I’m ending what seems to have become a year-end reading binge. This post will be my last review of a book about long-distance running.
My Year of Running Dangerously, by Tom Foreman, describes the author’s journey as a middle-aged father and television reporter to becoming a long-distance runner. The premise is set at the beginning of the book. “My descent into the madness of ultrarunning began with a Thanksgiving conversation. The dishes had long been cleared, we’d watched some TV, and I had returned to the kitchen when my eighteen-year-old daughter, Ronnie, asked that question that every father dreads. ‘How would you feel about running a marathon with me?’ My heart jumped. My pulse raced. A bit of leftover stuffing fell from my fork.”
Tom describes his efforts to train for the marathon while simultaneously maintaining his responsibilities to his family and his job. He builds his endurance, competes in the event, and is ultimately successful in reaching the finish line with his daughter. “I lifted the ribbon from my neck, the glittering medal swinging. She did the same, but immediately reached up to put her medal over my head, presenting it to me. ‘I’m giving you my medal’, she said, ‘because without you on my team, I never would have accomplished this.'”
At this point in the book, seventeen chapters remain after what seems to be the logical ending. The author then tells his story of trying to deal with his brother’s question. ‘So’, Robert asked, ‘you’ve done all this work. What’s next?'” And the rest of the book tells what’s next.
For me, the best part of the book is when Tom tries to explain to his other daughter why he went onward from the marathon to train for, and compete in, an ultramarathon. I like what he said, because it has echos of the reasons that I ran the Monumental Marathon two months ago. “As people get older, life becomes all about playing it safe. We protect our jobs and our money. We guard our houses, and we try to make the world as risk-free as we can for our kids, because that is important. But along the way, you can lose yourself. You start thinking that the great adventures are all gone and that you’ve reached all the limits.” He implies, and I agree, that when you get older, you have to take some risks again, push into the unknown, and break through those limits.