Monday, December 17, 2007

RJ Review: “Complete Guide to Trail Running”

If you’re looking for a good introduction to trail running, then look no further, for the “Runner’s World Complete Guide to Trail Running” by Dagney Scott Barrios (Rodale Press) is it. If, however, you’re looking for some true insight into the nitty gritty of the sport, particularly ultra-distance racing and training, then look somewhere else. While Barrios provides a lot of information for a road runner making the first transition to trail running, the book simply lacks a lot of detail that would make it a good reference guide for those who’ve been running trails (and running long) for a number of years. In reality, it was probably the intention of the book from the start to be nothing more than an introduction to the sport, but it does beg the question: Why call it a “complete guide” when it is anything but?

That said, the book is very well written and has some very beautiful, inspiring passages that provide some insight into the transcendent quality of trail running that makes it so appealing to so many. This paragraph, inspired by the midnight to dawn portion of a 100 mile race she was helping a friend complete, particularly stands out:

“And then we heard music. As it grew louder we saw twinkles of light. The trail broke from its narrow confines and spilled out onto a dirt road. The mirage grew closer, until we were surrounded by sweet strains of opera. In the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, someone had decorated their house with holiday lights and set up outdoor speakers to serenade the silent stream of lonely runners. It was magical. We kept moving, the lights and music growing fainter, until all was dark and silent again. And we wondered if we had imagined the whole thing.”

This, and the chapter it comes from, is nearly worth the price of the book itself. Nearly.

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