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

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  515 ratings  ·  81 reviews
"Gripping . . . the narrative is smooth and immediate, almost effortless in its detail, if occasionally breathless, like a good fast run . . ." --The New York Times Book Review

Visionary American running coach Bob Larsen assembled a mismatched team of elite California runners . . . the start of his decades-long quest for championships, Olympic glory, and pursuit of "the
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published June 4th 2019 by Doubleday Books
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Average rating 4.23  · 
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 ·  515 ratings  ·  81 reviews

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Ron S
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: running, olympics
Drawing a direct line from coaching high school students to Olympic medalists and Boston Marathon winners, NYT sports editor Matthew Futterman tells the story of coach Bob Larsen and his efforts to unlock the secrets of running far fast. Thanks to a deft, fast-paced writing style and especially great characterizations that bring unheralded high schoolers to life just as vividly as national champions, this is the best book on running since Christopher McDougall's Born to Run. While the subject ...more
John Spiller
Jul 06, 2019 rated it liked it
This was a frustrating read for me. The book had the potential for greatness. Futterman examines what it takes to be a great distance runner, why American distance runners were successful in the 1970's, declined to a nadir by the early 2000's, and are now enjoying a renaissance. He uses running coach Bob Larsen as the starting point for his narrative arc. The problem is that Futterman basically rehashes a bunch of material from other running books, sort of like a mixtape. There's bits and pieces ...more
Jul 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Loved this exploration of coach Bob Larsen's training methods. So well written, it reads like a novel. My only quibble (and it's a minor one) is the author's own story interspersed throughout the book. Fortunately, those sections are short and don't distract much from the rest of the book, which is really interesting.

My full review:
Nate Hawthorne
Aug 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
I will give it a 4, but probably a 3.5 for most people. This book is much like a history of coaching running. It goes into enough detail on training that most runners will be intrigued while non-runners will be bored. The cast of characters is vast and motley.

The truths shared about running are self assuring for me. But I am a runner. I am not sure this book would be appreciated by a non-runner. So, in that way, it has almost too narrow a scope, unlike some other running narratives I have read.
This book was all over the map for me. I immensely enjoyed the sections on the Toads and their young runners. Had the book been just about them and coach Bob Larson, it would have been a five star read. But the sections where the author inserted himself were not adding to the story. It’s still okay for running enthusiasts but unless the reader is invested heavily in the sport, this isn’t one that he or she would enjoy.
Nov 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was WONDERFUL, perhaps my new favorite nonfiction running book of all time. It weaves the tale of Bob Larsen, coach, with tales of his athletes ranging from a group of misfits in southern California in the 70s to Meb Keflezghi, while also incorporating short essays on the author's experiences with running. I got chills several times. Feeling very lucky to have randomly encountered it on the "new releases" library shelf the week before a marathon!
Kelly Murley
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book even if you are not a runner!
Jul 04, 2019 rated it liked it
weirdly [IMO], the subtitle is different on the book itself and in the tiny picture you can see on goodreads vs. the alleged goodreads title. A mystery someone else will have to investigate I guess.

As to the book itself, kind of an odd amalgamation of topics -- He intersperses brief scenes from his own career as an above-average but not outstanding runner with three major stories:

(a) the formation of the Jamul Toads team in and around San Diego in the mid-1970s
(b) the Mammoth Lakes training
Csimplot Simplot
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book!
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: running-books
These days, I feel like someone who used to be a runner. My current outings are huff-and-puff fests, even the easy ones, and I haven't had a decent race since late 2016. "So are you still running?" people ask me, and I wonder if I look *that* bad now. While I know that running's health benefits have little to do with whether I look like a runner or am my version of fast, leanness and speed are nice side effects, and seeing them disappear, and not knowing why, has been tough.

Enter this book. I
Jan 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Very engrossing sports memoir about Bob Larsen, a running coach who came from, well, nowhere, and just decided he was passionate about coaching runners so he did it. He started out with a ragtag group of hippies in San Diego way back before running recreationally was a thing. He went on to coach track & field at UCLA, and the star American runners Deena Kastor and Meb Keflezighi.

This book shines in the way many good sports memoirs shine... you are on the edge of your seat reading it (even if
Ron Christiansen
Jul 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
A great read for current or past (me) runners. Sadly I didn't follow nor was even really aware of Bob Larsen the undaunted coach who believed American distance running could be improved through better training techniques. First Larsen finds a middle ground between two different traditions of training: long 100 mile weeks with little intensity or track work to avoid injury; and, in contrast, lots--and mean lots--of track work like 30 400s at a times. As in the title, Larsen moves his runners off ...more
Oliver Brown
Feb 15, 2020 rated it did not like it
Even tho I love running this book was hard to read. The way it was structured n the many characters (and stories) it involved made it almost impossible to read with full enjoyment.

The author should have kept the story to Bob Larsen and the Jamul Toads. This part (of the book) was somewhat entertaining.

Can not recommend to anyone unless you are a die hard running fan.
Keith Sherwood
Jul 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An amazing story for runners and non-runners. Uplifting, educating, and inspiring. I loved this book from start to finish.
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: running
This book has it all, and it deserves to be made into a docuseries or a movie: Netflix, get on it! I'm so tired of people asking me if I've seen the "Barkleys Marathon Documentary" already?!? Anyways...

The scene is the nascent U.S. running culture, starring Coach Bob Larsen and his crew of rag-tag running renegades. This was a time when running was simpler: when swoosh-laden, ultra-light, hyper reverse-osmosis energy efficient space-age soles with A.I. enabled moisture evaporating carbon-fiber
Craig Kannel
Jul 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: running-books
All I can say is if you like to read about running, you will live this book.
Jul 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic Book.
Jul 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful, wonderful... wonderful! If you are a runner or are just interested in running you should read this book. It is beautifully written, very engaging, and wildly informative. Highly recommended.
William Thompson
Dec 28, 2019 rated it liked it
A Runner’s World-esque feel-good piece that was about 100 pages longer than necessary. Bob Larsen comes across a great coach, but this book comes across as average. Try Kenny Moore’s Bowerman and the Men of Oregon for a more elite look at high level athletes and their coaches.
Zeke Morgan
Nov 19, 2019 rated it liked it
This would have been twice as good if it was half as long. The first half of the book was engaging and fun, a great underdog story intertwined with the emerging science of distance running. Futterman loses track by incorporating himself into the narrative (qualifying for Boston, while a great personal achievement, is totally irrelevant to Bob Larsen’s story) and writing a rushed second half all about Meb. Overly romanticized at times, Futterman does little to highlight how much it hurts to be an ...more
Oct 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Futterman's style is repetitive and becomes tedious, but it's an interesting story about an overlooked part of America's running history. Enjoyable.
John Pettey
Jun 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love it.
Well written and brought me back to times gone by with coach ruckert and running high school cross country and track.
Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lots of good history regarding some of the personalities behind the resurgence of American distance running in recent years.
Nicholas Mills
Feb 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Being a runner is not a requirement if you want to read this book, but you have to like or be interested in running.

It’s a fairly detailed account of a legendary running coach, Bob Larsen. As such, it’s a deep dive into the world of running in the 60’s and 70’s, up through to where we are now.

But it also has stories of remarkable human capabilities. The stories are inspiring, and demonstrate an individual’s capacity to push the bounds of what we consider possible. The end chapters follow Meb
Dana Larose
Sep 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, running, 2019
I enjoyed it since I almost always enjoy stories about runners and the history of distance writing. Futterman spins a good tale and a good writer, even if he massively overused the phrase "running to the edge" through out the book.

It's a story of an American coach who early on figures out that long, difficult tempo runs are the key to distance running success. This is in an era when most running plans are just doing a bunch of fast intervals. It didn't even sound like easy runs through the
Nov 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: sport
I have heard Matthew Futterman talking about his book on a podcast and was intrigued by the title. During a time when interval training was the Holy Grail, coach Larsen tried something different: threshold runs and what strongly looks like fartleks. His boys became faster, were less injured and started to win races. It was a lot of fun reading their stories although the skeptic in me would argue that Larsen had some good talents to work with.

Starting with part Two I quickly became bored. The
Bill Sleeman
Nov 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing

Running to the Edge: A Band of Misfits and the Guru Who Unlocked the Secrets of Speed by Matthew Futterman is absolutely wonderful….if you are a runner. If you are not I can see where this might be a really boring book. Happily, I am a runner and this is SO not a BORING book! As someone who grew up in the era of Bob Larsen and start of the running boom, I knew the names and races that the book discussed. In middle school track and CC I fancied myself as the next Dave Wottle, even running with an

Nov 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Having got caught up in the running craze when I turned 40 and having run the NYC Marathon twice in subsequent years, I was always interested in stories about running. Here, Matt Futterman, the son of a college classmate writes about Bob Larsen and his quest to find the best way to train world class athletes. The author traces Larsen’s early days until he found the mantra of running to be “far and fast” as the optimum combination. He scouts for athletes to fill his running club and college track ...more
Roy Gayhart
Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Well written, inspiring story, some of which I lived and was witness to. Coach Bob Larson taught his runners about life and competitive greatness. Matthew Futterman tells Larson's story accurately and with love. I have passed this book on to my son, who plays basketball, because there is much that any athlete in any competitive sport can learn from this story. Coming across Running to the Edge was a wonderful surprise for me. It transported me to a time long ago when I watched freshman Ed ...more
Nov 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Little did I realize before reading this book that distance running was so complex. Book is mainly biographical, about how Coach Bob Larson of UCLA and later for Olympic long-distance running teams became champions. It's about how even a small piece of overlooked paper under a big toe can shave two seconds from what would otherwise be a win. There's advice about erring on the side of under-training rather than over-training. Do not overthink, etc. Obtaining and maintaining shoe company financial ...more
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