Anec­dotes, tips com­bine to take run­ning book past the fin­ish line

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - BOOKS - Re­viewed by Matt TenBruggen­cate

IT takes chutz­pah for any­one to write a new “How to Run a Marathon” man­ual. Enough guide­books, we­bi­nars, pam­phlets and blogs have been pumped out cov­er­ing ev­ery con­ceiv­able ap­proach to run­ning that you could paper a race’s route with the words. But Na­tional Post run­ning and mu­sic colum­nist Ben Ka­plan’s new hand­book still man­ages to split from the pack. Subti­tled The Rogue’s Guide to Run­ning the Marathon, Feet Don’t Fail Me Now charts a 52-week game plan for a run­ning new­bie to con­quer the 5K, 10K, then half-marathon be­fore mov­ing on to the full. Gen­tly ramp­ing up weekly work­load from 20-minute walks to a heap­ing help­ing of sprints, hill runs and 24-plus-kilo­me­tre long runs, Ka­plan grad­u­ally mixes in the tech­ni­cal tips dis­tance run­ners need. Pick­ing shoes, avoid­ing in­juries, nu­tri­tion — they’re all there, though with­out the usual text­book chap­ter ti­tles, charts and bul­let points. The bulk of Feet is per­sonal anec­dotes, tes­ti­mony from run­ner na­tion and celebrity in­ter­views, with the lat­ter group shar­ing their favourite run­ning songs. With an ex­pe­ri­enced jour­nal­ist’s flair, Ka­plan weaves run­ning facts into sto­ries from the tribe who’ve de­cided to lace up and head out the door: Mayor Ford’s to­tal lack of tech­nique as he plods around the school track; a new run­ner’s con­fes­sion she trained in her of­fice’s gym on Satur­days so no one would laugh; all-time fastest Amer­i­can fe­male marathoner Deena Kas­tor’s lazy sched­ule be­fore clock­ing elite times. The birth of Ka­plan’s daugh­ter at the same time as he’s try­ing to get to Bos­ton tracks the au­thor’s own jour­ney through the year. Less a gym les­son and more a Satur­day morn­ing curled up with a good long read, Feet is en­ter­tain­ing. That’s its first great sep­a­ra­tion from the bulk of run­ning books, which of­ten feel like marathon reads them­selves. There’s no dry chap­ter. Each nugget of wis­dom is rooted in the ex­pe­ri­ence of a re­lat­able per­son try­ing to get just a lit­tle bit faster. This also goes to the heart of any run­ning man­ual: mo­ti­va­tion. A book can’t push a run­ner over the fin­ish line, but early on Ka­plan in­sists the reader ques­tion his or her mo­ti­va­tion. “De­cide why you’re run­ning.” That ur­gent need has to come from within the run­ner. But there’s plenty of in­spi­ra­tion and heart in Ka­plan’s col­lected sto­ries. Their col­lec­tive de­sire to bet­ter them­selves speaks more to the act of run­ning a marathon than most guides. Feet is also funny, a wel­come shot of com­edy in a boos­t­er­ism-soaked sub­cul­ture sick of sun­set posters with in­spi­ra­tional quotes. Can­did and earthy, Ka­plan’s notes on sweat­ing out a rum-soaked evening, try­ing to not soil his shorts and re­peat­edly fail­ing to make his tar­get times takes a lot of hot air out of run­ning’s “mys­tique.” It’s about time. Feet, Don’t Fail Me Now is a re­lat­able and, im­por­tantly, read­able guide to cross­ing the marathon fin­ish line. If only ev­ery train­ing run was as fun. Matthew TenBruggen­cate is a writer for CTV Win­nipeg. He’ll be run­ning his first full marathon this May, mo­ti­vated by the guilt­free cheese­cake wait­ing at the fin­ish.

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