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Overthinking the Marathon
By Ray Charbonneau
Reviewed by Jason Pettus
For the sake of disclosure, let me mention that author Ray Charbonneau is a good friend of the center, including being featured in some of our past anthologies, participating in our virtual book tours and more, so you should read today's review bearing all that in mind. But that said, I have to confess that I enjoyed his latest guide to long-distance running, Overthinking the Marathon, more than I have his other books on the subject; and that's perhaps because of the more personal, more anecdotal nature of this particular volume. More of a diary than a traditional guidebook, this is essentially a look at the almost six months actually leading up to a major marathon that the fiftysomething Charbonneau decided to try running competitively, reasoning that it might be his very last chance to run a marathon at a challenging speed; and so the book itself is a loosely structured series of stories, reminiscences, and practical advice, put together as a literal diary recounting the highs and lows of this training period, including the kind of metadata at the end of each entry that you might find in a runner's personal exercise log. As such, then, the format itself is its only real weakness -- the book is almost 300 pages altogether, and trying to get through the entire thing can sometimes produce the same kind of wearying feeling as when you sit down at someone's blog and read too much of the archives in one sitting -- plus of course if you simply don't like the subject of sports and the training that goes into them, you are by definition going to find this book impossibly tedious from page one. In general, though, as a non-runner I actually found this to be a pretty entertaining and interesting read, and especially when it comes to Charbonneau's funny and sometimes self-deprecating thoughts on the exponentially rising challenges of staying athletic as one gets older and older. It's not for everyone, but Overthinking the Marathon will actually appeal to more people than you might expect at first, and it's recommended that you give it a try if you have even a passing interest in the subject.
Out of 10: 8.5