Running Times senior writer Toor (Writing/Eastern Washington Univ.; The Pig and I: Why It’s So Easy to Love an Animal, and So Hard to Love a Man, 2005, etc.) charts her transformation from exercise-resistant “pretentious little intellectual” in college to 40-something ultramarathoner.
Fifteen years after forswearing her Oreo-eating ways, Toor has run more than “forty marathons and ultras” and won “a handful of small boutiquey races in mountainous, out-of-the-way places” like the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and the Himalayas. She has also become one of a dozen or so athletes selected by Clif Bar as pacers, who volunteer in helping less-experienced runners achieve their PRs (personal records, or personal best times at a given distance) in marathons throughout the country. Toor’s somewhat fractured collection of short essays on all things running offers many helpful maxims for long-distance runners, ranging from what to expect after a marathon (“You finish the race and walk around feeling fat. Bloated. Porked out. Your whole everything is swollen like a bruise”) to a detailed description of Ride and Tie events, lengthy races involving teams comprised of a pair of runners and a horse. No matter what the subject, though, the spotlight always returns to, and shines brightest on, the author and her accomplishments. She doesn’t hesitate to relate why she prefers running with men (“you can talk about nothing for hours”) or offer reasons why she’s had trouble in relationships (“I don’t cook, and I’m kind of mean”), admitting she’s guilty of that “least appealing” runnerly trait: “blinkered self-absorption.” She writes: “Sometimes, when I’m racing, the thing that keeps my mind off the discomfort I am feeling is the story I will tell about it when I’m finished.” For Toor, the acts of running and writing are seemingly intertwined, so readers will gather that the present volume brought much therapeutic relief.
Narcissus in Nikes.