Monday, January 17, 2011

Personal Record: A love affair with running by Rachel Toor

When I first read the article in Running Times called "Resonant Routes" in the Oct 2010 issue, I was swept away. It was like a movie scene where someone remembers various scenes from the past in succession: I flew back to my old neighborhood where I ran in high school to stay fit for soccer, to the hilly and cold 10K loop in Durham, NH where I ran for Crew practice in college, the routes along the River Shannon when I studied abroad in Ireland, then to the longer loops I discovered when finally running for the sake of running and training for my first half marathon. It took me to the loops around my Mom's house in NJ, my in-laws house in Victoria, BC, the various routes I've run on vacation around the globe.Then came memories of the friends I'd run many of them with from everyday bagel runs in New York to the time we got lost in Dingle, Ireland and ended up in a herd of self-directed cows with diarrhea. Then I thought just about the runs I'm fortunate enough to have access to every week here in Northern Manhattan. My favorite hills and loops of my immediate neighborhood, those routes where you tend to know the exact distances, no matter how you piece them together.

I remember details of routes, small corners I like to hop over, ramps in the sidewalk made by giant tree roots that I soar over like a child on a bike, things like that. I like to run on one side of the street vs another because there's an apartment with a library I like to peek at or because I know the wind is less strong on that side. Whatever it might be, Rachel's words brought it rushing in. Wow did I like that article.

A few more times over the next couple of months I read more articles by Rachel Toor that made me laugh, remember something about my own running or simply made me smile. I hardly read bylines unless I really enjoy something, so I started to notice a trend. I think I even tweeted something like "Everything I've read recently that I really liked has been written by Rachel Toor." Now, maybe I'm beginning to sound like a stalker, but if you've read her stuff then you know what I'm talking about. Her work resonates with me as a woman and as a runner. After my friend Scott reviewed her latest book a while back (here), I knew I needed to get my hands on it.

I loved the book! Shocking, I know. After reading the articles by Rachel, I knew she was an author who speaks frankly, points out things that everyone has on their minds anyway, and does so with humor and fun. The book consists of 26.2 "chapters" that go from her days as a non-runner right through to her current ultra-running badassery. One of my favorite chapters, "The Closet" made me laugh as she describes the runner's habit of hoarding clothes, shoes, safety pins, etc. I even showed my husband and made him read a few paragraphs. He shook his head in recognition, especially the part about the ridiculous number of socks kept in an overstuffed drawer.

Chapter 3, "The Routes" brought my mind back to "Resonating Routes", the reason this whole girl-crush even started. It reminded me of the routes I run weekly with my Inwood Hill group, the nicknames we have for the different hills, flat stretches and the way we can describe places by mentioning something as simple as an odd feature of the sidewalk there.

I started reading Chapter 14, "Becoming a Marathoner" on the train to work one morning heading to Midtown, but I had to stop and put it away for a more private time. RT talks about running the 2001 NYC marathon right after 9/11. I can't read or watch anything about 9/11 without crying so I put the book down until I got home where I could dab freely at my eyes as I read. She managed to capture the heart of New York in those few pages, well done.

The rest of the chapters are fun, interesting, and just great reads for us runners. It's an easy, quick read and the chapters are short and perfect for squeezing into your day or sitting down and devouring in an evening. Rachel reminds me of my very best friend and running buddy, Nancy who has the same love for the trails and long, scenic races. She'll love this book too.

I'm more than willing to lend you my copy, or you can get your own here: Personal Record: A love affair with running


  1. Thanks for the shout-out... Looking forward to enough time passing so I can read it again! (I can see myself going back to this book whenever I feel my motivation slipping) Glad you liked it too.

  2. Nice post... I first discovered Rachel Toor's work in the June 2010 issue of Running Times, "The Colossal Crack" and was blown away. Inspiring and heartbreaking all at once. Just make sure you have the tissue nearby when you read it. I'm definitely planning to get a copy of her new book.