Longfellow's Reviews > My Life on the Run: The Wit, Wisdom, and Insights of a Road Racing Icon

My Life on the Run by Bart Yasso
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Feb 22, 2011

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bookshelves: sports
Read from February 18 to 21, 2011

I should start by confessing that I may search for years without finding a book on running that measures up to McDougall’s Born to Run.

While I enjoyed Yasso’s book and read it fairly eagerly over just a couple of days, I do have one gripe: I found it a bit desultory (I just learned this word yesterday. It means “lacking in consistency, method, purpose, or visible order; digressing from the main subject.”) Of course, except for one chapter about biking across the States in twenty days, all of the chapters are about running, but this chapter on biking is just one example of multiple times that I thought, “This chapter could be – and perhaps should be – it’s own book.

The treatment of this experience and some of the others as well is so cursory that the greatest pleasure must have been Yasso’s, retelling so many unique experiences and reliving them as he put them into words. As a reader, despite all of the amazing running experiences I read about here, I seldom felt like I was experiencing what it felt like to receive these blessings, and amazingly, I never found myself envying Yasso’s life. I can’t think of why this would be except that the book could be much better if topics and experiences were explored in more depth and detail: not just more external observations, images, and narrative details, but also a deeper level of reflection about some of these experiences.

I did appreciate the way Yasso and Parrish (written “with Kathleen Parrish”) chose to conclude Part I, the memoir part of the book, writing about some of the “stunt runners” who have drawn attention to the sport, followed by a reflection of how running is something for EVERYONE. This makes for a very satisfying resolution, as these excerpts from the last few pages should demonstrate:

"That’s the beauty of the sport. Everyone is welcome to participate. All you have to do is put on a pair of running shoes [. . .]"

"Running is about acceptance—of yourself and others. When you’re out on the trail sweating, it doesn’t matter if the guy or gal next to you works at a fast-food joint or is CEO of Kellogg’s. It doesn’t matter what color they are, or how old they are, or what religion they practice, if any at all."

"Running celebrates our commonality [. . .] I know I feel more like myself when I run, even if it’s only a few miles, or at least I feel like the self I like best. Running inspires creativity, relieves stress, and gives us insight into ourselves and the world, making the human condition more tolerable."

I identify with this last bit in particular; I too, feel like the best part of myself when I run, and I am extremely grateful for friends I have gained from various backgrounds whose participation in my running life keeps its heartbeat regular and strong. In the end, I benefit personally, as an individual, and also as a participant in a larger community, without which my running life would be stagnant and could even cease to exist at all. And the truth is, books like Yasso’s are one of the many things that keep me going.
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