Someone hacked my library account and put a bunch of running books on hold. Strange crime, I know, and oddly considerate.
I do love me some running books. Considering how many hundreds of thousands of people train, run races or start lacing up every year with stories to tell, there aren’t nearly running books sharing those stories. Much as I enjoy Dean Karnazes and Scott Jurek-scale running tales, it’s just as interesting and valuable to read about regular runners. That’s what I thought Bart Yasso’s My Life on the Run would be. I don’t read Runner’s World so this fellow is new to me.
Bart Yasso’s running bio is impressive. He’s the Chief Running Officer for Runner’s World with more than 1000 races and 30 years of running in his body. He’s raced on every continent and developed the magazine’s Race Sponsorship Program which supports more than 7000 races. Since finishing this book, I’ve learned a little about how much Yasso’s work helped expand the running industry while his talks and stories have touched millions of runners. He’s also redefined the term “dream job” and proven you can go from staying high for seven years to traveling the world as an athlete if you have the heart and balls (trying to use this sweet new catchphrase once a day).
It’s no coincidence that people who run ultramarathons are a little wacky; the sheer enormity of the distance requires a mind at odds with reality.
What makes this book stand out from others is the broad scope of his running life and the suckiness of having Lyme disease for many of those years. His stories take the reader from Mount Kilimanjaro and Antarctica, to Italy and a naked race in Washington state. He writes of the funny-in-hindsight times had running a trio of races in India complete with a Rhinoceros encounter, tuk tuks and a medicine man.
In 1989, he ran Badwater with six other competitors. Before the Internet’s presence in every home and pocket, few people realized running 146 miles in one of the hottest places on Earth was a thing. When he puts these huge races in this kind of context, you realize how wildly running has spread over the last few decades. Reading runners are part of that.
Most chapters focus on a different adventure set in places I wished I were with people I’d love to meet. Yasso is also a cyclist who rode across the country, 160 miles a day, unsupported. Who wouldn’t love to do that? I’d rather take my time, but it sounds like an adventure anyone could try. The book makes you not only want to run the world, but feel like you can. That’s what I loved most. At his peak, Yasso is a speedy race winner and an accomplished ultrarunner. But at no time does he put up a wall separating himself from the reader. He’s an inclusive runner and motivating storyteller.
Aside from his explanation of YASSO 800s, this is more about enjoying an accomplished runner’s stories than gleaming many how-to tips. If you haven’t heard of it, the YASSO 800 is a training system he developed to predict his marathon time finishes. It’s seems to work for runners who stick with it. Basically, this involves running 800 meters at your goal race pace 10 times and adding up the total. When he could get his 800s down to 2 minutes and 50 seconds, he was able to run a 2 hour 50 minute marathon. It’s worth a try if you’re aiming for a PR, not like you’re going to regret speed work.
I can’t imagine any runner not enjoying and getting something bigger than training tips from this book.