Until recently, I enjoyed various forms of exercise, but hated running. That changed in January 2010, when I started a “Couch to 5K” program. Since that time, I have completed a 5K, 10K and even a half-marathon. Running is now an integral part of my life, and it has made me stronger, more confident and more sanguine.

Why?

In To Be a Runner, bestselling author Martin Dugard provides the perfect explanation: "The act of running is a decision to be the best possible version of yourself. It is a striving to be more than mediocre, if only for that burst of time we're out there getting it done."  Dugard's book is a collection of personal essays that enlighten, encourage and entertain.  Beginning with his first mile in 1967, he recounts stories from his youth, unique experiences—including running with the bulls in Pamplona—and life lessons gleaned from coaching high school cross country.

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Dugard's style, a mix of instruction, introspection and experience, reads like both a narrative and a how-to. His essays are thought provoking, inspiring and often humorous.  Woven together, the stories demonstrate how running both shapes and mirrors life experiences. “To be a runner is to learn continual life lessons,” Dugard writes, and so he demonstrates that taking the first step, pushing through pain, consistency and commitment are not only necessary for running, but also for relationships, professional experiences and other life endeavors.

Self-confident in his abilities, Dugard’s expertise is off-putting at times, but this foible is redeemed by his obvious love of the sport and his appreciation for how running transforms lives. He is pushing his readers to win, not by crossing the finish line first, but by having the courage to start the race. To Be a Runner is about "the process of seeing that better version of ourselves through the daily, mind-altering discipline of challenging personal limits." 

The essays here will resonate with runners but are equally appropriate for those interested in pushing past their limitations and achieving goals. While Dugard's experiences accurately reflect the heart of the sport, his experiences as a coach, son, husband and father are accessible to everyone. To the author, running is "not just exercise. It's not just achievement. It's a daily discipline that has nothing to do with speed, weight, social status, sexuality, political affiliation, where you live, what car you drive, or whether anyone anywhere loves you. It's about the slow and painful process of being the best you can be. That's why the first step out of the door is always so hard. That's when we choose between settling for average and being the superhero version of ourselves."

Most runners will never participate in the running of the bulls or coach others in the sport, but they "keep pushing" as they lace up their running shoes every day. As the sport grows, Dugard's anecdotes are sure to resonate. Highly recommended.

(Ed. Note: All quotes from an advance galley and may differ from the final copy.)

Lauren Sullivan is a wife, mother of two and an avid reader. Books play an important role in her life, and she enjoys sharing her passion at 5MinutesforBooks.com and BaseballsandBows.com.