It’s the second month of 2020 and thankfully, I’m still continuing the habit of reading e-books and manga. I was able to finish a fewer number of books this month, but I really enjoyed most of the entries here as they are related to my running hobby. It’s always easier to read something if it’s related to a topic you like.
The Way of the Runner: A Journey Into the Fabled World of Japanese Running by Adharanand Finn
This is my favorite read for February because it is a book about my two favorite things: Japan and running. As you may know, I am an avid Japanophile. I love learning more about the country, from its culture to its values and unique characteristics.
This book tells the author’s experiences about running in Japan, how the locals do it, and to understand more about the sport of Ekiden. Ekiden is a relay race in Japan and is the single most important thing that makes running popular in the country. Having ran a trail race there the previous year, I experienced firsthand how the community came together to support runners. Running is wildly loved in Japan and even amateur high-schoolers can run faster than the majority of runners here in the Philippines.
The author tries to integrate himself into the running society of Japan with mixed results. It is an entertaining read and a runner will understand most of the terms, even learning a thing or two. From understanding why the Japanese can go toe-to-toe with the Africans (but never quite beat them), to learning the truth about the “marathon monks” of Mt. Hiei, there are loads of information scattered throughout the pages.
This book made me understand just a little bit more about the Japanese mindset of running. I have learned the things that I need to emulate as well as the things to avoid. I applied this knowledge to my own running and I find my mind remembering some parts of the book on my long runs as well.
This is simply a must-read for any runner curious about another point-of-view on the sport, or for those looking for a running story minus the technical talk. This book will not teach you how to run, but maybe while reading, you may find a sense of “why” you run.
Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek with Scott Friedman
This is another great read because of its relevance to my interests. The book tells of Scott Jurek’s journey from his youth all the way to becoming one of the world’s most decorated ultrarunners. The story is told from his own point of view and is an entertaining narrative worthy of being told in the big screen in my opinion.
More important than winning the Western States 100 mile Endurance Run seven consecutive times, the Spartathlon, and the 135 mile Badwater Ultramarathon; Scott tells his search for the answer to why he runs. And in reading his story, I was also able to reflect on my own running values. Why do I run? Why do I have to keep running? Should I even keep running? The book let me get to know THE Scott Jurek so much more. He is no longer just another name in an article. In the pages of this book he becomes real, as if he were telling the story right in front of me.
Aside from his experiences, the book is also filled with vegan recipes. Scott himself has pointed to his diet as one of the most important factors to his domination in the ultrarunning world. While it’s not life-changing in my case, I was able to appreciate the vegan approach to endurance sports. Hopefully I can incorporate some of these meals into my diet in the future.
My most important takeaway from this book is the importance of grit. In endurance sports, it’s not the fastest person who wins, but the one who stays the strongest the longer the race goes on. Some of the stories told by Scott are simply inspirational and reading them made me actually feel guilty for my past performance in races. Reading the point of of view of a champion is an eye-opener and it may come easy to people like Scott Jurek now, but there really is no other secret but to keep putting in the work day in and day out.
This is a must read for vegan ultrarunners or casual runners who want to take their sport to the next level. There isn’t a lot of technical advice, but it leans more on Scott’s personal experience and stories to help motivate you to be a better runner in both body and mind.
Monster by Naoki Urasawa
I have already finished one of Urasawa’s works last month with Pluto. So I continued with another one of his famous masterpieces, Monster. If you search for a list of the best manga online, no doubt that Monster and/or Pluto will be among them. Multiple works of Naoki Urasawa have become must-reads and are recommended by “manga connoisseurs” all the time.
Monster is another thrilling masterpiece and it doesn’t fail to keep you at the edge of your seat. Just like before, you will be promising yourself to read just one more chapter before bed. But unlike Pluto, which tackles the conflict between robots and humans, Monster deals with something scarier: humans against humans.
Monster is a story that shows both the strengths and weaknesses of humanity. Set in a post-war era, we follow a brain doctor who must find one of the patients he has saved who turns out to be a serial mass-murderer. I won’t recount the story to avoid spoilers but from this main plot, we delve into the dynamics of the human mind; the importance of love and what the lack of it can lead to, and many other themes.
Monster can leave you with a void, and even I was rendered speechless for a time after I finished the series. You can see how ahead of its time Urasawa’s works were; or that society has simply not changed a lot since his time. The scariest part of Monster and what sets it apart from the other manga I’ve read is its plausibility. You will see humanity’s flaws in this story, and while other manga tell of fantastical adventures of heroes and pirates, you can’t help but wonder if there will ever be a monster like this in the real world right now. Or if there already is.
And that wraps up February! I’m currently reading another book but I won’t be done until about mid-March (I guesstimate). I’ve been biking to work most days so I have greatly decreased my time in public transportation where I used to do the bulk of my reading. Hopefully I’ll be able to come up with a report for you guys next month. Again, if you have some recommended books based on my library, feel free to let me know.
Keep reading and running!