Friends, I know the title My Life on the Run might give you the idea that this book is only about running, and maybe that’s just not your thing and maybe you are tired of me talking about it, but I am writing this review for every single one of you. I want all of my friends to read it, okay? If you are nice and share your tortilla chips, then you can even borrow my copy, but you will then want to buy your own. I have read the entire book twice and several excerpts a few times.
Whether or not you consider yourself a runner, just you being a human being full of dreams and faced with challenges, just you all by yourself on a unique life journey filled with both triumph and difficulty, pain and laughter, means that Bart Yasso’s memoir can feed you. In fact, it will feed you if you open up just a little.
And those among us who appreciate a great story telling pace and lots of jokes will enjoy it all the more.
Of course, if you are a runner then this book is a must read. You already know that running has trans-formative powers, and as Mr. Yasso says:
It’s an affirmation of life. Running was magic, and I never wanted to lose my ability to conjure up that altered state again.
I first heard of Bart Yasso a couple of years ago while researching online how to achieve a faster marathon time. Seasoned runners are probably familiar with his proven 800-meter pacing method, and in fact he devotes an entire chapter to how he developed this training strategy. Trust me, as technical as it sounds, even this chapter is funny. He is pseudo-proud and self-deprecating in the best ways, describing his professional interactions and private thought processes with just the right amount of detail and insight. This is one of the chapters I read three times, partly for reference and mostly for entertainment.
Reading about how to run faster put his name in my brain, so when I showed up in Lawton, Oklahoma, to run that Spirit of Survival half marathon last autumn, I saw his name advertised as a guest and was more than a little curious to meet him. He was shaking hands, autographing books, and being truly the nicest person in the hotel that Friday night. Inside my purchased copy of My Life on the Run he wrote, “Marie- Never underestimate where running can take you. –Bart Yasso.” If you know me very well at all, then you understand how my throat seized up and I fought back tears. I have a lot of places I want to go in life. Running has been taking me there already.
And don’t you dare ruin this for me by saying he probably wrote that in everyone’s book, haha! I already know that.
Mingling in the crowd, Mr. Yasso was infinitely approachable, and the talk he gave to runners and media at the pasta dinner that night endeared him to me. I sat with this sweet couple. Remember them, the local pair who posed for a photo with Tiny T?
We all three (four if you count Tiny T and you better) laughed so hard the entire time! You just cannot believe some of the adventures Mr. Yasso has had while running! I tried taking notes but only succeeded a little because his stories were strung together in a very casual, life-of-the-party kind of way, not stilted at all. Not terribly outlined but still rhythmic. He’s the exact opposite of that speaker who puts the audience to sleep. However long he was at the microphone that night wasn’t nearly enough for the crowd. It was just plain fun and deeply motivating.
And the thing is, his book is written is exactly that same smart, affable, witty voice. His writing is purely conversational with several moments of either confession or transparency that draw you closer, just a little hushed, like he is sharing a secret he doesn’t want the whole room to hear. With the written word his tone softens and you know it’s serious. Then? It’s all fun and laughter again. Page after page with the brightest of outlooks, the strongest of wills.
You might recall that before sunrise on the morning of that particular race Handsome and I bumped into Bart while walking to the start line. We had the loveliest conversation during that five-minute commute, and his positive energy multiplied my excitement tenfold. He indulged me in a photo and wished me luck on the run. I was giddy.
So now you have an idea of why I am so engaged with this runner-writer He’s just a wonderful person! And his ideas are effective. He is not just sharing his personal experiences; he also works for Runners World magazine and travels the globe promoting events and helping people. He wins races. Difficult ones. He overcomes incredible obstacles like injury and chronic disease, but you have to read about that for yourself.
Worth mentioning is that he was not necessarily born a runner.
But then I started running. And when I started running, I started dreaming. It couldn’t be helped.
Can you relate to this? I sure can. In many ways my life turned a supernatural corner at the age of 39 when I finally started.
And if you have a tendency to see the glass as half empty, consider this:
I made peace with it after recognizing that running isn’t about how far you go but how far you’ve come.
Truly, friends, I could quote and attempt to retell this book all night long. Please just read it. Watch out for the burro racing chapter and the rhinoceros story and the banana bread especially, and call me the minute you read each of those. I want to hear your beautiful voice laughing out loud! Then I want to hear you tell me how this book inspired you. Because I know it will.
Thank you for so many friendly interactions, Bart, and for sharing your life with the world. Thank you for plunging into running as a teenager and for staying open to it all these years since, despite the painful setbacks. I am honored to have met you and really loved your memoir.
“The starting line beckons.”