Friday, July 22, 2016

Summer Reading List, Olympics Edition

It’s the time of year for summer reading lists… but, this year (in just two weeks!!) it's also time for the Olympics, so I've combined the two into an Olympics edition of the typical summer reading list. As an Olympics super fan, I’ve read many books about the Olympics over the years and have compiled some of my favorites below. Take your pick to read now to get excited, in between events, or afterward when you’re depressed over the long wait until Tokyo.

Best of the Best: Rome, 1960: The Summer Olympics that Stirred the World, by David Marraniss

This is my ultimate favorite Olympics book. It follows a remarkable cast of characters (Wilma Rudolph, barefoot Abede Bikila, young Cassius Clay before he was Muhammed Ali) as amateurism began to die and drama from drug scandals, politics, and equal right issues exploded, all while the world followed along on TV for the first time. When I read this, I wished there was a book like this for each Olympiad. But other similar books haven't measured up, proving 1960 was truly special.

For the Marathoner: Showdown at Shepherd’s Bush, by David Davis

This book tells the story of the 1908 Olympic Marathon—the first time the marathon (back then just roughly 25 miles) was the absurdly arbitrary 26.2-mile distance we know today. It follows the three favorites and a stunning, controversial finish that made the marathon the must watch sport of the time.

For the Biography Lover: Triumph, by Jeremy Schaap

While the book is about Jesse Owen’s life, the main focus is of course on the 1936 Games in Nazi Germany. You may know the rough story, but I enjoyed the extra details of Owens’s early life and particularly the in-depth story behind the ’36 Games. I watched the movie Race recently, but was left thinking (as always), “The book was better.”

For the Ancient Historian: The Naked Olympics, by Tony Perrottet

This book is about the original Olympics in ancient Greece, not the modern Games as we know them today. I always assumed our Games were nothing like the ancient version, but when reading this I was surprised at the many similarities: political fighting, professional athletes, cheating. (Although the latter was by performing magic, not taking drugs.) Of course there were also huge differences, with very few events (one of which was an extreme version of Ultimate Fighting), naked competitors, and an unreal amount of olive oil.

From the Non-Running World:

I love the Olympics not just for the track and field, but also for all the niche sports that get their quadrennial moment to shine. Here are my two favorite Olympics books that have nothing to do with running:

Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown

Another book about the 1936 Games, this time focusing on a rowing team out of the University of Washington struggling through the Depression. I knew nothing about rowing when I started the book, but the underdog story was captivating. 

The Three-Year Swim Club, by Julie Checkoway

This book starts in 1937 and tells the fascinating story of impoverished Japanese-American kids in Maui trying to make it to the 1940 Games. (Minor spoiler alert if you think that through…) Against all odds and a particularly tumultuous time for Japanese Hawaiians, they become world-renowned swimmers. While some parts seemed a little long-winded, the story is truly special.  

Have another favorite? Let me know in the comments below!

Dream big, 

Friday, July 8, 2016

The (Un)Loneliness of a Long Distance Runner

We leave DC today. While the last few weeks have been a whirlwind of figuring out what exactly goes into buying a home and excitement about having a whole house, there have also been jolting reminders of what I’m going to miss: all the friends I’ve made in my seven years here.  

Particularly, my running friends.

I’ve talked about my GRC teammates a lot: their help getting through workouts, their constant support, even the science behind increased pain tolerance when working out together. But of course there’s more, like the simple camaraderie of long runs.

Fast friends.
I’m painfully shy. Sometimes I try to pretend I’m not and dive headfirst into a new situation or conversation (fake it ‘til you make it, right?) but inside I’m screaming with awkwardness. (Often not just inside…) Usually, though, I can’t repress my shyness. I feel incredibly vulnerable when I share too much (and yes, this happens a lot when publishing posts), but somehow, on the run, that loosens. Endorphins (and whatever else causes the runner’s high) can act a bit like a stiff drink, evaporating the awkwardness. You quickly get to know someone if you run with them for a few hours. Do it week after week after week and you’ll cover a lot of ground, in more ways than one. (And that’s before the additional layer of friendship that comes with suffering through the agony of 2K repeats together.)

Before I joined GRC, I was worried about the team dynamic because I was so used to doing my own thing. But, I knew a team would make me faster and I thought it’d be nice to have some friends that shared my love of running. So, shy as ever, I dove in. The first long run I did with the girls occurred a few days into the London Olympics. They talked about the Olympics with the same excited obsession as me and I remember realizing, “These are my people.” That’s been confirmed a million times in the last four years, but most recently as we all gathered together to fan girl the track Trials, while scarfing chips and guac and brownies and casually dropping Friends references.

Part of me is in denial. Richmond isn’t far, so it’s no big deal, right? And obviously we’ll stay close. But there’s something special about doing long runs together, week after week after week, that can’t be achieved over text message. That's what I'll miss the most.

Dream big,