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Jonathan Beverly’s _Run Strong, Stay Hungry: 9 Keys to Staying in the Race_

Jonathan Beverly’s _Run Strong, Stay Hungry: 9 Keys to Staying in the Race_

Jonathan Beverly’s Run Strong, Stay Hungry: 9 Keys to Staying in the Race was yet another fantastic read about running, training, and racing that came out in 2017 from Velopress. I’m finding all types of good stuff lately! I’m a fan of Beverly and his writing — I’m most familiar with him from his days as editor-in-chief of Running Times (RIP) — so when I learned that he had written a book that explored running from a long-term perspective, I knew I had to read it.

The tl;dr version: if you’re a runner, regardless of how long you’ve been in the sport, go read it. It’s worthwhile. I mean, assume that if I found the time to write about it here, it’s worth reading. That’s a pretty good seal of approval. 🙂 (and #notspon, natch)

super professional cover shot in front of a shower curtain

For the book, Beverly interviewed 51 different runners, all masters-aged, who have been running for a long time. Some athletes are the pros whose names you know quite well — Amby Burfoot, Joan Benoit Samuelson, and Deena Kastor, among them — but interspersed in the mix are also a lot of amateur, local athletes. The athletes’ experiences with running are as diverse as the athletes themselves, with some stories outlining how or why a particular athlete began running and later quit the sport, and others showing how an athlete persevered through some sort of struggle, like an injury, career demands, or child-rearing, and ultimately adapted his/her running to fit new life demands.

At its core, the book explores what it takes to be a “lifer”: a lifetime runner. It’s common knowledge that as we age, as runners, we slow down, and many of us are incapable of handling the demands and volume that our training from “yesteryears” dictated. For a lot of runners, that’s a hard reality with which they can’t square. Here’s an example: if you were a 2:30 marathoner, running 100+ miles a week, with doubles near-constantly, it can be a really hard pill to swallow that as you age, you can no longer hold marathon pace for a few or a single mile at a time or that your body can no longer recover so quickly from, or even manage, a volume that’s but a fraction of what you posted when you were younger. Thus, as many runners age, they give up the sport for this reason alone; in Beverly’s estimation, these athletes are more or less haunted by versions of their former self, a self to which they will physically no longer be able to measure up, so they don’t even bother trying.

Beverly notes early on that his work isn’t intended as a formal, qualitative, or longitudinal-based study on how to be able to run (and continue to enjoy it) for decades on end, and I think this approach actually helps to make the read so compelling, enjoyable, and honest. I enjoy reading that type of formal work, too — don’t get me wrong — but Run Strong reads and sounds more like an informal group panel presentation, with Beverly more or less moderating the masters runners to whom he is turning for insight. He sprinkles throughout his work studies that corroborate his runners’ claims and cites a lot of recent work that I’ve read recently and talked about on the blog, like Angela Duckworth’s Grit, but again, this isn’t a scholarly read. Think of it as an edited transcript that details and connects lots of disparate conversations with masters runners about how or why they’ve been able to run — or not run — as they’ve aged.

Run Strong is very accessibly written and is divided into two main components — physiological principles and psychological principles — that Beverly then breaks down into more distinct components, like consistency, variety, and humility, among others — to help better explain how runners can stay in the sport and continue to thrive. None of Beverly’s claims are particularly earth-shattering, but I think they’re all sensible and practical. Throughout my time reading the book, I found myself constantly nodding my head in agreement with Beverly’s and his runners’ claims because so much of what they said resonated with my own experiences over the past decade-plus of doing this marathon stuff.

While I’m still a ways off from entering masters territory, and while I feel like I still have improvements to make in my running, I wanted to read this book because sometimes, like a lot of runners, I lose sight of the big picture with my running. It can be really easy to fall into the comparison game, both with others and with ourselves, and feel like we “should” be performing at a different level, posting faster times, and running more miles simply because we’ve done it before. When we get into this flawed line of thinking, we fail to acknowledge our present realities and circumstances that may very well preclude us from hitting those metrics, and it can quickly fast-track us to injury, burnout, and/or feelings of total disappointment or detachment from the sport. I often have to catch myself when I begin to fall down this rabbit hole and remind myself to take the long-term view with my running. In this way, I anticipate that having all the little bits of wisdom and information in my back pocket from Run Strong will be especially helpful.

If you aren’t friends with many masters runners, folks who have been doing this stuff for a long time and who are continuing to thrive and enjoy their experiences, Run Strong, Stay Hungry will be invaluable to you. Even if you’re brand new to the sport — hell, I’d argue especially if you’re brand new to the sport — beginning your relationship with running with a view towards doing it for the long-term can save you a lot of unnecessary frustration and heartache. We’d all do ourselves a huge favor if we thought about our running as masters do (my go-to is “what would Erica do?”, a nod to a friend in Chicago whom I consider a lifer at the sport and someone whom I’d love to emulate), and Run Strong, Stay Hungry can help us to move in that direction.   


with Erica (far L) and friends on my last LR in Chicago in Dec ’13
January 2018 training recap

January 2018 training recap

Hot damn. January, you were fast.

Admittedly, I’m one of those people who actually likes the whole “new year, new you” vibe that comes with the territory of a new year, but I don’t particularly buy much into it. I’m of the mindset that if you want to make some sort of lasting change in your life, do it whenever you want; it doesn’t have to be a certain month of the year, time of the year, day of the week, or whatever. I mean, honestly, if you decide that you want to start running, there’s no reason why you can’t take that first step on a random Tuesday afternoon in April, ya know? That said, I do appreciate January because for a lot of people, it’s that kick in the pants, that “fresh start,” that they want/need to start chasing down big goals. It’s inspiring to watch and be a part of.

And yet … I didn’t really begin this year or this month with any audacious goals to speak of. After a very light month of running following CIM in early December, I knew January was going to be a return to business as usual: lots of commute miles with my kids, regular workouts, routine long runs, the SOP. Add to the running stuff a very busy month with my eldest’s school,  planning a big event for Girl Scouts, and lots of activity with her GS troop — it’s cookie season (yay!), but dear lord, it’s a labor of love — along with the usual life stuff, including potty training (which has gone really well, thankfully), and here we are, one month down and 212 healthy miles later.

part of this month’s 212 miles

Everyone’s busy, I get it, but when you’re a SAHM, it can be really easy to silo yourself away from reality and stay within the four walls of your home day in and day out. It has been really gratifying to feel like I am contributing in a very direct way to my community, to her school, and to the lives of many families right now, as cheesy or ridiculous as that may sound. Sometimes I wonder if I am shortchanging myself — personally and/or professionally — by staying home to raise my kids, but I think right now I’m at a bit of a sweet spot or at least approaching it. If December was mostly about resting and recovering post-CIM and post-holidays, January was all business, all the time, and an ongoing exercise in re-routinizing priorities again, both running-related and otherwise. It was a good month overall.

back to biznass

A funny thing about the commute mileage with my kids: I put a challenge out there to A that if she rode her bike to/from school for 15 days in January, I’d take her to a salon and get her nails done. She was totally on board from the get-go and actually, pretty enthusiastic about it. We had been talking about goal-setting a lot recently (see above note related to selling GS cookies), and I know she loves to ride her bike, especially after school, but sometimes — like with any of us — the motivation can be lacking. I am not that parent who is adamant about my child being in particular sports or activities, “following in my footsteps,” or even sharing in my passions, but it’s really important to me to instill in my children what a healthy lifestyle entails: in this case, playing outside more often than not. When we’re run/ride commuting to school, we’re not going particularly fast or particularly far, but I think it has become an important and meaningful (and enjoyable) part of her day, and like a lot of us can relate to, she often says how good/strong she feels when she’s done. That’s money, man. The new added challenge has been to practice addition and subtraction on the fly, which is actually harder than I would have anticipated. (PS She hit her 15 day goal!)

I’m obsessed

Sunday is the my first race of the year and the first PA race on the calendar, a 10k in Sacramento, and I’m looking forward to it. I’m not really certain where my fitness is, but I’m willing to figure it out. The PA races are generally a good time, so I’m looking forward to seeing what my team and I can do. It should be fun in a red-lining, uncomfortable way. 

just a handful of us (PC: WRC)

Aside from the commute mileage with the kids, most weekends in January I posted my long runs on trails, and I think that has helped my mental and physical fitness along. Trails make me care less about my pace and more about time on my feet, and I think — regardless of technicality — they can play a huge role in preparing your body to be able to withstand the rigors and intensity of training, for marathons or otherwise.  Plus, it’s so pretty. 

Sunday morning sunrise service (PC: Janet)


Different place, yet still the same pretty (PC: Janet)

The yin to the LR on trails’ yang has been running in ovals during swim practices each week, and that, too, seems to be working advantageously for me. It’ll usually shake out to one night being easy ovals and the other being a workout, and selfishly, it works fantastically for me because it means I don’t have to endure a 3:xx a.m. wake-up during the week. I can usually run my workout (with no/an abbreviated CD, depending on the mileage I ran during the daytime) and still manage to catch the end of swim practice.

If variety is the spice of life, I feel like my January’s running is like a veritable spice cabinet… or something. Tenuous metaphor. It’s past my bedtime.

…and when the oval is locked up, adjacent parking lots will do


Bring on February!


Reading: So many good books right now, some of which I’ve already reviewed here. If Our Bodies Could Talk was an enjoyable non-running-related read that I found completely endearing and entertaining; Steve Magness and Brad Stulberg’s Peak Performance was informative; and Joe Biden’s Promise Me, Dad left me bawling in almost every chapter. I’ve started another running-related book that I am honestly so excited to recap if for no other reason than I want more people to know about it and read it for themselves.

Writing: More, hopefully; that’s the goal, anyway. When I taught first-quarter, first-year college students writing, rhetoric, and discourse, I told them that writing is a skill that people tend to improve with practice. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll become the next pivotal American author, but you’ll probably find that writing frequently lends itself to lots of ideas and fodder for future writings. You write to … beget more writing, ultimately, even if you think your original stuff is trash. (It’s ok; we all think that). So often I say that I want to write more in this space, but I ultimately don’t. This year, my soft goal is to write something here once a week. I think I can do it and still be able to thoughtfully contribute to whatever the discussion is at the time (or not… I mean, who knows). I have tons of ideas; it’s just a matter of routinizing my writing as I have other areas of my life. 

Anticipating: The first PA race on Sunday and both my parents and my in-laws coming to visit in February. It’s going to be an excellent month.

Listening to: Nothing much, TBH; I kinda feel like I’m on a podcast hiatus and instead am just reveling in any silence that I can get.

Watching: Honestly, not much, again. Whenever I’ve had downtime this month, I’ve been more inclined to put away my phone and pick up one of the books that I’m reading. However, C showed me this awesome video from Burger King explaining net neutrality to people (weird, right?). If you haven’t watched it yet, go nuts.