Run the World

By Becky Wade Harper Collins 2016

Canadian Running - - REVIEWS -

Becky Wade’s book Run the World is a genre-bend­ing text; the sub­ti­tle “My 3,500-mile jour­ney through run­ning cul­tures around the world” hints at its trav­el­ogue tone (en­hanced by the trip photos that ap­pear through­out), but with a touch of train­ing log to it, as well as recipe scrap­book. Wade grad­u­ated from Rice Univer­sity hav­ing stud­ied so­ci­ol­ogy, his­tory and psy­chol­ogy (and earned four ncaa All-Amer­i­can hon­ours) and her book cap­tures a fas­ci­na­tion with the cul­ture and his­tory of run­ning around the world. In her own words, Wade’s trip was a process of “search­ing for mean­ing in the uni­ver­sal phe­nom­e­non – the old­est, purest, and most global of all sports – and, just maybe, an edge on my com­pe­ti­tion down the road.” Wade’s orig­i­nal plan in­cluded five coun­tries with rich run­ning his­to­ries: Eng­land, Ethiopia, New Zealand, Ja­pan and Fin­land, but ended up ex­pand­ing to in­clude 22 coun­tries in all. She ne­glects to visit Canada. How­ever Cana­di­ans are given a cou­ple shout-outs in the book, one be­ing that Cana­dian Thanks­giv­ing was a favourite hol­i­day of hers to cel­e­brate with team­mates and the sec­ond be­ing her in­ter­ac­tion with Joseph Kibur, a na­tive of Ethiopia who was com­pelled to seek his for­tune in Canada due to the Ethiopian famine of 1983– 85. Kibur went on to win the 1993 Cana­dian Cross-Coun­try Cham­pi­onship and be­come a self-made mil­lion­aire, be­fore re­turn­ing to his home coun­try to im­prove the liv­ing con­di­tions of his com­mu­nity. His con­tri­bu­tion took shape in the form of an elite train­ing camp called Yaya Vil­lage, which hosts a schol­ar­ship pro­gram de­signed to kick­start the in­ter­na­tional ca­reers of as­pir­ing Ethiopian dis­tance ath­letes.

Wade’s tale is a pleas­ing, if some­what su­per­fi­cial sur­vey of run­ning around the world, from the per­spec­tive of a young run­ner on the brink of a pro­fes­sional ca­reer. It reads a bit like a travel jour­nal that has had all mishaps, em­bar­rass­ing con­tent and mo­ments of doubt re­moved, leav­ing it with a happy-go-lucky, if some­what un­re­al­is­tic tone. Where it lacks the gritty hon­esty and soul-bar­ing of Suzy Fa­vor Hamil­ton’s Fast Girl, or the ac­ces­si­ble sci­en­tific scru­tiny of Bruce Gri­er­son’s What Makes Olga Run?, Wade’s book stim­u­lates wan­der­lust in the run­ner of any level.

Some­what iron­i­cally, the most com­pelling por­tion of the book takes place in the United States, when Wade re­counts her marathon de­but at the Cal­i­for­nia In­ter­na­tional Marathon with a grip­ping and in­tensely re­lat­able mile-by-mile play-by-play. She also pro­vides her pre-race playlist, which in­cludes mu­sic picked up from each of the dif­fer­ent coun­tries that she trav­elled to. The book’s bib­li­og­ra­phy, a throw­back to its os­ten­si­bly aca­demic ori­gins, is one that any avid run­ner will be happy to ref­er­ence for fu­ture reads.—

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