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Strides: Running Through History With an Unlikely Athlete 1st Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1594862281
ISBN-10: 1594862281
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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.

Review

"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

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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: 5.9 x 1 x 9.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,922,818 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Meh. Cheever spends as much time writing about his own running issues than exploring the history of running. Now granted, some of his stories are great, but I wanted a history book, not a memoir. Despite his writing background, I didn't find it very well written or entertaining.
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By WDX2BB on February 28, 2014
Format: Hardcover
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.
Read more ›
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Format: Kindle Edition
The subtitle of this book is a little misleading. There are some stories about running throughout history, but they're almost all purely anecdotal. There are a few citations at the back, but they're fairly sparse, and much of the history is actually myth. I would describe it more as a musing on running, comprising many humorous and touching anecdotes about the author's experience with the sport. This includes everything from doing a 10-K in Baghdad to participating in the wine-drinking marathon mentioned above.

There were parts of this book I liked a lot. I liked that the author interviewed professional athletes and other experts to add to his own perspective. I liked his perspective, especially on his own experiences, since these were often told with the most humor. And I liked seeing the enthusiasm and love the author clearly feels for running. As a non-runner, it was interesting to see what draws people to running and what the challenges are. It sounds as though on of the great benefits of running is the feeling of community. That was conveyed through a variety of poignant stories.

One downside of the book was the complete mix of topics, from funny to moving stories and from myth to history to musings on running. The author would often make a point, relate a few anecdotes, make that point or another point, and than return with more anecdotes. As a result, the book felt somewhat choppy. I also would have liked to see more research and more history, both of which were smaller components of the book than I expected based on the description and subtitle. Of course, someone looking for something different, particularly someone looking to read another runner's thoughts on running, might enjoy this book a lot more. Given how funny some of the anecdotes were, I might pick up a memoir or a comedy he's written since those might be more for me.
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