A Life Without Limits

After reading Chrissie Wellington’s memoir I feel like I know her personally. The four time Ironman World Champion is candid about subjects that many people would be more comfortable avoiding (including eating disorders and diarrhea).

The amazing thing about her story is that she was much more of a bookworm than an athlete growing up. When I think of professional athletes I think of people with a natural ability who have been excelling from an early age. Chrissie Wellington did not pursue professional triathlons until she was thirty years old. Her humble  athletic background and late start give her a Cinderella-esque quality that I love`.

She talks in detail throughout the book about the mental toughness that it took to be able to make it through all aspects of the Ironman (training sessions, particular races when problems arose, missing her family, a less than receptive welcome). I can’t imagine anyone not respecting her mentality and I loved learning more about what she was thinking and feeling throughout her journey.

Overall, I thought this book was a great easy read, and I feel like I learned a lot from it. There were sections of the book that seemed a little irrelevant, but who am I to judge someone else’s experience.

Quotes:

“I will always remember my dad’s parting advice: ‘Just seize every opportunity you have, embrace every experience. Make a mark, for all the right reasons.’ I threw myself into it from the start, and I thrived.”

“Running day in, day out with somebody is the quickest way to forge a friendship…You see each other at your rawest, with no makeup or fancy clothes, just Lycra, sweat and sometimes tears.”

“Never imagine anything is impossible, and never stop trying out new things. My life has taken me to so many wonderful places and has truly enriched me. None of it would have been possible if I’d let timidity overcome the impulse to explore.”

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Eating Animals- Jonathan Safran Foer

Eating Animals was a difficult book to get through. Sometimes I could only read a few pages before I would have to put it down. As someone who is already committed to a vegetarian diet, I was able to take comfort in the fact that I contribute less to the disgusting situations described in this book. But I am far from perfect. Cheese makes a regular appearance on my plate, my car has leather interior, and don’t even get me started on my shoes.

Foer discusses the sacrifices involved in eliminating meat including being viewed as a difficult person by others, and being unable to partake in meals that are considered family tradition. Both are reasons that I continue to be vegetarian rather than vegan.

He is honest about how he enjoys the taste of meat and has struggled with removing it from his diet. It’s a constant conflict between enjoyment and morals. Something that I believe most people would agree with. Most people like animals. They would have very conflicting emotions if they were forced to kill one themselves. I have several friends who tried to go vegetarian after they learned about what actually goes down at factory farms and slaughterhouses. Their intentions were excellent, but after a couple of weeks the shock wore off and they began adding meat back to their diet. Much like the author did several times prior to writing this book.

It’s very informative. My only complaint is that the descriptions are too gruesome, but it is hardly the fault of the author for presenting his research. The fault lies with the system that we have all enabled to take over the industry.

Quotes

“What our babysitter said made sense to me, not only because it seemed true, but because it was the extension to food of everything my parents had taught me. We don’t hurt family members. We don’t hurt friends or strangers. We don’t even hurt upholstered furniture. My not having thought to include animals in that list didn’t make them the exceptions to it.”

“There were things she believed while lying in bed at night, and there were choices made at the breakfast table the next morning.”

“Because there are so many animals, it takes me several minutes before I take in just how many dead ones there are.”

“That’s the business model. How quickly can they be made to grow, how tightly can they be packed, how much or little can they eat, how sick can they get without dying.”

“When we eat factory-farmed meat we live, literally, on tortured flesh. Increasingly, that tortured flesh is becoming our own.”

“Whether we’re talking about fish species, pigs, or some other eaten animal, is such suffering the most important thing in the world? Obviously not. But that’s not the question. Is it more important than sushi, bacon, or chicken nuggets? That’s the question.”

“Not responding is a response- we are equally responsible for what we don’t do. In the case of animal slaughter, to throw your hands in the air is to wrap your fingers around a knife handle.”

“Compassion is a muscle that gets stronger with use, and the regular exercise of choosing kindness over cruelty would change us.”

Finding Their Stride

I was hesitant to pick up this book. It is about a high school cross country team, and because I did not start running until I was in college (and not part of a team) I was not sure of how relateable it would be to me.

I loved it. It was written by the coach of the team, and the way she describes each event is beautiful. You can tell that she loves each of her students, and is very dedicated to her team.

 

Quotes:

“You run with your legs and arms; you run with your heart. But you win with your entire self.”

“Bodies are miraculous. Like bodies of water, they flood, recede, but do not lose their integrity.”

“That tiredness, though, is satisfying: it is the result of desire, of strength. of pushing the body further than it knows it can go, and of saying to pain, churlishly, “I’m watching you.”

“Do we have too many or too few seconds? Have we used our seconds wisely? Will seconds logically lead to firsts? My mind is a chaos of questions, but my stopwatch can’t answer them accurately until the district race is over.”

“Second is not always lesser than first, nor first greater than second. Numbers seldom fall in an orderly pattern.”

“The body, sometimes, makes its own choices, regardless of the dictates of the mind. It’s needs are just as profound as those of the mind, and its poetry is just as stirring.”

“To win, really, is to surpass, not others, but ourselves.”

“The point is to be better than you thought you could be.”

 

50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days

I had high expectations of this book. In order to run a marathon every day for fifty consecutive days someone would have to be super human. An endurance feat of that magnitude must be the equivalent of a religious experience. I thought that this book would be full of life changing information.

It was actually really boring.

I guess I can’t blame the guy. He spent all of his time either running a marathon or traveling to another one. Not exactly plot oriented.

What really turned me off from this book was that after Dean ran his final marathon he did not go straight to rejoin his family. He took off on a solo running trip towards home. If I was his wife, I would have been furious. He was away from his family for almost two months, and then he proceeded to spend even more time away.

Anyways although this book does not rank among my favorites there were a few gems that  I thought were worth sharing.

Quotes:

“The difference between a runner and a jogger is that a jogger still has control over his life.”

“Running is more than a good way to lose weight. It’s a cure for depression and a potential path to personal growth and self-fulfilment.”

“The marathon mercilessly rips off the outer layers of our defenses and leaves the raw human, vulnerable and naked. It is here you get an honest look into the soul of an individual. Every insecurity and character flaw is on display for all the world to see.”

“Don’t we spend enough of our lives doubting ourselves, thinking we’re not good enough, not strong enough, not made of the right stuff? The marathon gives you the opportunity to tackle these doubts head on. It has a way of deconstructing your very essence, stripping away all of your protective barriers and exposing your inner soul.”

 

Mile Markers

I love the way that Kristin Armstrong writes. Her voice is soothing and she arranges words beautifully. She writes about trying to become the best version of herself possible and using running as a catalyst for larger topics such as friendship, healing, confidence, fear, and purpose.

I think that I especially appreciated this book because as a new runner I could feel how my workouts effected other areas of my life.

My only complaint is that I think it is essentially a compilation of her blog, and at times it got a little repetitive. I don’t have a problem with using pieces of a blog in a book, but I don’t think they did a good job of editing it. The same joke appeared multiple times, and it seemed lazy which was irritating.

Quotes

“Runners are an inherently spiritual crew, having first hand experience with the concept that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Going physically beyond yourself helps you understand that there is something bigger and mightier than you.”

“When words are insufficient people who run make an offering of miles.”

“Confidence on the inside means that you feel so comfortable in your own skin that your very presence is an invitation to freedom for others.”

“Facing fear is ultimately easier than constantly navigating around situations that provoke it.”

Born To Run

I had been interested in reading Born to Run for some time. Other bloggers sang it’s praises and I noticed references to it in a few running articles. At one point I even started it at Barnes and Noble, but ended up postponing my purchase. Last week I received a tough love e-mail from my SCUBA instructor recommending the book. I decided that enough was enough. I felt like everywhere I turned people were discussing Born to Run, so I immediately left my computer to see what all of the fuss was about.

It was one of the best books I have read in a long time! I was torn the entire time I was reading. On the one hand, I did not want to put it down. On the other hand, I could not wait to run. Although it was more about ultra marathons it definitely got me pumped for my training and helped me overcome my fear of my first double digit run.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“They remembered that running was mankind’s first fine art, our original act of inspired creation. Way before we were scratching pictures on caves or beating rhythms on hollow trees, we were perfecting the art of combining our breath and mind and muscles into fluid self propulsion over wild terrain.”

“When you run on the earth, and you run with the earth, you can run forever.”

“When I’m out on a long run, the only thing that matters is finishing the run… Everything quiets down, and the only thing going on is pure flow. It’s just me and the movement and the motion.”

“The reason we race isn’t so much to beat each other… but to be with each other.”

“Just move your legs. Because, if you don’t think you were born to run, you’re not only denying history. You’re denying who you are.”