Last year I went away with a group of the athletes that are coached by my coach Nick Anderson and his colleagues at RunningWithUs, for a week’s warm weather training in Portugal. You can read about the week here.
The week was wonderful for a whole host of reasons – great weather, double days every day and plenty of opportunities to rest, a brilliant training group, good food – the list goes on. And in amongst all that, I enjoyed the opportunity to be a bit of a running geek. Quite a bit of time was spent with fellow runners sharing ideas and tips and experiences.
During one afternoon, as a group of us relaxed by the pool between sessions, the subject of favourite books came up and a few of the group mentioned a book called Running With The Legends. The consensus was that it was rather an inspiring tome.
So on my return I ordered a copy and eagerly started it on the train to work on the morning it arrived. It was not a disappointment.
The format is simple; 21 chapters, each one dedicated to a different runner. The book features… erm… legends of running such as Emil Zatopek, Rosa Mota, Robert de Castella, Steve Jones and Bill Rogers amongst others. And whilst it would appear that different chapters have come from different sources, based on the way the styles of the chapters varies, the basics are all the same – a short biography including how the featured athlete got started, an examination of their career and some discussion of their career highlights and a glimpse into the athlete’s training.
And yet despite the similarities of the chapters in terms of format and the obvious parallels between the runners of dedication and sacrifice necessary to become a legend of running, the thing that struck me reading this book was the diversity that the featured runners exhibit. The range of backgrounds and styles and even physical characteristics of the runners is remarkable and means that it is quite legitimate to question whether there is an ideal physical shape or ideal background for an endurance runner.
But most of all, I think that Running With The Legends is a great history of modern distance running seen through the lens of the people who were at the forefront of the sport. It is a really inspiring book and provides an easy to read insight into the lives of some of the greatest runners who have ever lived. For anyone interested in the history of long distance running and who are interested in developing a mindset that will allow them to get the most out of their running, I cannot recommend Running With The Legends enough.