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    1. I think that no matter what your goals, there are lessons to be learned from her story.

      Thanks for linking up!!!

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  13. i will definitely have to check this out. thanks for sharing!!

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    1. Thanks for reading! I think all of us can learn from a story of perseverence!

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  14. I just finished it today and I thought she had a lot of great advice for overcoming mental blocks in running and in life in general.

    I did think she was too hung up on the McMillan Race Calculator. She expected to be running faster marathon times based on her times at shorter distances. I have entered 5 and 10k times into a race calculator that predict a MUCH faster marathon time than I know I am a capable of running at this point. I don't think people should read so much into that. Running a 10k at 8:20 pace and running a marathon at 8:20 pace are two entirely different things. She did acknowledge this at some point in the book, but I just think those race calculators are really misleading.

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    1. I look at my predicted marathon time, based on my fastest half marathon and it puts me at 3:54:55. Could I do that? Maybe. My PR is 4:17. There's a lot of data on the accuracy of those race calculators. There's a really good article on Runner's World about this. But McMillan advises runners to base their predicted finish times off the distance closest to the one you are calculating. Which would be a half marathon to marathon, not a 5k.

      http://www.runnersworld.com/race-training/the-science-and-guesswork-of-race-equivalent-predictors

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