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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Books for the Beginning Runner

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With cooler air and colorful scenery, autumn is the perfect season to begin running outdoors. Before you hit the trail or the pavement, take your first step at the public library where there are dozens of titles to jump-start your journey.

The Runner’s World Big Book of Running for Beginners: Winning Strategies, Inspiring Stories, and the Ultimate Training Tools for Beginning Runners by Jennifer Van Allen is a good starting point for novices. This 2014 guide includes all the basics such as where and when to run, what to eat before and after to maximize performance and how to avoid injuries. Inspiring first-person stories of “how running changed my life” are interspersed throughout the book. Many of these personal essays are by people who began with challenges such as a medical condition or weight problem and yet went on to complete marathons or half-marathons, demonstrating how running can benefit all kinds of people. 
 
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Running is even more comprehensive.  Author Bill Rodgers is an accomplished athlete, four-time winner of both the Boston Marathon and New York City Marathon, but he starts off with the basics before delving into more advanced topics. So, it can be read over a series of months as the reader becomes more adept. There is also a simple beginner’s program for walkers with a day-by-day running chart. Basically, you add spurts of running to your walking that become gradually longer until after a month or so you are running instead of walking the whole route. Topics covered include: selecting the right shoes and clothing, gadgets you may or may not need and starting to race, from 5ks to marathons. It also includes chapters on running for women, older adults and parents of small children. 
   
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For pure beginner’s inspiration, it is hard to beat The Courage to Start: A Guide to Running for Your Life by John “The Penguin” Bingham. Bingham wrote “The Penguin Chronicles” column in Runner’s World magazine from his perspective as a couch-potato-turned-avid-runner. Bingham’s book has a reassuring “if I can do it you can do it” message. He writes with self-deprecating humor about his determination to take up running when he could barely huff his way to the end of his own driveway and is a firm believer that running can enrich almost anyone’s life, including those who are not bound for greatness in the sport. Bingham has an enthusiastic following among his fellow “penguin runners” who are less concerned with speed than personal fulfillment and general fitness.  

Runners of any level who are also readers may be interested in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: A Memoir by Haruki Murakami. The renowned Japanese author wrote this memoir in his late fifties about returning to running after a long absence and a tackling a long distance running regime at a mature age. He writes about his career in literature and how his daily hour-long runs balance out his life as a writer. Murakami’s acclaimed magical realism novels include The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore.  

Whether you are psyching yourself up to begin or are already a seasoned runner, Fairfax County Public Library has a wealth of books available to provide encouragement and practical advice.
 
-Suzanne Summers LaPierre, Kings Park Library

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