Book Review: Long May You Run by Chris Cooper

For one who has been running since the ’80s, I’m sometimes unconscious of the fact that the person I’m speaking to is a newbie to running. Information such as splits, pace, intervals, mileage have no relevance to the newcomers to the sport. 2 things could happen. One, the person will follow your well-intended advice to the T and run himself into the ground, get injured and never to return. Or his eyes would just glaze over as you ramble on about the technical bits. Think information overload, when a more effective message would be along the lines of the benefits of running, how to get started, where to run, and how to keep it going.

Runners are fortunate in that we have many books written on the sport we love. Even if we’re unable to find a particular book in the best bookshop in town – Kinokuniya – there’s always the online option like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. From instructional ones by Dr Jack Daniels, Salazar, Pfitzinger, medical and physiological (read: scientific) bibles like Dr Tim Noakes’ Lore of Running, Dr Daniel Lieberman’s publications, to the deeply philosophical tomes of Dr George Sheehan and Haruki Murakami.Then there are fantastic accounts like Liz Robbins’ A Race Like No Other, John Bryant’s London Marathon and biographical ones like Bart Yasso’s My Life On The Run, Jim Denison’s scintillating The Greatest: The Haile Gebrselassie Story. Not to be left out are the laugh-out-loud like Don Kardong’s Hills, Hawgs and Ho Chi Minh and Mark Remy’s C is for Chafing!

The latest addition to the rich collection of running related books would be Chris Cooper’s “Long May You Run – all.things.running“. Published by Simon & Schuster, the 224-page hardcover attempts to cut through the tangles that newcomers often find themselves dealing with. Too often, information overload (the Internet truly is a double-edged sword) causes more confusion than clarity. Certainly, instructional and technical books would be a wrong choice for this segment of runners. They’d be totally intimidated by the overdose of details at this juncture. What beginners need then, would be affirmation of their decision to lead an active life through their chosen sport, inspirational quotes, basic guides on how to get started and keep it going. And that’s what readers will get from this book. Brian Sell, Bart Yasso, Colleen De Reuck, Jeff Galloway, Suzy Favor Hamilton, Don Kardong, Steve Moneghetti, Pete Pfitzinger, Pam Reed, Scott Jurek are some of the running luminaries to contribute words of encouragement and tips along the way.

Organized in 5 parts – Off The Starting Line, On The Road, Get The Gear, Go The Distance, Run For Your Life – the author aims to provide a step by step and structural way, leaving readers with plenty of pointers and references that should whet their appetite for more.

For example the first section – Off The Starting Line – talks about, among others, the benefits of running, running club, keeping a running log, the best places to run, best running movies. These sub-parts are glued together by Running Hall of Fame giants like Ted Corbitt and Sir Roger Bannister. Even Malaysia gets a mention in the sub-part titled Drinking Club with a Running Problem where the author let us in on the background of the Hash House Harriers. Did you know that the HHH originated in Malaysia?

On The Road then takes the runner into the various types of workouts. Again, just enough information is given without complicating matters. I’d say that this part of the book is the meatiest in the sense of getting the runner outdoors. Running in the rain, nutrition, rest, finding love on the run, and even topics like dealing with dogs are covered. Didn’t I say this book’s scope is amazing?

Get The Gear should interest everyone simply because it deals with shopping i.e. getting the shoes (or not!), books, running tunes, sunglasses, and not forgetting donating your old shoes and race t-shirts to the charity organizations.

Go The Distance then talks about further developing the burgeoning interests of the runner. Seasoned runners know the importance of cross-training and introducing variety to the daily running routine to maintain motivation and keep things fresh. Be it taking up the challenge of the ultramarathon, duathlon or triathlon, this section has the tips for you. Some runners seek out unique challenges like running a race in every state, or not missing a single of running (streaking). I can’t remember where but I’ve read that there was a streaker who didn’t let a broken leg stop him from running, well, hobbling a mile in crutches! If you seek running at historic locales is your thing, Cooper suggests the national parks, along the Champs-Elysees, or the Iffley Road Track where Sir Roger Bannister ran the first ever sub 4-minute mile.

After going through the book, I realized that it will not only provide an excellent primer for the beginning runner to immerse himself in the sport, but also provides me and fellow seasoned runners a structured template on how to guide newbies. Presented in extremely legible typeface, and organized in such a logical fashion, the book is almost like a huge set of Powerpoint presentation deck. It’s at once very accessible. It helps that the Cooper himself has run in the places he wrote about, including the Boston Marathon – his experience and enthusiasm for running comes through in the writing.

Who this book is for: Beginners to running, “Influencers” or running group leaders looking for a structured approach to guide newbies. Think of this book as a primer that points the reader to more resources out there, should they want to dig in further.

Who needs to look elsewhere: Intermediate-Seasoned runners seeking detailed training and nutrition concepts.

I spotted a copy each at Border’s Tropicana City Mall and The Curve, retailing at RM96 or through Amazon.com (rated 4.5 stars) at an amazing price of USD9.60 (at the point of posting).

Disclaimer: A review copy of “Long May You Run – all.things.running” was provided to me by the author Chris Cooper, but the opinions stated in this review are entirely my own. You can get to know more about the author and his work at his website.

Originally published: Mar 22, 2012

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