Book Review: The Mid-Packer’s Lament

First, a brief announcement
There are only a few days left to get your time entered for the Spring Into Summer Virtual 5K. With Memorial Day this past weekend, I was hoping that people would have extra time to get their runs in. However, based on the number of panicked emails I’ve received, it seems that the vacation was more of a hinderance than a help.

As such, I’m extending the entry deadline to midnight on Sunday, June 5th. Hopefully the extra time combined with this preview of the midpacker’s prize will help you get your entries in.

We now return you to our featured presentation, all ready in progress.

By the midpack, for the midpack

The Mid-Packer's LamentWhen I started writing Midpack Runner, the first thing I wrote was the About page. And practically the first words I put on the page came from Chris Russell.

Chris is a fellow midpack runner, the proprieter of the RunRunLive blog and podcast, the race director for the Groton Road Race (which just celebrated its 20th anniversary in April 2011), and the author of The Mid-packer's Lament (direct).

Not a bad resume for a guy whose day job requires that he spend so much time on the road, right?

Where authors like Mark Remy and Bart Yasso live their lives toward the front of the pack, Chris runs back in the thick of it with the majority of us.

That’s not meant as denigration. If anything, it was refreshing to find a book written by an author who understands that a marathon is a completely different experience for those at the middle and back of the pack.

What’re we lamenting?

For a book with such a mournful title, I found The Mid-Packer’s Lament sadly short of lamentations. Emo runners take note: Chris’ book is surprisingly upbeat. I had to stop reading more than once when my wife demanded to know what was “so darn funny.”

I found Chris’ humor reminiscent of the Tappet Brothers (maybe it’s a Boston thing?). Even when he’s talking about the after effects of a knee-crippling car accident, Chris still manages to keep a sense of humor. In fact, his tales of cross-training and rehabilitation were, for me, some of the funniest moments in the book.

That’s not to say that every tale in this collection of short stories will have you rolling with laughter. However, I found myself chuckling at some point in nearly every story.

A new adventure

“Every time a runner starts a race they start a new adventure.” Chris’ adventure is broken up into four sections.

The first section, running for the joy of it, is the most thematically varied of the lot. In it, Chris covers everything from running with his dog to cross-training to his secret love of porta-potties. If you’re going to get strange looks as you cackle audibly at something you’ve read, this is the section in which you’re likely to do that.

Of course New England racing stories, the second section, has its fair share of laugh-out-loud moments as well. Particularly around a few New Year’s day races ending with polar bear plunges. While this section might not seem relevant to out of area runners, the tales of races in the heart of New England will definitely make you want to stop in for a race.

Perhaps as a sad testament to my recent condition, I found it stinks to get old and other injury whining to be the most relatable section. The shortest section in the book, this is the one area where recently or frequently injured runners may find themselves uncomfortable with the familiarity of the tone and content of the stories.

Finally, in on the road again, Chris spins tales from his life as a busy traveller. It’s nice to hear tell of a busy runner making the time to run. His trips aren’t full of Bart Yasso’s tales of animal magnetism, by which I mean he hasn’t been attacked by birds or rhinos – a fact for which, I’m sure, Chris is quite thankful. This section will nevertheless make you want to get out and run, wherever you happen to be.

All in all, The Mid-Packer’s Lament is an insightful, amusing view from the middle of the pack. Full of “I’ve been there” moments, this is one book that really does belong on every midpacker’s shelf.

So don’t forget to enter the Spring Into Summer Virtual 5K for your chance to add a signed copy of Chris’ tales of triumph and woe to your collection.


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