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on August 12, 2013
As the spartan, MS-Paint-esque cover might suggest, Sage Canaday's Running For the Hansons is a largely low-budget and unpolished affair. I even almost broke the book's binding the first time I opened the poor thing. It was edited by one of his teammates and is rife with spelling errors, excessive punctuation marks! and the prose is not always at a level above that of a LetsRun.com message board post. All that being said, I found the book to be an incredibly fascinating read that provided substantive insights into elite professional running programs and their training philosophies. As far as non-instructional nonfiction running books are concerned, I would honestly put it slightly behind Chris Lear's Running With the Buffaloes as my favorite of the genre in terms of pure entertainment value. I can't heartily recommend it to the general runner or reader, but if you fall into his rather niche audience you really owe it to yourself to give this a read.

The book is structured in a series of diary/blog entries that cover Canaday's first year in the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project. The program is led by Kevin and Keith Hanson, two brothers who run several running stores in the Detroit area in addition to their coaching duties. It is on a slightly lower tier than groups like Nike's Oregon Track Project but still boasts a roster of impressive athletes such as the Olympian Brian Sell and Desiree Davila. Canaday is coming off a decent college career at Cornell and decided to defer a "proper" career to take a shot at running professionally. Looking to qualify for the Olympic marathon trials, he is given an extensive training program culminating in running the Boston Marathon.

Canaday covers a wide variety of topics in the book. Many of his entries deal with his workout and the progress of his training, but he also diverges to topics like the history of the program, a typical day in the life of a Hansons runner, and profiles of some of his fellow runners. As an actual member of the team, Canaday has tons of access to the rest of the Hansons Project (the male ones anyway. The team has rather stringent regulations on commingling of the sexes) and he gets to pick his teammates' brains about their approach to running as well. He is really pretty comprehensive in describing the life of a professional runner. There aren't many areas that I wish he spent some or more time on, and additionally I don't think he spent too much time on one particular subject either.

He is refreshingly candid in describing his experiences with the Hansons. While he stayed an additional year after publishing the book, Canaday is not always completely satisfied with the lifestyle of a professional runner and makes this point known several times in the book. Canaday doesn't mesh particularly well with Michigan's more conservative culture and the countless miles prescribed by his coaches. Some of his pontificating can get a bit grating at times but it is generally kept under control. And while he doesn't have any real axes to grind (he ultimately seems pretty content with his situation all things considered) he does have some products to shill. As a sponsored athlete, Canaday's prose is peppered with references to his various Brooks training gear. Some readers might find this annoying but it didn't really bother me too much, especially since he just mentions his apparel rather than devoting countless pages extolling its virtues and why it is superior to all other brands.

There is a good bit of meat to the portions on his running and training. While I think a book like Hansons Marathon Method will be more informative in outlining the brothers' training philosophy, Running for the Hansons provides some insight into the brothers' views on training. I knew that the Hansons recommend shorter long runs than some other marathon plans, and learned that the reasoning behind it is that the program stresses cumulative fatigue built up from previous days more than other training plans. Canaday includes plenty of detail about his training and his coaches' elaborate plans to prepare him for Boston. And while Canaday is not always the most cogent or skilled writer, his passages describing the intensity of races and workouts stood out to me.

In Sum

I am far more forgiving to the spelling errors and wonky writing found in Running for the Hansons because the book ultimately offers an incredibly desirable (to me anyway) unique selling proposition: a comprehensive behind-the-scenes account of the life of a professional marathon runner. He is writing from a pretty rare perspective and its not like this literary market is particularly crowded. While it is a bit messy and unrefined and has little to offer the average reader, if you are the kind of person who peruses LetsRun.com, runs marathons and follows those who do so professionally, and knows who Sage Canaday is, you really owe it to yourself to pick up Running for the Hansons for the sheer entertainment value it will offer to you.

8/10
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on January 9, 2013
How many stars do you give a book that has many imperfections, but that you cannot stop reading? I gave it five, because I flat out love it. Problems exist, but I still love the book. The "problems" are as follows.

Has a lot of fluff at the end. I suppose they could have ended around p. 280. The fact that everything after p. 280 is fluff should not detract from the first part of the book. I kind of like perusing the Hanson training plan.

He is not a professional writer. I consider this his honest voice, and while it is not polished, it is intelligent and insightful.

The format is choppy. In fact, I agree that the book does come off like a blog. That is because it is a journal book. I understand how some people may not like this. I, personally, think that it does not detact from the content. In fact, it is difficult to create, and maybe less interesting to read, long prose about running. The subject lends itself to the journal format, and the snippet-oriented structure works very well with this particular topic.

He is a West Coast liberal in a blue collar environment. He went to an Ivy League college. This is not a problem -- this is his perspective. You can disagree with him, or anybody, for being who they are, or feeling the way that they do. But I would not want him to temper his perspective, and silence his voice. If (when) I read Ryan Hall, I will undoubtedly hear about his Christianity. I may not agree with all of it. But I would expect him to discuss the things that make him him, whether they are consistent with my perspective or not.

The editing seems to have been non-existant. In fact, there are a zillion typos. Oh, well; a diamond in the rough.

I think in general, most runners would find this very exciting reading, written at a four star level. Like Sage and the Hanson team, I am obsessed with running. For me, this book resonates the feel of serious (NOT BUCKET-LIST) marathon training better than any I have read. In fact, I consider this imperfect book the most enjoyable running book I have read, up there with "The Four Minute Mile." Some will consider that blasphemy. Maybe it is. But if I were sitting in my living room tonight with both books, I would either end up spending 20 minutes reading Roger Bannister, or 2 hours reading Sage. (When I did read it, I read it almost cover to cover.)
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on January 3, 2014
Felt like I was reading a teen boy's journal (dozens of "I want to talk to hot girl" and "take a shit" comments) who happened to be a near elite runner. It was interesting to read all the behind the scenes Hanson's workouts. I feel bad for Sage because he continually ran disappointing race times despite training with guys who consistently dropped 2:14's. Overall, it was poorly written but entertaining book. Recommended for those primarily interested in learning more about the Hanson's team.
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on December 14, 2013
As a runner who has read Parker, Salazar, Higdon, and most recently Rono, this book is my favorite for its specificity in elite training and the monastic lifestyle that it seemingly requires (unless you're Rono:) As a fellow Cornellian who had recently moved to Oregon I met Sage after he kicked my ass in a road race while he was home from college and was questioning staying at Cornell as an engineering student. I suggested he stay and always wondered if he did as I began seeing his name conspiculously close to the top of high caliber road races. Nice to see he graduated and even nicer to see that he took a chance only available as a young top top tiered athlete. Hope you continue writing but take the engineering job it most likely will pay better.
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on March 25, 2014
Sage posted many videos to YouTube and they tell you how much he loves running. This book highlights what those videos haven't showed you - dark side of his life. It may not be too dark but his honest opinions about not much opportunities to meet a girl, etc. remind that elite runners are still human being just like us. Really enjoyed this book. Some say wording is not professional or poorly edited. I agree but still fun to read.
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on September 2, 2015
The book is an interesting, personal and in many ways inspiring account of a pretty extreme training regime and the sacrifices involved. While it does not provide too many details on the underlying theory and exercise science it is a refreshing and interesting read from an outstanding athlete.
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on February 7, 2012
It's definitely interesting to read an inside perspective of a post-collegiate runner and the Hanson group. The use of so many exclamation points is incredibly annoying - it takes away from my enjoyment. I saw a person at the gym reading this book and asked what they thought. They said it was 'sadly in need of an editor'. I thought they were exaggerating - but no they were not. If you can suffer though the !s then it's a decent content book.
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on October 11, 2012
Being a fan of the Hanson Distance Project, I throughly enjoyed this book. The author does a great job of conveying the lifestyle of a distance runner and still throws some interesting tidbits in about running, training and just general observations of the running community (both professional and hobby runners). I loved that he also mentions the infamous runner Kip Litton. In short a good book that anyone who seriously runs will enjoy.
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on February 8, 2014
I always wondered what drives a sub elite runner. It was fun to read Sage's personal account along with the other runners profile. It could have used a good editor. Some chapters were rambles that didn't seem to go anywhere.
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on December 25, 2012
For the average runner who will never be at this level, this is a great look behind the scenes. It's almost like reading a well formatted diary. The Hansons fascinate me anyway, and this allows you to go along with one of their members as they grind out their workouts, work in the stores, and then put it all on the line.
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