Friday, February 25, 2011
Book Review: The Grace to Race
My book club recently read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, a media sensation of a memoir by a woman who sought to raise her two daughters "the Chinese way" (which as far as I could tell consisted mostly of spending lots of money on forced music lessons, practice, instruments and music-related travel, and no tolerance for much in the way of social activities). While I was in the bookstore buying it, I saw another book that I couldn't resist purchasing as well: The Grace to Race: The Wisdom and Inspiration of the 80-Year-Old World Champion Triathlete Known as the Iron Nun.
Put the Tiger Mother and the Iron Nun head to head and I know who would come out on top! Sister Madonna Buder started running at age 48, qualified for Boston very quickly with a time of 3 hours 29 minutes and change (the standard for women over 40 at the time was 3 hours 30 minutes) and began competing in triathlons soon after that. She set several records for older age-group women in the Ironman distance and is still racing today, at 80, though it sounds like she has stomach issues.
Her book also details a penchant for close calls, travel scares and accidents. I could have done with fewer details about these, as well as fewer accounts of races. I say, when you've been through as much as Sister has, pick a few key races and harrowing incidents and really flesh them out. Whether they ended well or badly, we will learn more from a few well told than too many told in tedious chronological order.
I did enjoy the expected but still uncanny role that God has played in her decision to compete and persevere. Many athletes chant mantras when the going gets tough. Sister Madonna's have to do with praising God and praying for other people. Her list of reflections is a good tip list for anyone undertaking a tough goal. And I also liked how, even though she is a nun, it's clear that she can be prickly, opinionated and in the heat of competition even irritable--just like any other high-strung athlete (and make no mistake, this late bloomer is talented).
I'm looking forward to reading many other running books this year. My favorite of all time is Born to Run. Here's a link to my review of it on GoodReads (a social networking site for readers).
What are your favorite reads for runners? Or to be more general--what are your favorite books when inspiration is needed?