Review: A Race Like No Other

aracelikenoothercoverRecap: For some, it’s about running for those who can’t. For others, it’s about pushing through all levels of pain. For some, it’s for the vanity. But for all, running a marathon is about proving something to themselves. For those running the New York City Marathon, it’s about doing it on the biggest stage possible. New York Times sports reporter Liz Robbins captures the magic of the New York City Marathon — the diligent training of the athletes both professional and amateur, the difficult 26.2-mile course through the streets of all five boroughs of New York, the unity and generosity of the crowds pushing the athletes along, and the emotional turmoil and inner workings of the runners. Each has a story.

Robbins weaves together  the stories of those who ran the race in 2007. She tells the stories of the professional athletes, including their race history and personal lives and why they’re each hoping to win this race. She also shares the story of an alcoholic woman recently released from jail, hoping to reconnect with her family. She tells the story of a college graduate diagnosed with a rare form of cancer whose brother urged him to run. She also tells the stories of the non-runners — the choir and band leaders who let their players play at certain mile markers every year, the Polish bakers who hand out brownies along the course, the men who paint the blue line of the course leading up to race day. Because when it comes to the New York City Marathon, the crowds are as a vital a player as the runners.

Analysis: Where the New York City Marathon connects everyone in the city that day, Liz Robbins connects all runners everywhere with this detailed, inspiring read about the biggest race in the world. Each chapter details a different mile in the race, and Robbins magically transports us to each and every road, bridge and water station with her writing. You can practically taste the sweat of the runners. She makes it clear that the 26.2 miles run in just over two hours by a professional athlete is same 26.2 miles run by the amateurs who finish in more than five hours. Each mile is beautiful in its own way, whether it be filled with pain, filled with joy, filled with emotion or filled with surprises.

Her ability to take you to mile 17, for instance, and then to Kenya where the professionals train or to mile 20 and then to the hospital where the cancer patient is battling illness to get out and run is seamless. The stories are non-fiction, but they are spell-binding and powerful. Ending with the finish times and mini-epilogues of each runner she’s followed throughout the book will you as breathless as — dare I say it? — a marathon.


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