Category Archives: Book Reviews

Reviews of books on running, marathon, training etc

‘Let’s race Daddy!’: A heart-warming journey

 Publisher:Serene Publishers

Price: Rs 150

“Let’s race Daddy! – The title immediately caught my attention. It was a post shared by a fellow runner on the Mumbai Road runners’ Facebook page.  I glanced at the book cover with interest. It was an image of a father-daughter duo running side by side wearing toothy grins on their faces. This reminded me of the father-daughter bond that my 2 and a half year old daughter – Samara shared with her father cum my husband and running partner Amit.  Now being an avid reader and runner, books especially those related to running instantly caught my fancy. The book ordered through Amazon was delivered within a few days.

I scanned through the pages curiously and the first chapter had me hooked straightaway. It turned out to be marathon journey, where a run ends only at the finish line and in this case, I put the book down only after finishing the last chapter.

The author namely Soham Shukla traces his running journey from his childhood days in Palanpur where a great amount of emphasis was placed on his athletic training. A sudden demise in the family caused a changeover as his energies were focused solely on his career, leading to a sedentary lifestyle in the process. It was post the birth of his daughter Rene that made him revive his athletic abilities to stay fit in order to match his toddler’s energy levels. Thus began his journey as a runner commencing from the Bangalore 10k run in 2008.

The author’s first run is vividly described and gives one the feeling of having run the entire course with him.  The gradual transition from a 10k to half marathoner to a marathoner and ultimately to an ultra-runner carries the honest feelings that he undergoes at every kilometre mark. The tumultuous journey is interspersed with undying enthusiasm, will power, perseverance, a dose of humour especially while describing the Hyderabad flyover marathon where the author  jokingly asks a cyclist at the 12 km mark if he would get a lift.

The love for the Mumbai Marathon is clearly visible as the author describes the energetic vibes that the city of Mumbai offers during the D day. From a raw runner with no Garmin, science and pre social media days, he transforms into one that talks about aspects like ‘hitting a wall’ and refers to the 35th km mark at Pedder road as the ‘heartbreak hill’ of the Boston Marathon.

Recently diagnosed with a debilitating health condition, he has one longing dream-to run the 2025 edition of the Mumbai marathon with his daughter Renee who will turn 18 by then. He ends his book with a visualizing and imaginative image of reaching the finish line with his daughter in tow. Only time will tell if his dream will materialize into reality. As the saying goes “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”, it leaves the readers hoping the best for him.

15205736_10157761608155335_1577130756_o

It’s an endearing journey that will resonate very well with runners of varied categories-beginner, amateur and the elite. If you are a runner, run to the nearest store and pick up a copy of this 90 page book and if you are not, this read will make you warm up to those miles in due course of time.

It is said in the runners language that “when you cannot run with your legs, run with your heart”.  ‘Let’s race Daddy!’ is penned straight from the heart which is what makes it a heart-warming read.

 

‘#They INSpire’: A marathon read of extraordinary souls

Every person certainly has a story behind them which can often be crafted into a book or a movie. It especially turns into an enthralling one when the protagonist has battled several odds and resurfaced with a new identity altogether. It’s a sort of metamorphosis on a physical, emotional and psychological level which makes it seem like a reincarnation during the same lifetime.  It thereby results in a journey by itself, enough to intrigue and inspire other fellow humans to take up challenges and go beyond their comfort zones.

Such is often the story of sportspersons especially those of runners who have an intriguing story behind those confident and majestic strides. ‘#They INSpire’ authored by Lt Cdr Bijay Nair (Retd), also one of the admin of the largest running community called Mumbai Road Runners, takes the readers through an incredible marathon journey of 42 runners who share their stories from being ordinary to extraordinary individuals while displaying their humbling and stirring feats.

The book starts off as a tribute to runners which explains the several sacrifices that they have to make while pursuing their passion while juggling between their professional and family commitments. A special mention is dedicated to women runners who have pursued running seriously amidst those flurry of several roles that is required of them.

The following chapters takes one through a Q and A format with these incredible beings who describe on how they embarked the journey with running, their goals, favourite quotes and enriching tips for upcoming runners. It is fascinating to note the sheer joy that each of these runners exhibit while narrating their experiences and making their transformational experience quite apparent. Spread over diverse backgrounds and age groups from corporate professionals, army, sports backgrounds to gold jewellery polishers, it was absorbing to read about their setbacks ranging from loss of a loved one, financial constraints, loss of vision and a leg. Yet their spirits remain undeterred as they have defied age and conceptualized the saying ‘It’s never too late to start anything’ nor have they mulled over regrets of not having started earlier. Some have even turned into full time coaches and motivational speakers, as a means to create a difference to others’ lives.

Written in a simplistic yet impactful style, Nair weaves his stories like a continuous thread that takes you through the marathon journey encountering several individuals which makes it a riveting learning experience. The book is bound to appeal to the running community largely. However its element of the inspirational dose of defying odds will find its way through the hearts of non-runners as well who will be compelled enough to take to fitness in a large manner if they haven’t laced up  already to hit the roads with a vengeance.

‘#They INSpire’ is not a book. It’s a journey interspersed with the philosophy of being a good runner and most importantly a good human being. The sensibilities shared by these experienced individuals will force every runner to reflect on their respective journeys and retrace their thought processes as to why they decided to venture into one of oldest sports that required bare minimum essentials in the first place.  In this fast paced world which is gripped by the phenomena of ‘too fast too soon’ at an alarming rate, the happiness and contentment exhibited by these individuals come across as a breath of fresh air.

14522053_10157462415310335_448808494_o

 

Publisher: The Write Place

Price: Rs 250

 

‘Unstoppable’: A running related book about defying odds to run miles

I was first introduced to Mr. Venkatraman Pichumani on Jan 8th 2016 at the SCMM expo by a friend-Vikas Sharma, who had one of his stalls of his company, Dr. Cool there. I found Mr Pichumani to be an extremely warm and unassuming person. Little did I realize that there existed a story behind this nice demeanour just like the ones that prevailed in every runner’s life, only this one being a little appalling and awe-inspiring.

My second meeting with him took place on Feb 7th 2016 at the footsteps4good event, where my husband and I just finished a 10 km run. He was standing near the finish line cheering a middle aged man, running 10 km, to keep going. ‘He was a heart patient’ he told us and that’s when he revealed his own story about being a cardiac bypass patient who took to running and is now promoting running for good health under the banner of ‘youtoocanrun.’

Feeling intrigued I went home and immediately ordered a copy of his new book ‘Unstoppable’ which consisted of 9 inspiring stories of people who had overcome their barriers to fight their way through the finish line.

The foreword by running veteran Fauja Singh was enough to set those pages turning as I got absorbed in the book for an hour. Each story was riveting and intense, be it someone overcoming poverty, their fight with cancer, running with a prosthetic limb, battling obesity, age, alcoholic addiction and blindness or an entrepreneur overcoming a brain surgery to discover the joy of running.

Embracing the second chance that life hand handed them, each individual lapped it up in delight without any trace of bitterness. They had clearly put their painful past behind them, ready to move ahead with those rhythmic strides and conquer the roads. I now vowed to vanquish that impudent voice which says “why does it happen only to me?”, whenever I face a downfall.

As I turned the last page, I was filled with admiration at these spirited stories of human triumph which exhibited nothing short of a fairy tale ending. It banished those old age belief that ‘happily ever after endings’ ceased to exist only in those Grimm Brothers tales of castles and kingdoms.

As a runner especially, I often tend to look for some source of inspiration in the form of a book, movie or a living person. Venkatraman’s book co-authored with journalist Padmaja Shastri certainly gave a good dose of the inspiration pill. Just reading about these 9 determined individuals who broke all barriers to achieve milestones, reaffirmed my faith in the saying that ‘Impossible is nothing’. It enabled me to relearn the joy of living and running which we often lose out in the quest to race against time. As the title suggests, this book is indeed an ‘unstoppable’ read.

Continue reading ‘Unstoppable’: A running related book about defying odds to run miles

Marathons: Reborn to Run

anandJust finished reading “Reborn to Run” by Anand Anantharaman, it narrates his marathon running experience in all the seven continents and also the North Pole all that after suffering a coronary heart disease. Anand has beautifully juxtaposed legends about the places that he has run with his running exploits and he has run on some exotic locales around the world such as Siberia, Great Australian Outback, Galapagos, Athens, Borneo, Great Wall and of course the North Pole and Antartica. The book tells us that the mother earth is such a beautiful place and running of course is one of the most beautiful sports where for one chunk of five to six hours, people from all walks of life, caste and creed come together in a common exploit and help each other along the way forgetting their differences. Running in all these places all alone and most certainly the lone Indian requires some courage which was especially useful during his sojourn in Siberian wildness. The narrative is good and easy, would recommend to anybody who is an endurance sportsperson, a runner, ultra runner or wannabe runner.

Paths of Glory

As the Everest climbing season begins, I am posting here a review of a book which i had read a couple of years ago. Since running is as much an endurance sport as mountaineering which is the ultimate endurance test of all time, especially climbing the Himalayas, i am taking this liberty of posting the book review of “Paths of Glory”. This book is about the story of George Mallory, who is perhaps the first ever person to climb the summit at the Mount Everest way back in 1924 but the tragedy is that he never returned back. His body was later found in 1999. The summit is supposed to be considered as successful only if the climber returns back to the base camp after going to the summit. That was probably the tragedy of George Mallory, brilliant climber brilliantly bought to life by the exhilarating narrative of Jeffrey Archer. A must read for all adventure aficionados.

Why we Run?

Just finished reading a fascinating book “Why we Run” by Bernd Heimrich. Biologist, award-winning nature writer and ultramarathoner Bernd Heimrich explores the anthropological, biological and psychological side of ultraendurance and dovetails the narrative with his own running efforts including running and winning an ultra-marathon 100 kms event – lots of insights into the sport of long distance running. Must read for all long distance runners.

Turbaned Tornado

This book “Turbaned Tornado” is a biography of the famous Indian marathoner who ran a marathon at 100 years, Fauja Singh. The writer Kushwant Singh is not the same famous Indian journalist and writer of the same name. It is a nice narrative of the early life of Fauja Singh, how he travelled to London after the death of his loving wife and started running marathons at the age of 89 when most of us would rather be more comfortable walking with a stick!! Fauja is an indomitable spirit and his farmers’ genes help him in becoming a rare sportsman and brand ambassador more famous than some sportspersons three or four generations younger than him. His timing of 5.20 hours at the age of 94 is the stuff made of legends. Fauja Singh is truly a great sportsman of India and reading his biography is very refreshing.

Running on Empty

Just finished reading Marshall Ulrich’s book “Running on Empty” – his story of love, loss and a record setting run across America. This guy is a true ultra marathoner nut in the sense that he has incredible feats under his belt like finishing Badwater Marathon 18 times, winning it four times, and then doing the Badwater route solo i.e. without any team, but only with all his supplies in a cart that weighed 200 pounds, Badwater Quad which is like utter crazy – doing badwater four times back to back. Who can attempt such crazy ultra running feats. His ultra running or rather his running started with the loss of his first wife to cancer when he used to run to escape the depression and thereafter running became a lifelong passion. He has also some mountaineering feats up his sleeve like summiting the tallest summit in each continent and also ascending the Mount Everest.

So it was to be a culmination of his running career by running across America, starting from San francisco to New York a total distance of 3063 miles in 46 days at the age of 57. The previous person to have covered America thus was a 27 year old Frank Gianino about 28 years ago. It involved Marshall running 2 marathons plus 10K every day across terrain and weather that varied from state to state from heat to cold, snow, rains and all. It led to a process of discovery within himself and brought his family close together. The daily travails of running coupled with diet, nutrition, injury, illness, exhaustion, plus the logistics of daily runs are not given in much detail but the reader can very comprehend what it must have taken for the crew to get this runner across America. At the beginning Charlie Engle who ran across the Sahara desert accompanied Marshall during his run but somewhere approximately half way through a fight broke out between the two and Charlie quit and then came to crew and there were recriminations with the original crew which included Marshall’s wife. So it is a kind of an eye-opener as to what really transpires in all these multi day ultra marathons. Read it to see whether he manages to break the record of Frank Gianino. Nice read for running fans. There was a movie made out of it “Running America” but could only find a trailer on youtube for it.

Ultra-Marathon Man

Just finished reading “Ultra Marathon Man – Confessions of an All-Night Runner” by Dean Karnazes – an absorbing and overwhelming story of his early athletic prowess, loss of his sister to accident, his subsequent forays away from running for 15 years and rediscovery of running to running ultra marathons to running crazy distances and impossible feats like running the south pole marathon, running 199 miles non stop etc. His heroic attempt at running the Western States 100 miler and succeeding first time and the Badwater Marathon and failing first time have been very poignantly told. A very nice inspirational story with dollops of quotable quotes for keeping in one’s mirror or desktop. The paperback edition has given details of his training plan, nutrition, strategy etc. at the end so that helps in people who are planning to run short distances like the marathon instead of crazy distances like ultra marathon and beyond. A must read for all running addicts.

Marathon Man by Bill Rodgers

It is a very enchanting and enthralling book with a throbbing narrative in collaboration with Mathew Shepatin. Basically it is an account of his early life and his Boston marathon experience of 1975. The narrative is very interesting in the sense that each chapter starts with his Boston 1975 progress during the race and the later part of the chapter devotes to flashback to his early life as a college student, running with Amby Burfoot who is his original inspiration, his “conscientious objector” status during the Vietnam war, his degree at special education, struggle at getting a job etc. He was a natural born runner with a great capacity for hard work and a body which could take any amount of hard work with very little injuries. The realisation that he could be a top notch marathon runner came to him only during a race with Amby Burfoot in which he raced alongside the great Amby for about 15 miles of a 20 mile race. The seeds of inspiration which Amby sowed in him made him take up competitive racing including marathons. Boston Billy alongwith Frank Shorter, Amby Burfoot and Jeff Galloway were the pioneers of long distance running first in America which then spread to other cities in the world which has since then grown exponentially. His latter attempts at Montreal Olympics of 1976 and thereafter founding a successful running business alongwith his college buddies makes for a good story. It is an excellent book, very inspirational, very nice story of an easygoing hardworking American who loves running dearly.