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Strides: Running Through History With an Unlikely Athlete [Bargain Price] [Hardcover]

by Benjamin Cheever
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Hardcover $22.67  
Hardcover, Bargain Price, September 18, 2007 --  
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Book Description

September 18, 2007 1594862281 978-1594862281 1st
Acclaimed novelist Benjamin Cheever--author of The Plagiarist, Famous After Death, and The Good Nanny--brings his buoyant literary style to this impassioned memoir about the sport that changed his life.
From Pheidippides, who rant the first marathon in 490 BC--bringing news to Athens of the Greek victory on the plains of Marathon--to our own soldiers in Iraq today, running is an integral part of human culture and legend. In Strides, heralded author Benjamin Cheever explores the role of running in human history while interspersing this account with revelations of his own decades-long devotion to the sport.
Cheever has traveled the world writing features for Runner's World magazine, and he draws from this rich experience on every page. His adventures have taken him to Kenya in search of the secrets of the world's fastest long-distance runners and to a 10-K race with American soldeirs in Baghdad. Cheever celebrates the quotidian personal satisfaction of a morning run and the more exotic pleasures of the Medoc Marathon in Bordeaux, where fine wines are served at water stations and the first prize is the winner's weight in grand crus. He shares vivid moments from the New York Marathon and waxes rhapsodic about the granddaddy of American distance events--the Boston Marathon. But what truly distignuishes Strides as a memorable read is the unique lens through which this sparkling writer explores our deep bond to running, an experience he likens to that of being able to fly.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Cheever (The Plagiarist) makes an erratic dash through his lifetime of marathon running while offering facts about the sport throughout history. Having discovered running in 1977, at age 28, while working at Reader's Digest, and stuck in an unhappy marriage, he became more and more involved in the sport over the next 30 years, losing weight, gaining a new body type and the much-needed confidence he lacked growing up as the son of the famous writer John Cheever. Alternating with his personal memories of marathon running from races in Yonkers;, New York City; Boston; Médoc, France; and Baghdad, Cheever explores some troubling questions, such as whether running is really natural for mankind and even good for your health (hunters and gatherers weren't efficient runners, yet humans prove they possess impressive endurance running). Cheever tracks examples from Homer to the earliest and later Olympics, from races in the Dark Ages to the art of pedestrianism to Kenyan secrets of success. Cheever fills his pages with accounts by runners for whom the sport altered them profoundly. A terrific list of his 26.2 favorite books on running caps Cheever's springy, upbeat pep talk for the runnerati. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Cheever, a former journalist and onetime copy editor at Reader's Digest, melds reportorial skills, literary talent and a wicked sense of humor to capture the irony and indefatigable spirit of running in the 21st century....Beginners will relate to Cheever's inauspicious initial forays into fitness and exercise, and veteran runners can share his enthusiasm for the Kenyans and other leaders of the pack. The result is a joyous and inspirational ode to our transformative sport." -Jim Hage, The Washington Post

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale Books; 1st edition (September 18, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594862281
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594862281
  • ASIN: B0025VL984
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,602,353 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Running Classic October 10, 2007
Benjamin Cheever's Strides: Running Through History with an Unlikely Athlete will turn out to be one of the enduring classics of the sport, placed on any serious runner's bookshelf right beside Jim Fixx's Complete Book of Running and John L. Parker's Once a Runner. Although Strides is, in part, a memoir -- a lyrical and funny meditation on how a sport has transformed one individual's life -- it is also an entertaining and exhaustively researched history of the human being as a running animal. Starting when our remotest ancestors evolved the ability to run long distances in order to hunt for meat, Cheever's history takes us to Pheidippides' first marathon in 490 BC, to foot-races in Renaissance Italy and early America, even to a seemingly impossible 19th-century supermarathon from Constantinople to Calcutta. The sweep of Cheever's book is not only historical but also geographical: starting with his own comically self-effacing recollection of his first jogs in suburban New York, Cheever's account of his metamorphosis as an "unlikely athlete" includes his first marathon in Boston, his runs with soldiers in Germany and in war-ravaged Baghdad, and finally his runs in Kenya - the "University of Champions"-- where he hobnobbed with the likes of Kip Keino, Paul Tergat and Lornah Kiplegat. But this is a book that wears its glories easily -- leisurely enough to observe the odd historical detail, undogmatic in its informed discussion of health issues, generous in it democratic celebration of the sport, and always taking time for the many people met along the way.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Paced October 1, 2007
This is a book that runners and nonrunners who like narrative nonfiction will enjoy. It explores various facets of the experience of running from historical, physiological, and personal perspectives. It covers a variety of topics including the author's transition from his bottom-of-the pack attempt to be a high school athlete to his transforming into a dedicated runner as he approached his thirties. Some of the topics I most appreciated were the debate over the healthiness of running, the Kenyan community, the role of running in the Army, and the author's experience serving as a volunteer in the New York marathon. I did not care for the chapter about the marathon in Medoc, France which offended my sensibilities about what runners should strive to be. Nonetheless, the coverage is justified by showing another aspect of the running experience. Most of the material is set around the marathon distance although other distance running is covered. The book is very well written and thoughtfully organized. The author is fairly humble about his running abilities but is actually very good at it. It is good that he applied his writing talents to a book that covers an important part of his life.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Instant Classic!!! February 9, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is one of the best running books I have ever read! Mr. Cheever is an average, dedicated runner but he is a superb writer. He mixes his personal history with running with the history of the sport. He shares his personal journeys both physical (Kenya, France, Greece, Boston, etc) and emotional. I think one of the reasons I enjoyed this book so much was that we are about the same age and have traveled similar paths in our running lives (but he's a lot better runner). This book is thoroughly researched and he draws on a wide variety of material. A plus is the book's Appendix which includes a list of his favorite 26.2 running books of all time. This a book for the runner and non-runner alike. It moves to the top of my best running books list. A GREAT READ!!!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'm sorry Mr. Cheever doesn't have a personal website to where we could direct fan mail, so maybe this will do. This likable literary sextagenerian has composed/compiled a marvelous collection of personal essays on recreational running that will honor and touch all of us who lace up our shoes most mornings. Touching, inspiring, thought provoking and (most importantly) identifiable tales of the recreational runner and all he/she endures in the mutually identifiable compulsion for personal achievement.

Such a nice book for the runner's collection. Thanks, Ben!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful February 28, 2014
What's that they say about the shortest distance between two points?

It's supposed to be a straight line.

You'd think a runner would know that. No one likes to take too many extra steps when running, particularly in a marathon.

Benjamin Cheever is a runner, but he's more interested in his book "Strides" about the journey than in reaching the destination.

Which is a less-than-direct way of saying that it's a pretty entertaining book.

Cheever is always going to be known as the son of John Cheever, the Pulitzer Prize winner. That's a little baggage for someone in the writing business, even though it's a one-sentence introduction to fellow literary types. He has compiled a good career in his own right, with several novels to his credit.

"Strides" is subtitled, "Running through History with an Unlikely Athlete." Cheever is indeed a good, but not great, runner with several marathons to his credit.

This book probably could be broken down into three different categories, and they have varying degrees of effectiveness. At the bottom of the list is Cheever's attempts to review running through history, going back thousands of years. While well-researched and sprinkled with humor, it's tough to make this dry material jump to life.

Some first-person essays work better. Cheever is a good enough runner to have done a variety of interesting runs over the years -- an outing to Kenya to run with the world's best, a jog in Iraq, a marathon in France featuring wine stops instead of water stops -- but he's enough of an everyman in sneakers that the reader wants to tag along.

Even better are essays about the sport itself.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars great read
Highly recommended read for running enthusiasts and anyone interested in the sport. Very well-written and packed full of history, anecdotes, and personal insights.
Published 5 months ago by casey van maanen
3.0 out of 5 stars Needed Better Focus
Since I've gotten into running in the past couple of years, this book caught my interest. It sounded like it would be a mix of history with some personal experiences. And it is. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Mark Baker
3.0 out of 5 stars choppy plot, very little history
The subtitle of this book is a little misleading. There are some stories about running throughout history, but they're almost all purely anecdotal. Read more
Published 14 months ago by K. Wilkins
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, great writer
I think Ben Cheever could make any subject an interesting read, so whether you are a runner or not this book is worth picking up. If you are a runner this will be a favorite.
Published on September 13, 2009 by Michelle
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly inspirational
It was impossible not to get swept up in Mr. Cheever's enthusiasm (no, too mild, obsession is more like it) with running. Read more
Published on August 13, 2009 by Jo Maeder
2.0 out of 5 stars Not quite as entertaining
I thought this book would have a bit more to it - very informative and lots of good quotes, but I was looking for a little more entertainment. Read more
Published on July 17, 2009 by T. Cassidy
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Warm Up
This is a good read. He tells stories that ramble a bit but in a good way. He's like your dad maybe if your dad was handy weaving his life's story around the history of running. Read more
Published on June 19, 2009 by M. Baker
5.0 out of 5 stars A runner I could relate to
Benjamin Cheever started off as an unlikely runner and in this book tells his story that began as "the fat man in green pajamas" and progressed to an accomplished runner and... Read more
Published on June 9, 2009 by Richard W. Hudson
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring
This book was so boring. I just didn't get it. The book was about a guy, who's the son of a famous writer who shares his expieriences in running. Read more
Published on May 21, 2009 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Runner's Regret
The joys of running are probably incomprehensible to those who don't indulge, but Benjamin Cheever does a manly job of explaining them. Read more
Published on March 12, 2008 by David Donelson
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