The Runner's Guide to the Meaning of Life: What 35 Years of Running Have Taught Me About Winning, Losing, Happiness, Humility, and the Human Heart by Amby Burfoot 
submitted by Tommy



When I picked this up to read I didn’t notice the sub-title, but as it turns out I too have been running 35 years (with some interruptions because of injury or life.) For the most part I’m not into motivational books, but since Amby Burfoot seems like a really cool guy and was once a great runner, I thought I’d give it a try.

It is surprisingly good! At 150 pages it is a quick read but it is packed full of wisdom and fun. Yes, Fun! The book itself is fun, nothing too deep and depressing. He emphasizes that running should be fun. There will be some work and some obstacles at times, but isn’t that just what life is? But the pleasures as well as the health benefits (both mentally and physically) are tenfold.

Amby was in his mid-50’s when he wrote this, so it is from the wise perspective of a once great runner who is slowing down. He isn’t trying to teach us how to go out and run fast and hard, but instead he is instructing us to go out and ENJOY running to the best of our individual ability and we will learn much about life and ourselves in the process.

He also emphasizes that It is possible for all of us to take part. We may experience losing, failure, and probably injuries, but it helps us in everyday life when we are bound to experience the same challenges. Everyone who runs is a winner. The only opponent is yourself.

He has many quotes and one of his favorites is by Rudyard Kipling (the end of the poem, IF).
"If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!"

I have always liked that poem, but I had never noticed the importance of these lines before in relation to running. Don’t worry about your running time too much is the lesson here. Just run! He also gives a list of his heroes and a list of essential reading. Both are nice.

My favorite chapter/lesson in the book is #7: LISTENING. Running is my meditation time. Walking can be the same, but to a lesser degree. He describes it well with his line, “...the sound of mindless thoughts flitting through my head.” Since Amby is a writer/editor he also notes how easy it is to write while running. He quotes Joyce Carol Oates,
“Running! If there’s any activity happier, more exhilarating, more nourishing to the imagination, I can’t think what it might be…”

All runners should read this book and anyone who is trying to understand a runner should also read this. Read this book…and go for a run!


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