Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Review of "26.2 Miles to Boston"

I thought it would be appropriate to post something about the Boston Marathon this week, given the remembrance of the victims of the bombing at the race last year and the running of this year's marathon coming up on Monday. Despite the tragedy of last year, it is one of the premier sporting events held each year. Here is my review of an excellent book of the history of this race.  

“26.2 Miles to Boston: A Journey into the Heart of the Boston Marathon” by Michael Connelly

Running, Marathon, Boston, History

Publish date:
March 18, 2014

296 pages

5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

The Boston Marathon is considered THE premier event that runners of all abilities set as a goal – if he or she can complete Boston, then that is one of the top achievements one can complete. There is a lot of interesting history along the course of this road race, and this race is chronicled in a terrific book by Michael Connelly.

However, there is an interesting twist to this book in that Connelly does not give a chronological history of the race.  Instead, he follows the course from Hopkinton to Boston, with each chapter covering one mile of the course.  The last two chapters cover the last 385 yards of the race (the extra distance added to a marathon race) but in two different ways.  One of the chapters tells of the stories of exhaustion, exhilaration and agony that runners have once they view the finish line. The other chapter on this portion is about the 2013 bombing and the stories that runners, spectators, responders and race officials have about those terrifying minutes.  

In each chapter, he describes the terrain, turns and atmosphere of the mile.  The reader feels the agony of climbing Heartbreak Hill on Mile 20, the ear-splitting screams of encouragement from the women of Wellesley College on Mile 12 and the drop-off of 165 feet as the runners move onto the town of Ashland in Mile 2.  By describing these and other unique features of the course, the reader feels like he or she is traveling along the course and can imagine how the runners must feel while traversing that mile.

Of course, the book wouldn’t be complete without stories about the runners themselves, and there are plenty that are interspersed in each chapter along with the course description.   These stories cover the entire 117 year history of the event and include some of the best-known runners from Boston Marathon lore. There is seven-time champion Clarence Demar, whose story of running is told in Mile 2.   John “The Elder” Kelley, one of the more popular runners to ever run the event, has a very good story of trying to bait another runner when battling for the lead in Mile 6. 

The thrilling finish in 1982 between Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley is also replayed in Mile 6.  Not every story told necessarily takes place at that point on the course, but they all are woven together in the chapters seamlessly. Readers will be able to still follow the course, but will at the same time have their emotions tested as the stories are mixtures of joy, heartbreak, sadness and redemption.  

In short, everything that makes a runner want to get out and put one foot in front of the other is captured in this book and it makes for a terrific read for runners, spectators or anyone who just is interested in this annual event.

Did I skim?

Pace of the book: 
Very good.  The format aided in making this a faster read, although it wasn’t too fast with the insertion of personal stories in the middle of the description of the terrain and makeup of the particular mile.

Do I recommend? 
Yes.  Whether the reader is a runner, is interested in the history of the Boston Marathon or enjoys personal stories of triumph, this book will be a fine choice.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Nook)

Buying links:

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