Well, I’ve reached Book 17 of my 20 Books of Summer books list (intro post here) and is also part of my TBR project. This is an Unbound book which I subscribed to and which is recorded in my my State of the TBR post from 1 August (I have now read and reviewed all of the print books recorded as incoming in that post!). As I’m already a good way through Book 18 and with over a week to go, I feel like I might manage my 20 Books of Summer after all.

Rob Deering – “Running Tracks: The Playlist and Places that Made me a Runner”

(23 July 2021)

Looking at it like this, I now realise that this run is absolutely riddled with memory – running and otherwise. It’s a living, walk-in map of my day-to-day life, my running history and all the great moments of my life with my wife and my family. (p. 151)

This is a book about running and music. Deering loves both, though he’s always loved music and he came to running a bit later. And I will say now that I, too, love running and music. My best running-and-music memory is when I was quite a new runner, plodding round local streets, trying to do a few more minutes on my run, when the Sex Pistols’ version of My Way came on my MP3 player and with a doof-doof-doof-doof at the drop, there I went, speeding down the road! However, I have to say I don’t really run with music now, for safety reasons, as I like to keep aware of what (who) is around me, hear what catcallers are shouting in case it’s a proper safety issue, etc. Doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the book, though, and I’m truly glad Deering has had all these lovely experiences where the right song comes in at the appropriate point in a run, and has the ability and, through Unbound, the wherewithal to write about it.

I didn’t start with this well, I have to admit, as early on he has a rant about not being allowed to wear headphones in races, and asserts that he’d rather wear them and have a row than be without his music. I do understand how important it is, but he rather wearingly says that nothing has ever happened in a race due to people wearing headphones (it has) and that he can hear around him perfectly well (many can’t). I’ve experienced, as a runner, trying to yell at the people in front of me to watch out for the motorbike and leader of the half-marathon that started after the marathon we were doing coming up behind as they blocked the whole road, earphones in, and I’ve experienced, as a marshal/official, trying to direct people who can’t hear. He might like to know that bone-conducting headphones are permitted at many races. I’ve only mentioned this in case other readers get the idea it’s OK to run with headphones and have a row: not really fair on the often volunteers staffing your races. There was also a moment where he seemed to imply that a 4:30 marathoner was the slowest one you might get, but fair enough, as he runs at the sharp end and might not know many back-of-the-pack types.

The rest of the book is excellent. Split into 26.2 chapters, we get some of his running story, a particular run he enjoyed (or didn’t) and the song that came up when he did it. At the end of each chapter are suggestions for other songs and other runs that might be similar: a nice touch. Interwoven through it (but not too much or cloyingly) is the story of his dad who lived with Parkinson’s for many years, and the fundraising that Deering has done, as well as a few tales from his stand-up touring life. This makes for an enjoyable book and an easy read.

It was nice to see Birmingham mentioned the once, in fact a canal section that I run on, although that was the only time. There are plenty of relatable moments: I, for one, have also banged on, in my case a pub door, to ask the cleaner if I can use the facilities … And parkrun features quite a lot; it’s always nice to see a positive mention. The quote I’ve used above really chimed with me, too – I’ve started to think about doing a personal Google Map of all the little memories around the routes I have been running for the past 17 years or so! He has a lovely bit about how the first step on the Couch to 5k programme is the hardest in your running career, and once you’ve got that done, you’re away.

A lovely personal yet relatable book and an unusual concept that really works. I hope he has many more happy runs with perfect tunes. May I just mention here one more running/music memory of my own: running the Reykjavik Marathon, my first, through a suburb with people banging saucepans to encourage the runners, and there’s a little band on a corner – a common thing in big city runs, we often get dhol drummers or brass bands or just a sound system. No, a four-piece band playing Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart …

This was book number 17 in my 20 Books of Summer 2022!

This was also TBR Challenge 2021-22 Quarter 4 Book 11/28 – 17 to go (and I’m reading Book 12!)