Hot on the heels of 2009′s uproariously funny The Runner’s Rule Book, author and Runner’s World online editor, Mark Remy, has just released a companion volume, fully titled The Runner’s Field Manual: A Tactical (and Practical) Survival Guide.
I first became aware of The Runner’s Field Manual when I ran into Mark promoting the book at the Richmond Marathon. I was acquainted with Mark’s wry sense of humor from both his previous book and his blog, so I knew his latest book would be worth a quick read. And here, quick is the operative word.
Weighing in at a light 201 pages (approximately 50 pages longer than Rule Book), The Runner’s Field Manual is designed with a runner’s schedule in mind. Mark, knowing we’d all rather be running than reading, makes his points using precisely the number of words required, and not a single word more.
Like The Runner’s Rule Book before it, The Runner’s Field Manual is meant to be savored. To be sampled in small bites. However, if you’re at all like me, each tip will only feed your appetite for more. You’ll start with the intent to relish every tip, each complete in it’s own right, but will find yourself greedily devouring the book in its entirety.
Not that that diminished my enjoyment, mind you.
The Beautiful and Absurd
For those not familiar with Mark’s work, his humor swings between moments of wry observation and carefully crafted non sequitur. If The Runner’s Field Manual is anything, it is true to form.
The joy in his writing comes from discovering what twisted path Mark will lead us down next.
In one breath, he offers practical tips for running on the beach such as “run at low tide” and “wear proper sun protection.” In the next, he suggests tips for dealing with all the dead bodies that, if crime shows are to be believed, runners always seem to find.
I won’t even spoil it for you by paraphrasing. You’ll just have to read it for yourself.
Not to be overlooked, The Runner’s Field Manual is a much more visual experience than The Runner’s Rule Book. Mark even mentions as much in the introduction.
Michael Gellatly’s brilliant illustrations are, in some moments, an earnest counterpoint to Mark’s playfulness. In others, they stand as much a comic device as Mark’s verbal play, and serve to perfectly punctuate many of the book’s more serious moments.
Tactical *and* Practical
Beyond the humor, The Runner’s Field Manual (more-so than its predecessor) does, in fact, offer quite a bit of honest-to-goodness substance. Many of the bits of wisdom are aimed at the newbie runner. However, there are plenty of new tips for veterans as well (and many more that seasoned runners seem to have forgotten, such as the safest ways to cross the road at varying intersections).
The Runner’s Field Manual tackles areas as broad as basic running knowledge, a vast topic to be sure. It also narrows its focus for topics like coexisting with non-runners (such as wildlife, pedestrians, and motorists), and safety and first aid.
And Mark isn’t afraid to get downright technical where the topic merits. My favorite bit of new knowledge came from a Runner’s World night-time visibility field test. Did you know that a runner in dark clothes can only reliably be seen by a passing vehicle from 30-40 feet? Compare that with 1/2 a mile for a runner with a headlamp. Think about that the next time you decide to run in your favorite ninja gear.
So far, I’ve had nothing but positive things to say. In the interest of balance, I have only two complaints, and they’re fairly minor.
The first is that the book was over too soon. There were some topics I really feel like Mark could’ve expanded to fill whole books in and of themselves. And, if you read this book like I did, it shouldn’t take you more than a few hours to get all the way through it.
My second kvetch, and this is probably more personal, is that I bristled at the rampant use of the third-person personification of the book. I kept hoping for an “I” or even the papal “we,” but found instead “The Runner’s Field Manual.” As in, “The Runner’s Field Manual is not amused with your petty criticism.”
While The Runner’s Field Manual is probably most useful to a beginner runner, veterans and beginners alike should get a good laugh out of Mark’s approach to what is essentially a running primer. And at less than the cost of a pair of movie tickets, this is one book that’s hard to pass up.
So, what are some things you think every runner (beginning, intermediate, or advanced) should know? Are there still things about running you still wish you knew more about? Let me know in the comments.
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