Amby Burfoot, 1968 Boston Marathon winner, and current Runner’s World editor is one of the wisest and most respected voices in the world of running. In his most recent book, The Runner’s Guide to the Meaning of Life, Burfoot has written an eloquent and uplifting book about the mind and spirit of the runner. Burfoot has a fatherly, gentle tone to his writing that will appeal to a wide audience of runners at all levels and abilities.
This is not a book about training methods, race tactics, or diets, although each of those topics is mentioned. This is a book about how the rewards and life-lessons learned while running carry over into our lives and help us to become better people. The Runner’s Guide to the Meaning of Life contains a collection of thoughts and ideas gleaned from four decades of running. Burfoot, like many of us, has come to realize that “the best thoughts always bubble to the surface” during a run.
Each chapter is either a Lesson or an Insight. For example, Lesson 2 is called “Starting Lines.” In this chapter Burfoot compares the feelings of excitement, anticipation, anxiety and energy we feel at the start of a race with new beginnings in our lives. Jobs, relationships, schools, homes all require new beginnings. Burfoot says “starting lines are one of the most important stations in life… we need to actively seek them out. Otherwise we grow stagnant.” The runner knows the joys and rewards of starting a new race, exploring a new course, and the glory of reaching the finish line.
Burfoot was a world-class marathoner in the late 1960s and earl 1970s. In 1968, Amby Burfoot won the Boston Marathon in 2:22:17, much to the surprise of his roommate, Bill Rodgers. Later that same year, he went on to place 5th in the famed Fukuoka Marathon in a personal record time of 2:14:29.
As much as Burfoot loved to win races, he states that balance is the key to achieving a deep, long-term contentment. “In running, as in life, moderation is truly key. If you’re having fun, you’ve probably achieved balance.” The important thing is to keep going, and that will only happen if you enjoy the process. As Dr. George Sheehan said, running is play.
With just fifteen chapters (9 Lessons and 6 Insights) and only 150 pages, this is the kind of book that you can read over the weekend. Or, better yet, it’s the kind of book that you can go back to from time to time for inspiration. Each chapter will give you something to ponder during your next long run.