async="src="/ Taking the Long Way Home: Book Review: The Perfect Run: A Guide to Cultivating a Near-Effortless Running State

Friday, May 22, 2020

Book Review: The Perfect Run: A Guide to Cultivating a Near-Effortless Running State

Disclaimer: I received a copy of The Perfect Run by Mackenzie Havey from Net Galley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links.

I was searching for books to review this month and The Perfect Run came up. The title got me. What a concept. A perfect run? Sign me up! I mean, don't you want to read it? Who amongst us doesn't want the secret behind the perfect run? Mackenzie Havey, a writer for Runner's World and other running journals as well as an accomplished runner herself explores the science behind the perfect run and shares with the reader how they can achieve this state as well. Havey believes everyone has the ability to have the perfect run no matter what their ability, pace, or goals, and in The Perfect Run, she shares how we can experience a perfect run of our own.



The perfect run, as defined by Mackenzie Havey, isn't the runner's high. The runner's high is a chemical response to running. You know, those endocannibinoids and all. The runner's high is that feeling you experience after a good run. Havey describes the perfect run as a "feeling of complete control, a reverberation of the senses, a surge of energy, a hyperfocus, a mental and physical synchronicity, and a total immersion in the moment". Throughout the book, she uses the term 'flow' to describe this feeling. The way she describes it, the perfect run is almost 'spiritual' in nature.

My take on it is that you experience the feelings of a perfect run during the run; that the runner's high is the result of that.

Throughout the book, Havey interviews famous runners and shares their version of a perfect run. She also talked with everyday runners to get their perspective. Many used the words 'bliss', 'flow', and being in the 'zone'. She shares science behind the process of achieving the flow state as well as barriers to perfect running. There are many different paths to the perfect run and Havey outlines those in detail. Tying it all together, she cites ultrarunner and superhuman Michael Wardian, who found himself struggling at The Antarctic Intercontinental Marathon, a race that was part of the World Marathon Challenge which involves running 7 continents in 7 consecutive days.
"I just accepted the conditions and soon found myself moving with the course rather than against it...I wasn't pushing, but I was moving more and more ahead. I was just in the moment and that allowed me to release all the expectations and flow.' ~Michael Wardian
The Perfect Run is a quick read and is organized with the building blocks of presence, purpose, planning, process, and participation each getting their own chapters. Havey pulls it all together and then devotes a chapter to what I like to call 'Troubleshooting'. At the conclusion of each chapter, she sums up all the key points in a list of 'practices in perfection'. I found this especially helpful and will refer back to these lists in the future.

Havey is the also author of Mindful Runningwhich I reviewed here in 2017. If you read that book, some of that information makes an appearance in The Perfect Run. Because how can you achieve a flow state if you aren't fully mindful? The mindful runner is always present and focused on the moment. Havey sites science to support this need for athletes to stay mindful in order to experience the perfect run.

This was just such a good book for me to read as I begin training for my first ever trail ultra, the Ice Age 50k, slated to take place in September. I have long struggled with the voices in my head and mental toughness has always been a challenge for me. One of the things that Havey repeats over and over is that the perfect run should be fun. Isn't that the truth? I've been so enjoying my trail runs with less focus on time and more on distance and finishing the run. Running in nature feels so good to me right now and Havey like that too.
"The sense of awe experienced in nature contributes to feelings of flow." ~Mackenzie Havey
Yes, indeed. Even not so perfect runs are better experienced in nature than a good run on the treadmill. But Havey insists you can find flow on the treadmill too.

If you're struggling with running right now, if running feels like a chore to you, or if you just want tto throw your running shoes in the garbage can, you owe it to yourself to read The Perfect Run. The chapter Finding Perfection in Imperfection might be the only chapter you need to read. Havey lists reasons runners get stuck along with some advice how to deal with that. I bookmarked this page so I can refer back to it when I'm not loving running. Note to self: maybe you just need to give yourself grace.
"Flow can't be forced because force is met with a counter force. Flow is something that has to happen without tension or pushing." ~Deena Kastor 
Reflecting after finishing the book, I had what I'd consider a perfect marathon in 2014.  It wasn't about the inevitable glitches. It wasn't about the finish time, which was good but not what I had hoped for. No, that perfect run was about was that I experienced that state of flow throughout the race. Nothing fazed me. I finished that race with a smile on my face and a shiny new PR that stands to this day.

Have you ever had a perfect run? Find out how you can experience flow /via @oldrunningmom @mackenziehavey @bloomsburypub #running #runchat #bookreview

Have you ever had a perfect run? What was that like? And if you haven't, do you have any ideas why not? Do you practice mindfulness on your run? Did you read The Mindful Runner? You can download it now for 1.99 on Amazon. 

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





20 comments :

  1. I have definitely had some runs/races in a flow state.

    Oddly enough, nasal breathing is about achieving that flow state -- from the first step. And yet that's still eluding me . . . but with nothing big on the horizon, I'm wiling to stick it out longer than I might otherwise.

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    1. I guess I need to understand more about your pursuit of nasal breathing while running!

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  2. Very interesting! Running does feel like a chore to me lately and I am having trouble finding my flow the way I used to. I bet this would be a good read for me thanks for the review

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    1. I haven't had any speedy runs but I've had some good ones since I started running trails. Kind of fun to mix it up.

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  3. Sounds like an interesting book!
    I think I'd be most curious about the "Troubleshooting" chapter. What do you do if you're stressed or upset about something and go for a run? I'm sure she has some useful tips and tools in her book.
    Thanks for the review!

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    1. That's all addressed in the book. She really tries to stress getting out of your head.

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  4. I had a perfect marathon too - in Eugene Oregon. The miles just flew by effortlessly until about mile 23 or 24. It was my marathon PR and I felt great crossing the finish line. Lately, perfect runs have been harder and harder to come by. Maybe I should read the book!

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  5. That is so true that you can have a perfect run and not necessarily feel that "runners high"!
    I miss reading actual books! I want my library to open again! -M

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  6. I know I've had a good run when I day dream about it afterwards...I'd definitely be interested in reading this book.

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    1. I feel that way about my trail runs! I hope it never gets old.

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  7. haha, I don't even like running but I found this title intriguing! I don't think I've ever had a perfect run. :P I like the idea of running in nature--I might enjoy it more if I did that!! :]

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  8. This sounds great. I have had some really good runs where this has happened during part of the run, maybe not the whole thing, though!

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  9. Interesting post and interesting book.
    In my opinion a perfect run is when I enjoy a scenic route with no big efforts.
    However I have run my perfect run in 1990, it was my first marathon (Rome) and I decided to make only a 30 km workout without finishing the race. When I got 30 I said: "why not 35"? At 35 I said "another couple of km are ok" but to drink I needed to reach the 40th km. And what about to finish the marathon? On this way I didn't have the stress to finish, I enjoyed the long distance inside the beautiful city of Rome and I got a good (for me) finishing time: 3:48:04.

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    1. That's an amazing finish time! love that you just wanted to keep going.

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  10. Thank you Wendy for this great post and for your library - I've only just discovered your blog and love it. I'm planning to work through the books you've reviewed - looks like I've got some reading ahead of me! I know when I've had a perfect run and hit my flow state as I can't stop talking about it afterwards, to anyone who will listen to me.

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    1. Thank you!!! If you have any suggestions for books to read, let me know.

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