26 Miles to Boston: The Boston Marathon Experience from Hopkinton to Copley Square Paperback – Mar 1 2003
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--Boston Athletic Association
--Jean Driscoll, Seven-Time Women's Wheelchair Champion
From the Back Cover
From the suburban town of Hopkinton to the center of metropolitan Boston, here are the mile-by-mile sights and sounds that confront the runners, and firsthand accounts - including the author's - of the pain and exhaustion they endure as they battle both the elements and the course's demanding terrain.
Here also is a rich and inspiring history of the marathon and of the men and women of varying skills and abilities whose own struggles, small victories, and personal triumphs have colored this magnificent event.
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Now, I recognize that the BAA has more or less allowed bandits to run the course over the years. As such, it might not have been that bad if the author had simply stated something along the following lines: he respects the talent and effort it takes to qualify and he recognizes that, since he has not done so, his participation is not the same as a legitimate qualifier, but he is nevertheless giving his experiences as a first time marathoner, not as someone who has properly trained and qualified for Boston. But, the author makes no such statement.
In fact, the author berates Marty Liquori for suggesting that bandits should not be allowed to run. Here's an excerpt from the book (p. 43):
"Listen Marty, you're our guest. So mind your manners, pick up your check, and watch the race. When I cross that finish line some twenty-six miles down the road, not with a number but with the storied history of the Boston Marathon in my blood, then I will consider myself qualified! (By the way, Marty, a little fun fact for you: You and I are tied with the same number of Boston Marathon championships.)"
Give me a break. This statement is not only completely obnoxious, it also embarrasingly demonstrates a complete ignorance of running, as Marty Liquori was a middle distance runner (and an outstanding one at that), not a marathoner. Here's fun fact for Michael: your claimed time of 4:30 (p. 237) was more than an hour slower that the qualifying standard for your age. (I guess, by Michael's logic, when I completed the 18th hole at Pebble Beach, I qualified for the U.S. Open.) If there was any doubt before, that should be enough for anyone to reject the book.
But wait, it gets even worse. After completing the course, the author states the following (p. 261):
"I had arrived home safe and sound. Twenty-four hours before, I had walked out of that door a different man. Now I was the proud owner of a Boston Marathon medal and all the physical and mental benefits that come with it."
That is a flat out lie (or the author is delusional), as everyone knows that only legitimate qualifiers (who finish) are given medals, and again is highly insulting to all legitimate qualifiers/finishers.
If anyone is still considering buying the book, there is one other thing that you should be aware of. A good part of the author's description of his "experience" in running the course involves describing how he faced excruciating pain and/or a nearly overwhelming urge to quit at numerous points in the race, but someone he managed to overcome those and keep going to the finish, and how he was suffering after the finish (e.g., "As I walked down the street, with two mylar blankers taped around me like capes, a well meaning girl offered me a PowerBar. I fel like saying 'I don't need a PowerBar. I need to be read my last rites!'")
First of all, after a while, this stuff just becomes constant whining. More importantly, all of this "pain and suffering" was likely due to insufficient training on the part of the author. Apparently, up to six months before the race, he had done essentially no running and not a whole lot of exercise of any type (p. 7). Then, in late October 1995, he had heart surgery and apparently nearly died (p. 11). He then starting limited training in about mid-November (p. 12). Plus, the winter in New England was particular severe that year (p. 43). How could he have possibly done the proper amount of training to run Boston in April 1996? It appears that the author simply had no business running the course and, thereby, "suffered" more than a properly trained runner. Yet, he never admits to his lack of proper training. (Note: he claims to have run 4:30, but he provides no evidence to support that claim.)
Again, this ties back to his being a bandit. As a bandit who had not properly trained, his "experience" is simply not representative of the experience of a properly trained, legitimate qualifier.
You wouldn't buy a book about running by Rosie Ruiz. Don't buy this one either.
The author takes you through the course mile by mile - talking through the landmarks, history and even technical discussions of the course itself. I have to say that after reading the book, I felt even more honored to participate in the race (and a little nervous). The author does a wonderful job of capturing how this just isn't a race, it's an event that stretches through over a century of history - not only of the course, but of distance running itself.
Reading it before hand, made the course more alive and familiar to me while I ran it. Recognizing the landmarks and knowing the history behind each one gave me something to look forward to each mile (and in the later miles keep my mind off the suffering). And finally, it gave me a sense for the spirit of the event itself and the personal stories that are inextricably linked each year to it.
I did read a few reviews that admonished the author for running as a bandit, I respect that perspective and don't condone bandit'ing the race.
However, the author's real value in this book isn't his running prowess (as he readily admits time and time again). Rather, it's the hard work and research he obviously invested to bring all of this history to the reader. I can't think of a better way to personalize the 'data' than to relate it to an actual running of the course. True, it would be ideal if the author was also an elite runner who had qualified - but barring that intersection, I think it would have been a shame to not have this author share his research in the way that he did. That's what I believe the review should be rated on.
Hope you found this helpful. I strongly recommend this book and think it should almost be a required reading for anyone signing up to run Boston.
You'll be happy you read it!
I used this book to write my plan on how I should run the race. Each mile the author describes the rich history or the area, runners and insight on how to run the race.
This is a must read for first time Boston Marathon runners!