Now that it’s all but officially summer, joggers are loping along our city streets. My own running skills are best described by telling you that in 7th grade, I was panting on the far side of the field when our coach Mrs. Potter shouted, “Aurelia, stop running like a duck. You look ridiculous.” Now I walk instead of gasping for breath, and I enjoy other people’s athleticism in audiobooks about running, such as the Tarahumara profiled in Christopher McDougall’s BORN TO RUN: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. His quest to understand running took him to people who can trot effortlessly for hours in Mexico’s Copper Canyon mountains. Listening to Fred Sanders’s warm rendition of this perennial bestseller, I reveled in McDougall’s wild adventure, started eating chia seeds, and even started to embrace my duck steps and jog occasionally mid-walk.
Despite chia seeds and the knowledge that humans were designed to move in the Tarahumara’s trot-trot-walk-trot-trot manner, I’ll never be an athlete. (Playing wing in field hockey, I ran up and down the field praying that the ball would stay far away, which is probably what so irritated Mrs. Potter.) But I do hike nearby trails while being thrilled by such exploits as those in Roseanne Montillo’s recent FIRE ON THE TRACK: Bette Robinson and the Triumph of the Early Olympic Women. Kathleen McInerney’s listenable reading let me hang out like an equal with greats, such as Robinson, who discovered running while dashing for a train in high school, and Babe Didrikson, who basically could out-run, out-throw, out-hit, and out-putt everybody. What women. What inspirations.
I came to Haruki Murakami’s short memoir WHAT I TALK ABOUT WHEN I TALK ABOUT RUNNING as a fellow writer and occasional obsessive. He polishes his running shoes; I vacuum for comfort. I recommend Ray Porter’s terrifically paced, Earphones Award narration for runners and non-runners alike, for the book is as much a meditation on inspiration as it is an autobiography. While I’m here, let me also mention Murakami’s famous, fantastical novel KAFKA ON THE SHORE, given an Earphones Award performance by Sean Barrett and Oliver Le Sueur. It diverted me so completely that I blanked good friends while walking and listening.
I seek inspiration everywhere, which is why my final let’s-move suggestion is Laura Hillenbrand’s hugely popular SEABISCUIT, clearly and energetically read by George Newbern. Yes, it’s a biography about a four-legged runner, but it’s also about grit, heart, hope, and success. We all need those whether running or walking—or bicycling or skateboarding. Plus, it’s so thoroughly involving that you’ll work through the pain and find those endorphins. Guaranteed.
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