One of my favorite things about vacation is the extra time to read and amazingly, you can find time for a new book even in the midst of a Disney trip! I realized while we were on the trip that the book for Wendy’s Taking the Long Way Home book club had changed to Bart Yasso’s memoir My Life on the Run: The Wit, Wisdom and Insights of a Road Racing Icon. Thanks to the Kindle app on my iPhone, I was able to download the new book and start reading while I traveled. Given that a) this is an engaging, easy read and b) I had a big chunk of time to get started on it while I was waiting out the Wine & Dine evacuation, I got sucked into this really quickly.
I confess, even though I’ve been running for several years now, I didn’t quite get the allure of Bart Yasso. He’s a big figure in running in culture and it seems like everyone has a story about meeting and being encouraged by him, but I wasn’t really very familiar with his story. Now that I’ve read this book and gotten a glimpse of the real love he has for running and runners, I begin to understand his popularity a bit more.
The stories in the early part of the book are focused on his adventures with a wide variety of races, from a nude race (that was a date?!?), encounters with wild animals, burro racing, treks through the mountains and a half marathon where they were pelted with paintballs to confirm they’d really run the course! His vivid descriptions of his travels quickly suck you in and I soon found that it didn’t matter that he was running farther and faster than I could ever imagine because he ran with a kind of joy and wonder that I had on my very best running days.
Scattered throughout his adventures, and in a couple of dedicated sections of the book, are stories of other runners that have inspired him. One of my favorite running quotes has always been “I often hear someone say I’m not a real runner. We are all runners, some just run faster than others. I never met a fake runner.” In the pages of this book, it’s clear that he really does believe that and embraces all of us, no matter our pace. My favorite quote in this book is in the Finish Line chapter, in which he states “I know I feel more like myself when I run, even if it’s only a few miles, or at least I feel like the self I like best.” That is absolutely true for me and I suspect for many of us. Bart Yasso, despite his adventure and accolades, is one of us.
If you read this book, you should absolutely read it for the stories because they’re fascinating and engaging. They will give you a glimpse of running adventures that most of us will never experience. As almost a bonus, this book also includes a back section devoted to training plans. While it is interesting to see a different variety of training plans, there are books with a lot more detail about training so if you’re looking for a training guide, I don’t think this would be sufficient. However, there are some good tips there. The final chapter also includes a recounting of some of his favorite runs all over the world, if you want to start a race wish list of your own to experience some of these adventures after reading about them in the preceding chapters.
All in all, after reading this, I definitely understand the role Bart Yasso plays in the running community a little better. He’s an ambassador for the best of running and I would recommend this as a gift for any runner on your shopping list (yep, we’re already near holiday shopping time!).