Bill Rodgers is the three-time winner of the Boston marathon, among others, a self-effacing chap, and a very special athlete; so this melange of humble background, big names, shop talk, and blow-by-blow accounts of races will have its satisfied takers. The emphasis is on individual races--Boston is the ""messiest and most loosely organized,"" New York suffers from low-flying helicopters, ""none is better run"" than Fukuoka, Japan--and on how Rodgers runs them. There is plenty of advice along the way (""I will pace myself going uphill and push myself going down""; ""I would recommend taking an aspirin every 4 hours for several days after a race"" to speed recovery from aches) and every controversial subject in racing is discussed: amateurism vs. professionalism (Rodgers would eliminate the difference), women and handicapped racers (he's all for them); and weight training, blood doping, and carbohydrate loading. Most of this is harmless, but Rodgers does pass along some terrific misconceptions (on steroids: ""I know relatively little about the effect of steroids; perhaps, in fact, they are simply a form of 'vitamin,' a supplement to ensure that your strength will be properly maintained should your diet be insufficient for whatever reason at some point""). And some of the writing is heavy going. But anyone interested in the world of competitive runners--or in Rodgers himself--will gladly overlook the muddy stretches.