The Quest to Run the Impossible MarathoneBook - 2015
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While not exactly what I'd expected, Ed Caesar has done a remarkable job of cohesively stringing together information that he's gathered over much time spent with elite Kenyan (primarily, there is also some exposure to Ethiopian elites, as well) runners; he has given generously of his time, resources, skills and goodwill to make these interviews and fact-finding missions possible. In return, he has been provided unprecedented access to international races, athletes, their coaches and their culture to share an update with readers, in layman's terms, on the quest to get closer to a mythical marathon finish time.
Although he interviews and writes about several other elite-level distance runners, and gives a succinct history and breakdown of the marathon as a distance race, the primary focus of this book is Geoffrey Mutai; Caesar formed a special bond with the athlete during his research for this book, and Mutai was very open with him about his background, his culture, the secrets of training in Kenya, his goals and dreams for the future. It's an inspiring and powerful story, and I'm grateful to the author for having shared this. If you've read a lot of other literature related to Kenyan running (for example, Running with the Kenyans) this may not be "news" to you; since I have not, I was very interested to hear about the background of some of these athletes and their lives outside the racing scene.
Having just finished watching the NYC Marathon last weekend, it was pretty fun to read about it's impact on the international racing world (as one of the World Marathon Majors) in this book. Normally, international elite runners are simply names on a bib (especially those from Kenya, since they seem to stay away from the press); it was interesting to have a little more story to go along with some of the faces. Caesar also explores the subject of drug use and recognizes the efforts of shoe companies to work with athletes toward this two-hour goal; what company wouldn't want to have their sponsored athlete hit this mark?
The ending is a little more abrupt than I prefer but, overall, I was impressed with his debut effort. In addition, I must draw attention to Caesar's notes at the back of the book; there is some fantastic information that was worth going through but I wish I'd done it while reading the book, instead of after I'd finished. I would recommend this to anyone who appreciates or is interested in the sport of distance running, runner or not; definitely worth the read.
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