Review of “Chasing the Runner’s High”

Adena Schutzberg “edits an online magazine about mapping and trains for marathons and ultramarathons in Somerville, MA.”  What she won’t tell you is that she’s the women’s winner of the 2006 Arkansas Marathon and recently finished third at the 2010 Nashville 50 Mile ultra.

You could put Chasing the Runner’s High into one of two categories with ease. It’s a book about running, for sure, but it’s also a biography, a book about one man’s life. It’s hard to tell if one part overshadows the other and perhaps that’s really the message of the story: running, for better or worse, has been, is and will be part of Ray’s life.

I knew that already since I’ve run with Ray as a member of the Somerville Road Runners for the past few years. We’ve spent time together on a number of fun runs, long runs and marathons. The book could well be the equivalent of all the stories you’d hear Ray tell if you ran with him long enough. They are stories of getting excited by and about running, stories of success through running and stories of pain and persistence because of an addiction to running. These are not stories for the weak; these are brutally honest tales, told with candor and frankness about strength, courage, obsession, desire and hard won understanding of self and sport.

Reading this book is a bit scary if you are a runner, even just a beginner. You’ll see yourself in here, sometimes not in the best light. You’ll revel in Ray’s successes, but fear the possible pain and disillusionment ahead. Following Ray on a quest to get better, go farther, get faster and conquer 50, then 100 mile ultramarathons can be grueling, but like the best stories, you hang on to find out how it will end.

The best news for Ray, and for runners and potential runners, is that the book concludes on a high note. Ray comes to a place of understanding and peace with running. That’s something I think all runners strive for, if even if they don’t realize it or address it formally.

The highs of the book detail the feeling of flying while running and sharing a returning runner’s joy and accomplishments. The lows detail addictive behavior and physical and emotional pain. Both runners and non-runners can appreciate, empathize with, and learn from these episodes that are part of one runner’s life.

-Adena Schtuzberg

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