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On the day of the 100th Boston Marathon, books celebrate why we run

Running Stories Provide Inspiration

The Runner's Literary Companion

Edited by Garth Battista

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Penguin Books,

319 pp. paperback, $12.95

The Boston Marathon countdown has begun. Runners searching for extra inspiration and others seeking to understand why anyone would willingly run 26.2 miles should flip through the pages of the Runner's Literary Companion

But don't be mistaken - it is not another book about how to run. It's a book about why people run. Through the lens of literature, Garth Battista has assembled an insightful collection of short stories, excerpts, and poems highlighting the spirit of running.

The book is divided into 10 chapters. Each focuses on a different class of running. By book's end, you begin to appreciate the spirit of the sprinters, the endurance of the marathoners, the miler's third-lap challenge, and the value of a wise coach.

"See How They Run," by George Harmon Coxe, is about a first attempt at the Boston Marathon by Johnny Burke, a medal-winning miler. Johnny volunteers to run when when his father, John, a Boston Marathon regular, is unable to run his twentieth consecutive race.

Johnny approaches the marathon with a touch of arrogance. Meeting his father's lifelong running friends, he wonders why they turn out year after year with little hope of winning. Twenty-six miles later, he begins to understand.

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"The Winning Bug," by Jackson Scholz, the 1924 Olympic Gold Medalist in the 200-meter, examines the relationship between a young runner, Saxon Demming, and his coach.

Naturally talented and well-liked, Sax feels compelled to win a race at all costs. His unethical running style clashes with his inherent character. As the story unfolds, his coach comes to understand that it isn't a character flaw but the wily winning bug which has bitten Sax. How to exterminate it occupies the coach while Sax discovers the solution himself in the relay race at the most important meet of the season.

The Runners Literary Companion has all the drama of literature. As marathon day approaches and you find yourself in need of an extra push to lace up those running shoes, it might just help in getting your feet out the door. And getting out the door is the hardest part. All the rest is downhill.

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