I recommend the book. It's compelling, gripping, more so than the movies of another runner. They should make a movie out of it. I'd like to see a second book on his college years. This book doesn't really go through his 11 NCAA championships, (except 1 or 2 in the race strategy appendix).
Ok, he's not a professional writer like we find in the top books. Perhaps you shouldn't expect that. On the other hand, it's very readable, not at all like serious academic books on the generically existential topics that I explore below. (It lacks the kind of jargon that I sometimes use.) In fact, the nonprofessional style of the book, including the narration by "Gerry Lindgren's shadow," helps express the (subordinary) everyman theme of the book, and adds to its value. In the end, a truly great story is told, one that continues to have the power to bring tears to my eyes, one that I have read over and over again.
For starters, I think the book should be recommended to school libraries, perhaps starting with guidance counselors. It would be a great book for youth shelters and detention centers, (where I once worked). The issue of kids getting picked on and looked down on is very contemporary. Put it in your "bullying" collection.
I find that the message resonates beyond the "youth book" genres, however, as the issue of huge stresses on people is found in many places (i.e. from alcoholism in Gerry's family to: Vietnam Veterans, "farm stress," poverty, etc.). For example, Gerry found a "survivor mission," such as we find in the books of Robert Jay Lifton (Home from the War: The Vietnam Veterans: Neither Victims Nor Executioners). Or consider Victor Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning. Gerry found a unique personal meaning in a cause to serve, person(s) to love, but also in terms of attitudes toward his unalterable destiny. It led to his incredible story of running success, and of what I can only call his "killer strategies" in races (meaning killer to him!). It started on the simplest of levels, as the slowest kid on the team, running with a small purpose, one lap at a time. It leads eventually, to the book for us all, as I'm describing it in this short review. What Gerry's book is, then, is a personal example from the *familiar (*today, not in 1964) world of running, that illustrates what the other, (more academic) books that I cite, seek to explain, plus Gerry's "shadow" interpretation of it, from the inside. (Did I mention Carl Jung!)
On the question of love, I think we should take Gerry's word for it. It's not just a theme about Gerry. It's also a story about his coach and Guidance Counselor, Tracy Walters. Coach Walters made personal choices which then became givens (destiny) in Gerry's life.
Out of all of that, then, comes a story about the human potential. Here, Gerry's unique story is about talent that people don't have, about rising to levels thought impossible, and in that way, his way, changing one's ability level, one's talent, for the future.
Put another way, Gerry was an innovator. I find that a number of his principles parallel, for example Apple Computer, as seen in Carmine Gallo's book, "The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs." Gerry was certainly one to "think different," and he was "insanely great." As they put it in a famous ad series by Apple, he was one of "the crazy ones," but many of us "see genius in that craziness." For those who see Gerry in this way, his photo could have been used along side of the various other eccentrics that Apple featured.
What's amazing about Gerry is how he was so far ahead of his time. He moved the bar so far up, (and on cinder tracks,) that, 50 years later, he's still the oldest one on a number of youth and high school record lists. For example, his senior year he knocked 27 seconds off the high school indoor two mile record, then another 14 seconds, then another 6. That's 47 seconds total. Where else has someone done that? If you divide it in half, it's still more than 60% above than what Jim Ryun did outdoors.
I find, then, that Gerry's "shadow" rules of running parallel Gallos' take on Jobs. Gallo says: Jobs: "do what you love," "follow your heart." Gerry: "heart runs," "race with your heart," "run to be you," a love of running. Jobs: "Make a dent in the universe." Gerry: run to change the world. Jobs: "say no to 1,000 things," (he reduced Apple's product line). Gerry: "focus on one event." Also, quoting Guy Kawasaki, ("What I Learned from Steve Jobs," YouTube) Jobs: "the biggest challenges create the best work." Gerry: "dream an enormous dream." What makes Gerry's story stand out, however, is not really the ideas. Like Jobs own story, the ideas stand out because of what Gerry actually did. Gerry's accomplishments are what makes it a great book. It fits, therefore, into the genre of sports books with implications for business success.
There are also parallels with Daryll Mudra's (Dr. Victory) book, "Freedom in the Huddle." Mudra's speciality was to take college football losers and turn them into national champions. That's Gerry's (and Coach Walter's) story too.
Gerry describes himself as a typical child in an alcoholic family, which is a destiny that is very difficult for children (and then adults) to bear. It leads to coping patterns, and that's part of the setting in the book. Likewise, it was Gerry's destiny to be someone who could not succeed in athletics. With the human destiny, then, it's always a case of how we respond to our destiny. As Rollo May put the question in Freedom and Destiny: do we face it or not? Accept it? Fight it? The message of the book for the human condition, then, is the basic substance of the drama that emerges in the book.
I haven't yet fully decided how to answer those questions for the book (how it handles destiny). Certainly his training methods, (which, I've heard, awed multi-world record holder Ron Clark,) and his racing strategies, (mentioned above,) are part of the answer. Another part of the answer is in the spirituality of Gerry's personal philosophy, which emphasizes humility and service. That too is a key to the book's dramatic message about the human condition, about how to manage destiny.
And on this latter point, think of the "higher power" in the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, as part of how they address destiny through acceptance of their limits. On this latter point see Gregory Bateson's views of alcoholism and human destiny, as described by Charles Hampden-Turner in his book, Maps of the Mind (map 48). (See also Hampden-Turner's book Sane Asylum, which, like Lifton's book, addresses "the dilemma of individual responsibility versus social causation." Gerry's story starts (soon) in the "social causation" of an alcoholic family," which is combined with a non-athletic physical destiny. It influences a boy growing through junior high and on into high school. In the end, amazingly, Gerry tells a story of the blessings of his life. Love leads to gratitude.
I find that Gerry Lindgren's book on running has a powerful message about the human spirit in this era of the power complex, when we feel so small and insignificant. We bear a huge burden, which we are passing on to our children as an even bigger burden. How dare we do such a thing to our very own children and grandchildren!? And yet how can we not do so. That's our destiny, (the limits, the givens in which we live).
But then, . . . read Gerry's book . . . .
Freedom and Destiny (Norton Paperback) Home from the War: VIETNAM VETERANS Neither Victims nor Executioners Man's Search For Meaning Maps of the Mind: Charts and Concepts of the Mind and its Labyrinths Sane asylum The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs: Insanely Different Principles for Breakthrough Success Freedom in the Huddle: The Creative Edge in Coaching Psychology The Macintosh Way The Pursuit of Wow! Every Person's Guide to Topsy-Turvy Times The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience