Footnotes – A Book Review

Well, well. What to say about this book…. I don’t even know where to begin.

I guess I’ll first just copy and paste the synopsis:

Footnotes – How Running Makes Us Human by Vybarr Cregan-Reid

Running is not just a sport. It reconnects us to our bodies and the places in which we live, breaking down our increasingly structured and demanding lives. It allows us to feel the world beneath our feet, lifts the spirit, lets our minds out to play, and helps us to slip away from the demands of the modern world.

When Vybarr Cregan-Reid set out to discover why running means so much to so many, he began a journey which would take him out to tread London’s cobbled streets, the boulevards of Paris, and down the crumbling alleyways of Ruskin’s Venice. Footnotes transports you to the deserted shorelines of Seattle, the giant redwood forests of California, and to the world’s most advanced running laboratories and research centers. Using debates in literature, philosophy, neuroscience, and biology, this book explores that simple human desire to run.

Liberating and inspiring, Footnotes reminds us why feeling the earth beneath our feet is a necessary and healing part of our lives.

Sounds interesting, huh? I think it was. I did read it. All of it. But I barely can recall what I read.

Okay, okay. It’s not a horrible book. There’s some good pieces in there….if you can find them or haven’t skimmed right over them. The description makes the book sound like a personal journey through running. I think that’s in there… somewhere.

On first impression, this book is dense. The chapters, and paragraphs within them, are long and overwhelming and upon opening it, I didn’t want to begin reading. Then, you start… There’s a TON of info in this book. I mean A LOT… studies, personal opinions, references to fictional literary works, and more.

I started off strong, trying to absorb all the info, but it was tiresome. The long bulky paragraphs feel like a textbook and the topics switch too quickly for me to follow. One minute we’re in the author’s personal story and then next we’re following the research of some scientist or a fictional character from a book the author studied.

Maybe the concept of the book was lost on me but I find that hard to believe because I’m a very science minded individual. Topics range from biomechanics, senses, mindset, to the treadmill and how to (literally) run wild and trespass to find a route.

My favorite chapter was the last one (and not just because it was almost over). It was about running and the creativity and freedom it can bring to one’s life. The author tells the story about their first marathon and how he accidentally finished it and about running through different countries and the social barriers to doing so.

Overall, I give the book a 2 out of 5. In my opinion, it seems to me like the author didn’t really know what they wanted to write about and just threw EVERYTHING they knew about running in to this book. The topics jump fast and I got lost. There’s just too much info to sift through. I found myself skimming a lot to find the personal stories rather than reading through the references.

A couple of quotes I did like:

“My running has become something much deeper than a habit or an exercise routine. Now it is part of who I am. It is a part of my personality. I am unsure which came first, or what came from what: am I more self-reliant because of my running, or am I running because I am more self-reliant? The same goes for resilience: I feel like it has taught me how to be in my own company, and continues in helping me to maintain perspective.”

“Running doesn’t have to exercise. it doesn’t have to done to make you ‘strong’ or ‘fit’. It doesn’t even need to be done as a sport – it can be done entirely for its own sake”

-Vybarr Cregan-Reid


Don’t believe me and the synopsis still interested you? Add it to your Goodreads list or buy it on Amazon:

“Running & Being” – Book Review

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If only you could see how worn this book became after I finished it.

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I bought this book, but whatever it was, I was surprised. I think what I wanted was a more holistic approach to running. After all, this was supposedly the book that “got the world into running.” With a title like “Running & Being” I thought for sure I would get words of wisdom for a simplistic approach to running.

It was a good book, just not was I was expecting and thus made it hard to get through. Instead of a holistic approach to running, I was greeted with the philosophy of running. It wasn’t a “how-to” guide. I should have read the back cover, it literally says the book became the “philosophical bible for runners worldwide.”

Original Cover

Despite the unexpected, I did enjoy the read, and took a few things from the book before I put it back on my shelf.

Written by George Sheehan, a cardiologist and runner himself, “Running & Being” ties Sheehan’s own philosophy to ideas from great thinkers and athletes all relating to running.

I previously started this book and this was a second attempt to finish it. I found my book mark in chapter two. Starting over, I realized why it got stuck there. The first few chapters is like a walk through and over grown forest for my mind. Cluttered, in my opinion, and hard to read through the “he said, she said quotes” by people half of which I’ve never even heard of.

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I had heard Sheehan was a great writer and all running-readers recommend this book, but I wanted HIS wisdom, not other people’s quotes, most of which were never about running in the first place. Sifting through the random stories, metaphors, quotes and creativeness, I did pull out a few take-ways that were integrated in between the philosophy.

  1. Go back to the fork (find where you went wrong or where the injury happened)
  2. Have fun and PLAY!
  3. Do the Magic 6 (3 stretches – Calves, hamstrings, lower back; and 3 strength exercises – Shins, quadriceps, and abs)
  4. Follow your own food rules (whatever works for you)
  5. Use fitness markers (like resting heart rate to monitor fitness and over-training)
  6. Most injures are due to overuse on a bad biological body (i.e. get your form evaluated and corrected with proper shoes)
  7. Create a running ditty bag (for races)
  8. Let it all hangout! (Wear your feelings on your sleeve while running)
  9. Learn when to kick and never look back!
  10. Become one with your run and embrace the loneliness of a long-distance runner.

The major thing I pulled away from this book was Sheehan’s comparison of running to religion. This is relatable to me as I am not a church going person but still believe something must be out there. He makes sure to say that running is not meant to be a replacement for a God but more a supplement or a way to express your beliefs. It would be a way to relate to the world and show your appreciation for the Earth.

Is the book worth the read? Depends on your mood and reading style. If you read a lot and are looking for a philosophy on running, read away! If you don’t read much and may get lost in descriptive writing, put this book back on the shelf. Will I read it again? Probably not, but I will definitely remember my takeaways.

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I leave you with this, my favorite quote from the book, referring to the idea of “play:”

“Run only if you must. If running is an imperative that comes from inside you and not from your doctor. Otherwise, head the inner calling in your own Play. Listen if you can to the person you were and are and can be. Then do what you do best and feel best at. Something you would do for nothing. Something that gives you security and self-acceptance and a feeling of completion; even with moments when you are fused with your universe and your Creator. When you find it, build your life around it.”

About George Sheehan

Book Review: “Run Less, Run Faster”

Before I get too into this review, I would like to say I really, really, really loved this book. BUT, I’m not entirely sure I would use the plan yet and I would like your opinion (yes, you!) on what you think about the training method. Or, if you or anyone you know has tried this method to train for a race, what they thought.

I read. A lot! I usually, almost always, have more than one book going at a time. Generally, it’s a combination of one fiction/fun book, one non-fiction/informative book and random books I store in my bag or purse for down time.

Lately, I’ve been reading through zombie fictions books like they’re going out of style, so I’ve completed multiple fictions while still reading my non-fiction book.

8721183If you want to know how “Zombie Apocalypse!” by Stephen Jones was or “Zombie Versus Fairy Featuring Albinos” (yes, that’s a real book) by James Marshall was, you can email me at racingthestates@gmail.com and we’ll have an intense conversation. However, this is a running blog and I have ALSO been reading “Run Less, Run Faster” by the experts at FIRST: Bill Pierce, Scott Murr, and Ray Moss.

I absolute loved this book for many reasons. I was originally interested in it because of the idea that you can still train for races (i.e. a marathon) without running as much and thus less stress on your joints and bones and body. I STILL feel like I’m almost recovering from my first marathon last MAY! I know this is not true, it’s a been a series of events that have made me not fully “healed,” but if there’s a way to reduce all that stress, I’m all for it.

Run Less Run Faster Book coverLet me explain the FIRST program, first. No pun intended. FIRST stands for the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training (how do I get a job there!?) and they have developed a training program that has been proven to minimize the stress on one’s body WHILE improving your racing performance. Hard to believe, right? But the program is designed and tested from scientific principles, which is one of the reasons I loved this book.

As crazy as it sounds, I have a degree in Zoology. It’s a long story, but basically I used to dream of becoming a veterinarian but after working in the field, I changed my mind. Although I don’t want to do surgery on animals anymore, I still have a strong love for science in general. My mind works in a very scientific way and I like to combine that with my passion for health and fitness.  This book uses so many science principles that it is hard to have any doubts that this program works. I also love that it took definitions and words straight from my personal training book and applied the science to those principles as well. For example, right in the first chapter, they talk  about exercise pricinples like The Progressive Overload (the principle that as you gradually increase the training stress this will cause the body to adapt to that overload. I.e., gradually increase the distance of your long run will help you train for a marathon). The book is very “smart” for lack of better words.

Anyway, back to the idea of FIRST. The philopsohy is to make running easier, and limit overtraining, thus cutting the risk of injury but also producing results. FIRST is a 3plus2 training program. This means that there are three key running workouts and two cross training workouts.

Yes, you read that right. You only RUN three days a week. Keep in mind, and it’s repeated constantly in the book, it is NOT an easy program. A typical boston qualifying goal (for my age) training week, mid plan, would look like this: Workout 1 – 2 x 1600 in 6:51 (60 second rest), 2 x 800 in 3:17; Workout 2 – swimming 10 x 2 lengths, kick 4 lengths, 10 x 2 lengths; Workout 3 – 1 mile easy, 4 miles at 7:38, 1 mile easy; Workout 4 – cycling 20 min easy, 10 min temp, 10 min easy; Workout 5 – 20 miles at 8:40 pace.

That seems pretty intense if you ask me!

The science behind it: You are running fast at high intensity because this increases the muscles ability to metabolize lactate. You are training your body to use lactate as an energy source. It’s about intensity rather than time. You cross train in between to allow the body to FULLY recover from the stress of running and in the end you are reducing the chance for overuse injuries. Simple, right?

Proof? Well, there’s dozens of success stories throughout the whole book, but they also detail the running studies they conducted right in the first couple chapters. They tested maximal oxygen consumption, running speed at lactate threshold and running speed at peak oxygen consumption. And in all the studies, the data proves and supports the success stories. I wont detail the data here – although I am tempted because it reminds of writing dozens of science research reports in college.

Benefits: 1. People who have limited time to exercise can still train for a marathon. 2. Like I said before, reduces injuries. 3. Improves running times and performances.

Doezens and dozens of charts like this

Doezens and dozens of charts like this

But that’s not to say there aren’t downsides: 1. It’s hard! In order to benefit from the plan, you have to stick to the listed paces. There’s an million and a half charts in the book, one lists comparable 5K, 10K, half and marathon times. Basically, you determine your current 5K time, and using the chart, find what paces you should be running in your training.

I’ll visualize it for you. My most recent 5K time was 26:10 (or something like that – but this is not my PR). The book strongly urges you to choose your most recent time, not your PR, to prevent injuries. For a simple non-boston qualifying marathon training plan, my first day of training would be 3 x 1600 track workouts. My 1600 would be at an 8:09 pace. That’s pretty fast, for me, but probably doable. If I were to stick to this plan, based on my current 5K pace, NOT my goal time, it will improve my performance, according to this book.

The book goes on to breakdown how to use the plan and pick a training schedule and what to do on the cross training days. There are charts for that including cycling, rowing and swimming crossing training for every week of training. It talks about realistic goals, year-round training, and a little bit on nutrition. What I also really like about this book is that is gives you a little bit on strength training, including key exercises for the runners, and flexibility and form, including essential stretches. However, I would have like to have seen more on how to incorporate the strength training into your training week. I wish it would have discussed which days to actually do the exercises.

The book concludes with boston-qualifying training plans for EVERY age group (and gender). That is actually pretty awesome and makes it pretty easy to find a plan just for you and your goal.

My thoughts? Sign me up…. I think! It sounds like a great plan, all the evidence is there..my only concern isn’t really a concern. This plan is made for people who are VERY goal oriented. That’s not to say I’m NOT goal oriented, but my goals don’t really consist too much based on time or performance. Yes, I want to run a marathon in every state, but I’m not going for gold in these races. I just want to finish, to check the states off my belt. Although, EVENTUALLY, maybe a few years down the road, I do want to try for BQing.

There is a teeny tinny section of running multiple marathons a year. They barely address it and strongly encourage readers to only stick to 1 to 2 marathons a year to reduce injury and peak performance. But like I say, they address the question assuming people are trying to PR at every marathon they run, even the noted Marathon Maniacs trying to running 3 marathons in 3 months. So take from that what you will.

I really LOVE the idea of reducing stress on the body, especially with how I felt after my first marathon. That is want made me purchase the book. But i’m still not entirely sure about it or if it is ideal for everyone or all goals.

What are YOUR thoughts? Has anyone tried one of these plans? Do you think it is still an ideal plan for someone, like me, not trying to PR but to just finish a race? Comment! 

Other book reviews I’ve done: “50/50 – “Secretes I learned running 50 marathons in 50 days…” by Dean Karnazes

Addendum: I would like to point out that if you are interested in doing one of the training plans, the book does suggest that if you are not used to this type of high intensity training that you slowly start to incorporate speed work into your weekly running.