Book Recap // The Runner’s Guide to the Meaning of Life

No, we aren’t turning this blog into a book review site. Ha! However, continuing the summer reading challenge (which only has a few days to go!) I just finished, The Runner’s Guide to the Meaning of Life and thought it had inspiring tidbits worth sharing.  We all know running is good cardio, but did you know it can teach you things about yourself?  And others?  This book won’t make you faster, but it will help you see running in a positive light!  Written by Amby Burfoot, a former Boston Marathon winner and a popular editor for Runner’s World Magazine, it offered inspirational quotes, stories & perspective on distance running.  Below is an overview and some personal thoughts!

Inspiring Quotes: 

  • “First, we try to run faster.  Then we try to run harder.  Then we learn to accept ourselves and our limitations, and at last, we can appreciate the true joy and meaning of running.”
  • “It’s not about how fast you go.  It’s not about how far you go.  It’s a process.  As we run, we become.”
  • “What can I do right now to make myself a better, happier, healthier person?  What can I do to make a small difference in someone else’s life? We simply have to give our best effort every day.  If we are the best athlete and best person we can be, then we have assuredly won the race of life.” 
  • “Racing teaches us to challenge ourselves.  It teaches us to push beyond where we thought we go.  It helps us find what we are made of.” -P Plumer, American Olympian

Cliff Notes & Thoughts: 

  • Lesson One // Why Run?  There are many reasons Amby lists for why he runs, but my favorite is “there is no better way to see the sunrise and sunset.”  I’d agree.  I love to watch the sun rise or set, take pictures at sunset and I especially love to see all the beautiful scenery this world offers.  Running on vacations is an amazing way to see new cities and beautiful sunrises/sets.  Later in his book he states, “For reasons that I can’t begin to explain, any day will be better if you start it off with a run.  And not just any run.  It has to be a run that begins before sunrise and welcomes the day’s first light.”  I’m not a morning person myself, but I’d make the exception for an early run if I knew I was going to see a gorgeous sunrise!
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Christine racing the BrokeMan’s Summer Solstice race 2017

  • Lesson Two // Starting Lines  A starting line, whether it be at a race or any milestone of life, symbolizes new beginnings.  “There’s nothing like the thrill of the first time.”  He talks about the joys and hardships he’s had in his life and that starting lines – new beginnings – are his friend.


  • Lesson Three // Connections  He starts off the chapter discussing being a pacer at the St George Marathon and curious about whether or not runners will embrace the concept of “pacers.”  Wow!  I didn’t realize the author was one of the founders of the pacing concept.  Pretty cool!  I have run with many pace groups, as well as paced a few races myself and definitely believe in the idea!  He discusses the concept of future pacing experiences and states “Everywhere we go, runners are eager to join a group, to have some fun, and to chase after their dreams.”  He also explains that training runs should be run “easy” or conversational 80+ percent of the time… so find a running buddy or group and chat through the miles.  Later in his book he states, “I love almost all my daily training runs.  But the best by far are the ones when I’m running with a regular training partner.  On these runs, I feel relaxed and connected, physical and human, a friend with a friend.” 
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Pacing the Columbus 10K 2015

  • Lesson Four // Winning We all eventually slow down. You won’t win every race forever. Learn to focus on your attitude and level of effort… that’s what winners do. A winner, both in life and running, concentrates on doing his best, always. Winning is not always about racing or being the first to finish.  “A winner is a person who goes out today and everyday and attempts to be the best runner and best person he can be.”


  • Lesson Five // Tradition Whether you have an annual favorite race or a family reunion every summer, “traditions… reconnect us with the people and places we love.”  Continue some passed down to you and/or make your own!
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Our annual traditions include… The Living Fit Columbus Independence Family Fun Run // Our family end-of-summer park tours (we try to visit seven parks in seven days the last week of summer vacation) 

  • Lesson Six // Time  “I don’t always need to be in a rush.  I don’t always need to be doing three things at once.”  AMEN!  Do you ever feel like you are too busy to… well, just to enjoy your life?  Being a teacher, I have the luxury of a little more downtime during the months of June & July and I fill that time with all the things I love, especially family, friends, fitness & travel. Every fall I vow to take on less, slow down more and just enjoy every moment.  And then by mid September, I’m back to being the usual busy, busy, busy working mom.  Amby states, “When something is important, it shouldn’t be hurried.”  Oh, you mean… life?  SLOW DOWN!  I’m trying to make more time for fitness & people that matter and learning to say NO when needed.  I’m also learning to enjoy my runs.  Sometimes its nice to put the Garmin away and just run.  “A run is most meaningful and most enjoyable when it exists for its own sake, when it doesn’t feel the pressure of a ticking stopwatch.”  My goal is to do at least one easy run per week without any gadgets (except maybe my iPhone camera) and just run for the fun of it.  And be thankful that I can.
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Stop & enjoy the run!  Mid-run yoga breaks on our 10 miler, Puerto Rico 2017.

  • Lesson Seven // Listening  “Through countless hours of practice, running has taught me to listen to myself and believe in myself.”  Amby encourages the reader to hang up the headphones and spend some time with yourself, your own thoughts and the world around you.  I usually run with a buddy or my upbeat playlist, but I did enjoy listening to the crashing waves on my last few beach runs.

Go for a solo run and just listen to your own thoughts & the world around you

  • Lesson Eight // Losing  As a middle of the packer myself, I couldn’t relate to some of this chapter, as Amby expresses his saddened moments of not winning a race or not making the Olympic Trials.  What I could relate to, was what he learned from “losing” and that sometimes, the run just has to be about the run… and not to win. You might not always have the best race of your life.  You might be setting out to win or to PR and then the race just doesn’t measure up.  Maybe you’re injured.  Maybe it was raining or the course was hilly & challenging or maybe you just didn’t have a good run!  Sometimes, that happens, despite all your months of training and hard work. Shake it off and re-focus on your next one.  In his case, as he got older, Amby states, “I kept running, but without expectations and pressures.  It became simply a process-path to good health, stress relief, creative thinking, and fun times with friends.”  There was a bit of overlap from lesson six and I was reminded that sometimes the run should just be enjoyable.  I hope our running group continues to do a destination race each year… not for time or to PR… but just for fun, friendship & of course, lots of pictures to remember the memories.

Kentucky Bluegrass Half // Running for “fun” although two girls PRed!

  • Lesson Nine // Materialism  “I already have everything I need to enjoy happiness and success.”  This lesson discusses the joy running brings and that you only really need a good pair of running shoes.  No fancy gym memberships or private lessons from country clubs… just shoes.  In fact, he has a friend that runs barefoot, therefore, you could argue that you don’t even need those.  I’d not recommend this though. 🙂 My personal favorites are the Saucony Kinvara and the Saucony Freedoms.

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  • Lesson Ten // Brothers (aka family)  “In the long run, there will always be family.” Amby writes specifically about his brothers and their continued support of one another through life, running, etc.  The lesson could easily apply to just family in general.  Who supports your running life?  Perhaps a spouse that watches the kids.  Maybe your mom or sibling that cheers you on at races or runs next to you to pace you.  Let them know you are thankful for them. “Family… we are there for each other and always will be, no matter what the place of time or situation.” 
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My youngest training buddy!  My husband, mom & son are all very supportive of my running goals and I’m thankful every day! Hopefully my daughter will join too!

  • Lesson Eleven // Simplicity  This lesson reminded me a lot of lesson six so I won’t reiterate much. Amby states, “My life gets harried as anyone else’s, and whenever it threatens to spin out of control, I simplify.  I slow down.  I focus on just several things, and one of them is always exercise.  I eliminate everything else that’s not absolutely essential.”  My personal essentials would be my Four Fs; family, friends, fitness, faith. Other than working to earn money for my family, I try to fill my remaining free time and “bucket” with those four Fs!


  • Lesson Twelve // Courage  “The potential for greatness lies within each of us.”  This lesson discusses the concept of courage in everyday people, in our every day lives.  You don’t have to be a super hero that slays the dragon.  You just have to have courage to face your own fears, conquer your own goals, etc.  He tells the story of Oprah Winfrey being courageous enough to conquer the 26.2 mile challenge & Linda Downes, who despite severe polio, refused to be bound to a wheelchair.  “I have seen many acts of courage in running.  Indeed, the sport has a special appeal for those who are looking to change their lives.  While running at first appears to depend on great physical strength and endurance, it is, in fact, based almost entirely on strength of mind.  Those who have the will will succeed.” 


  • Lesson Thirteen // Goals  This was one of my favorite lessons, perhaps because I am fascinated by goal setting.  I love making lists and crossing things off.  I love setting goals and working towards them.  I love hearing about goals of others, whether it be runners in our group or students in my classes. Amby uses the strategies of hill running and relates them to life in general, with the first strategy being, “the first and most important step, of course, is a positive attitude.”  I always encourage my runners to have two-three goals when racing, not just one… that way they don’t feel defeated if they don’t meet their ‘push’ goal.  A wise friend & run coach, Teresa Turnbull, taught me this strategy and I use it regularly!


  • Lesson Fourteen // Children  Amby talks about allowing your children to find their own path in the aspects of life, passions, career choices, etc.  We can model behaviors and passions that we find to be of value, but ultimately, he states, “{My children} have taught me that we are all very different. We all have unique passions and unique paths. We have to let them run free to discover themselves. It’s the greatest gift we can give them.”  I won’t get too deep on life, education, etc but when it comes to fitness, our family definitely sees the importance of modeling a healthy lifestyle and incorporating family time around many fitness activities! Someday they will choose for themselves whether they like to run, what sport (if any) they want to play… but for now, we’ll encourage a wide variety of healthy activities!
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Whether you push them in a jogging stroller or let them run next to you… the littles would probably love some fitness time with momma! 🙂

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Various programs around Columbus incorporate momma-fitness time while the littles watch.  What better way to model a fit lifestyle!?

  • Lesson Fifteen // New Year  “Every year holds such potential for new beginnings.”  This chapter was similar to chapter two on starting lines & new beginnings. Amby tells of the annual jump-in-the-lake tradition that started in the late 1960s.  Afterwards, he feels refreshed and reenergized.  Personally, I’m not jumping in a frigid lake in the middle of winter, but I do believe in new beginnings!  Whether its the school year for us teachers, the calendar year for your fitness goals, or whatever makes sense to you… allow yourself to sometimes press the RESET button and start fresh.
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January often brings new fitness goals & we posted this on our Instagram in early 2017, from @SweatPink “No matter who you are, what you look like, what lights your fire, where you are in your journey, or what your guiding purpose is, you are POWERFUL. You are a force for positive action and achievements beyond your wildest dreams.” So get ready for a new year and a better you!

Overall it was a great book!  Feel free to suggest any of your favorite running books below!

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