Review: Mark Remy’s “The Runner’s Field Manual”


The Runners Field ManualHot 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.

Final Thoughts

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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  30 Responses to Review: Mark Remy’s “The Runner’s Field Manual”
  1. Becky

    Every (dog) runner should know how to run carrying a baggie of doggie-doo. I’ve been in this situation too many times. No matter how hard you try to train Fido to go #2 before you embark on your run, he’ll inevitably have to go again, more often than not when you’re at the furthest point from your house.

    • Tim Woodbury

      Good call, Becky! I try to restrict my runs to routes with at least one trash can for exactly this reason. :)

  2. Tim Phillips

    To run faster, you’ve got to…run faster! But it involves not only short pick-ups, but also VO2 work, Tempo work and hill work. Rotating through these zones on your hard days keeps the variety in there while working the body just a little differently.

    • Tim Woodbury

      Absolutely right. Not that it makes Tempo runs or hill sprints any more appealing, of course. ;)

  3. Jacqueline

    beginners!! it’s not about speed it’s not about miles (yet) it’s about doing it correctly if you don’t the chances are you may quit and never get you first full mile in and the great feeling of wanting to puke your brains out! find an encouraging group that will help your chances in sticking through the tough times of not wanting to run :)

    also if you are a gal and are beginning to run alone get your self some pepper spray or stun gun..BUT make sure you know the law about these in your
    town

    • Tim Woodbury

      Spot-on. Mark actually comments on the “Too much, too soon” phenomenon in the book – specifically regarding new runners and marathons. Starting with the basics will save you a ton of heartache (and leg ache, and foot ache) in the long run.

      As for runner safety, I couldn’t have put it better myself.

  4. Mark

    RoadID is your friend! It’s sometimes hard to carry a typical ID with you when running, and the RoadID takes care of that for you. I personally like using the shoe model, as I don’t like running with things on my hands/wrists.

    • Tim Woodbury

      Excellent point, Mark! RoadID is a great product, and a great bit of added insurance when you’re out on a run. And I agree about the shoe model. I only grudgingly wear my Garmin. ;)

  5. Christina

    Never assume that the car can see you even if you are lit up like a Christmas tree. Be aware of your surrondings.

    • Tim Woodbury

      Great tip, Christina. One we seem to forget too often. Remember folks, in a battle between a car and a runner, the runner always loses.

  6. Abby

    Three things all runners should know:

    – It’s just as much your responsibility to do what you can to avoid being run over by a vehicle as it is the driver’s to avoid doing it. Stay to the left (run against traffic), look before you dart across the road, wave at courteous drivers who give you space.
    – Compression tights are AWESOME for cold weather running. The self-conciousness only lasts a couple of minutes.
    – Bad runs (and races) make you appreciate the good ones, and are never a good reason to give up.

    • Tim Woodbury

      Luckily, it stays pretty temperate in Seattle. Luckily, that is, for all the people who would otherwise have to look away in horror as I ran by in compression shorts. :P

  7. Maranda

    Strength train for injury prevention! Foam rollers can be your best friend! Don’t compare yourself to other runners, only compete against yourself. Log into the Loop on Runner’s World Online daily for constant motivation, laughter, and some great friends with helpful advice!

    • Tim Woodbury

      Great advice! Strength training (as I mentioned in kung fu lesson #3: don’t neglect your complements) and rolling/stretching can be the difference between being able to run, and having to nurse an injury.

  8. John

    Beginners should understand that the first mile is often the toughest. They should never judge themselves as a runner on that first mile. They must do what they can to perservere beyond that mile.

    • Tim Woodbury

      Great point, John! Even seasoned runners have trouble with that first mile. Most days, it feels like a mini-wall.

  9. Danielle

    Runners world and the loop are biggers best friend!! Also for humor know where all bathrooms are located on your first 20 mile run.

  10. Sandy

    My biggest tip is for the Newbies. Don’t be afraid to try. I didn’t run (other than the required stuff in high school) until I was 37. I couldn’t run for a full minute. I’m currently training for my 2nd half-marathon.

    2nd tip, at least Lurk the Loop (I tend to be too shy to actually post). There are so many tips and encouragement to be found there. Whenever my motivation is lagging, I check in. It always gives me the push to get out the door.

    • Tim Woodbury

      Great point, Sandy! I can’t tell you the number of people I talk to who “can’t” run, but have never tried. My wife was a lot like you. A year ago, she hadn’t run a day in her life – she just finished her 1st half-marathon in November.

      The point is just that you should never give up before you start trying. You might surprise yourself with what you can accomplish. Keep running strong, Sandy!

  11. Andrew Gordon

    If you are training by just running, welcome to injury 101. You need to do strength training and proper stretching…that is a tip for you beginners out there.

  12. Emily

    Some pieces of advice:
    1) You don’t have to be a marathoner to be a “runner.” I feel like new runners often try to leap from couch to marathon, or 5k to marathon, because they think that to be a runner, they need to do marathons. That approach can lead to injury or discouragement from taking on too much too soon. You are a runner even if the longest distance you ever race is a 5k!
    2) Experiment with your diet and hydration on the run. I have a sensitive GI and found that stomach problems really limited my running in the beginning. With time, those issues will improve, but you need to learn how to fuel your body properly ! It took me a long time to figure out what works and what doesn’t for my runs.
    3) Have fun! Running is a great sport because (among other things), it allows you to experience new places and meet new people. Instead of always focusing on numbers (ie goal pace, etc), try to have a “fun run” every once in a while without a watch where you explore somewhere new – trails are usually the most exciting!

  13. Sarah

    Group runs are great pick-me-ups.
    Replace your shoes on time.
    Physical therapists are your friends.

  14. Emily

    What a great idea! I’m really new to this whole thing. Well running on my own and not Army mandated anyways :) So I don’t know anything I’m supposed to know and am learning it all now.

    I wish I knew how to stay relaxed on runs. I have a horrible habit of getting really tense through my shoulders and neck during longer runs.

    I also wished buying shoes was a little bit easier, though of course I’m stuck right now cause I have to do everything online…but I don’t know enough to just buy the type of shoe I need…though I’m reading a lot.

    I’ve been learning a lot about positive self talk lately and I think that’s important for EVERYONE – no matter how long you’ve been running. A run can be either good or bad based on how you talk to yourself throughout the run.

    Reading through my two things here I feel like I’m an infant, but I guess in my running age I am. So, thanks for doing this!

  15. Ed Nemmers

    Knee high athletic socks are not back in fashion!

    • Tim Woodbury

      Geez, Ed. Now I’m going to have to re-evaluate my entire wardrobe. I knew those sales people were laughing at me. :P

  16. Rian

    When first running it helps to up endurance by combination of walking/running. Try a 1:2, walk:run ratio it also helps to incorporate uphill sprints, then off days don’t just rest get out plays some sports or go on a hike have fun but don’t just sit on your butt.

  17. Truths of running:
    1. Running is cheaper than therapy.
    2. A dog is always ready for a run.
    3. Never wear new shoes to a race (ow ow ow!)
    4. People will ALWAYS think you are crazy for running in subzero temps, no matter how you try to justify it.
    5. You can never make a non-runner really understand why you run. Attempts are futile.

    : ) Book looks great!

  18. DCMJ

    Some of my best friendships have been built running together. Dont be afraid to run with a friend or a group. I’ve enjoyed runs with people who are much faster than me and runs with people slower then me. The bonds formed over the miles are amazing.

  19. Dean

    Rest days are as important as long run days. Rest is when you rebuild and without that it’s tough to get stronger (and faster)!!

  20. heather c

    Do NOT tighten your laces tight, especially if you have high arches. I’ve learned from experience that you might end up not able to walk for a few days with new shoes as the top of your foot might end up bruised. Instead, skip an eyelet or two.

    Don’t forget to dress in layers during cold-weather runs. It may be cold when you begin running, but eventually, you’ll warm up and need to peel off a layer or so.

    And I would love to know more about protecting myself against dogs while I’m running. A friend of mine was attacked not long ago! Now I’m scared to go running around here!

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