async="src="/ Taking the Long Way Home: Book Review: Running to the Edge: A Band of Misfits and the Guru Who Unlocked the Secrets of Speed

Friday, July 19, 2019

Book Review: Running to the Edge: A Band of Misfits and the Guru Who Unlocked the Secrets of Speed

I received a pre-release copy of Running to the Edge from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.  This post contains affiliate links. 


 

"The race, and winning the race, will be about being the best version of yourself on the day when you are supposed to, and what happens when you pursue that edge without fear. Nothing else." ~ Matthew Futterman, Running to the Edge

 Matthew Futterman's new book Running to the Edge: A Band of Misfits and the Guru Who Unlocked the Secrets of Speed is a really interesting and readable story about Bob Larsen, the running coach who is best known for training Meb Keflezighi and Deena Kastor to greatness. What you might not know is that in the early 1970s, he trained a group of mostly unknown runners, who called themselves the Jamul Toads, to become the 1976 National Cross Country Champions.

Larsen pushed his runners to "the edge", a which is basically that point where you feel like you can't go any harder. The saying: "learn to get comfortable with being uncomfortable" came out of Larsen's philosophy of running to the edge of exhaustion. Each day, runners were pushed harder and harder, training on trails, on hills, and at altitude. If runners thought they couldn't go any farther, they were pushed to give a little more.

Larsen also espoused the importance of 'the tribe'. His runners train in a group because Larsen believed that the training of the group is bigger than the individual runners, and that training in a group helps runners collectively improve. The saying: "better together" kind of sums up this philosophy. In both Running to the Edge and in Deena Kastor's excellent book, Let Your Mind Run, readers learn that when Kastor signed on with Larsen, she trained with an all-male group of runners. We all know how well that worked out for her, as she became one of the most successful women's long-distance runners in history.

The book is divided into two sections. The first half is mostly about the evolution of Larsen as a coach as he develops the Toads into a force to be reckoned with. The second half talks mostly about his work with Meb and Deena. Interspersed throughout the book are brief narratives of Futterman's in which shares his own struggles and training. I didn't find these narratives really pertinent to the book and found myself skimming them.

Running to the Edge is so well written that it reads like a novel instead of a recounting of running history. I especially liked the first part of the book, reading about Larsen's recruiting and training of the Toads. Many of the guys Larsen recruited to the Toads were directionless but locally known runners; Larsen had a knack for finding these guys and pushing them to their edge. The Toads had no funding, just a coach who tapped into something inside them. When I was offered a copy of Running to the Edge, I wasn't sure if I'd want to read a book about a cross country running team--who knew it would be so good? And who knew that it would have the connection to Deena Kastor and Meb?

Time Magazine calls Running to the Edge one of its 32 must-reads for summer. I'd put this book in the same category as Christopher McDougall's Born to Run. Not only is it that good, but it also shares a similar analysis of the pursuit of speed and the extremes runners will go to in order to achieve it. Speaking of McDougall, next month I'll be reviewing his upcoming release (due out in October), Running with Sherman. McDougall agrees to take in a rescue donkey and over time, decides to teach it how to run. I'm thinking this is just the kind of book I need to read to get me through the dog days of August.




Running to the Edge is like a good run /via @oldrunningmom @randomhouse @mattfutterman #runchat #running #runningbooks

Have you heard of Coach Bob Larsen? Did you read Running to the Edge? Are you comfortable with being uncomfortable? What's your edge?




I'm linking up with Fridays with Fairytales and Fitness.




18 comments :

  1. This sounds like a great book! McFarland USA is one of my favorite movies about running, and it's about cross country. I think anything can be interesting when it's well written. Thanks for the review!

    I'm not sure we ever really know our edge. I'm also not sure that at this stage of my life I really want to find it in running. No plans to stop running, but in general, I find as I get older i need to be kinder to my body.

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    1. Oh I loved McFarland USA! This is right along those lines.

      I think i've gotten to my edge more than once. Sadly, my edge is moving inward.

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  2. Admittedly, I had not heard of him or the crew he trained. I love the idea that we are better as a group. I truly believe that the power of my run crew pushes us each to become better. Not only at running but at everything. Great review!

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    1. There are so many great takeaways from this book! I can respect the group run so much more after this.

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  3. I've heard of him from Deena and Meb but don't know the backstory. I think the tribe is KEY, too! I'll check it out. Thank you for sharing!

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  4. Sounds like a good book! I didn't know how far back Larsen went with coaching so it was interesting to hear about his earlier successes.

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    1. It was a surprisingly good read! Glad I had the opportunity to review it.

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  5. I haven't read a running book in so long. I do like the fact that you say it reads like a novel and less like a record of history. I like books that are easy reads!

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  6. oooh! Another great running book to add to my list. Thank you for the great review!

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  7. I've read Born to Run, but had not heard of this book. Sounds like a great read, with lots of inspiration to take from it.

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  8. The book sounds very interesting.
    I admit that my best improvements came when I made my workouts in group with other runners.
    However I prefer to run solo for many reasons: I can go at any time, I can choose the route and the distance I prefer, the start of every workout is the door of my house.

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    1. Exactly! But it was great to read how the group runs work so well. It made me rethink my die-hard solo approach!

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  9. This does sound really interesting and I know of him because I've read Kastor's book. One for the wish list, I think. I don't have an edge or if I do I rarely hit it. I did push it in parkrun once and felt a bit funny when I'd finished!

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    1. I have run to the edge in training--when I trained for the Chicago Marathon--and yep, you feel funny. Until the next time, when you find that the edge is even farther away!

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