Okay, I promised that once I finished Cory’s book ‘Nowhere Near First’ I would write up a book report. So, here it is. This is probably my first book report in over 15-16 years — whenever the last time I took High School English. Needless to say — it’s been a while.
So, if my report is a bit rusty you can thank my High School English Teacher for giving me a B- in the class. Did I also mention I took High School Special Ed English class? So, yeah, this should be real good.
Anyways — I digress.
My first reaction to this book? LOVED IT! Cory has this remarkable way of telling a story with true honesty and wit that makes me jealous. I read the book mostly while on the bus on my way to and from work, and I found myself TRYING to control my laughter. Likewise, I also found myself TRYING to control tears because I could relate to some of Cory’s experiences.
Having known Cory before the book and met him numerous times I felt like I could relate to his experiences, especially as he recounted numerous experiences with other runners and friends I know well. But, I don’t think diminishes any of the other stories if you don’t know the other runners. This is Cory’s story — craziness and all.
For those who know Cory or many of his crazy adventures, feats, antics, jumping pictures, etc., etc., etc. this book gave a deeper window into the person Cory. As you dig deeper past the Nacho Libre mask and jumping pictures you see a human who’s experienced tragedy, heartbreak and disappointment, but has has chosen life, love and family. His humor and craziness is a byproduct of those choices and priorities — something I can honestly relate to.
There were a few themes that really stuck with me from Cory’s book. Now, I don’t want to give away too much, so I won’t go into much detail in relation to the book. But, I think they are topics worth briefly discussing here …
Running & Suffering
This concept really struck me on many levels. I read a chunk of the book in the midst of training for my first 50 miler — and specifically between doing a back-to-back marathon race weekends. I’ve never done that before — and it was tough. I’m still kinda sore as I write this.
But, Cory really helped give me a perspective about pain and suffering that I hadn’t wholly grasped. Cory put in a way I finally was able to understand completely. Basically, the suffering we feel out there on the trails or course — is a suffering we choose. No matter whether it’s at mile 90, 35, 20 or 5 of a race — we chose this suffering, while there are many who suffer daily — not by choice.
I thought a lot about my Dad and the health problems he has had over the past number of years. He’s suffered from gout for years, gone through four knee replacement surgeries and it’s been tough on him mentally, physically and spiritually. It’s hard to see him go through a lot of this pain — but, he tries not to let it define him. I’ve learned a lot about pain management from him over the years.
The same goes with my Mom and friends who have suffered through cancer treatments. They didn’t choose cancer. They didn’t ask for the pain and suffering that come from recovery. Yet, the fight it. I trained for my first marathon while my Mom went through chemotherapy for breast cancer — and I can’t tell you how many times I told myself I couldn’t stop, because she didn’t have a choice to stop.
As I am less than a month out from my 50 miler I am going to keep this mentality forefront in my mind. Especially when I hit dark moments of thought during my race. I chose this suffering — and I can get through it.
Running Should Always Be Fun and Bring Joy!
One can’t accuse Cory of not having fun while out running. Whether it’s dressing up in a cat leotard in the middle of an ultra marathon or as Nacho Libre during a half marathon — Cory knows how to have fun and create it around him. Something that obviously resonated with me, because it’s a similar approach I’ve taken to running at times.
But, having fun while running is more than just wearing bizarre costumes or cat shirts. It’s about the enjoying the moment, enjoying the company and making new friendships out there along the course. Running brings me joy, so if you’re not out there having fun — what’s the point?
Now of course this doesn’t mean you have to running in a chicken suit to have fun. Joy is such an intimidate display — that it really is different from person to person. Whether you’re running in a chicken suit, cruising down a canyon or hitting a trail — if it brings you joy — do it..
We are creatures created to have and experience joy, we should never deny that or diminish that in whatever we do — and that includes running. Throughout the book this is a constant reminder through Cory’s many adventures in and out of cat leotards.
Listen to Your Body
I loved reading about Cory’s first marathon and how he had to learn to listen to his body in his training. I could relate in a number of ways. Having a “non-traditional” running body most “traditional” running plans don’t work best for me. Especially when my focus isn’t necessarily to BQ or PR during my marathons.
I just don’t have the body for road marathoning — and that’s fine. I never started running with those goals in mind. But, because of this I’ve taken different approaches to my training — and it changes upon my goals. Sometimes it’s a balance of speed and miles or miles and strength training or just miles or just strength training. And, I really leave a lot of that up to how my body is feeling.
My body has been a mess the past couple of years anyways with my thyroid and testosterone issues that I’ve learned there is no ONE way for me to get the most out of my body. I have to get creative and give my body what it needs.
Cory’s approach to training — not just for marathons, but ultra marathons — really speaks to me. And, quite honestly, makes the daunting task of tackling longer distance more doable for me. But, more than that it was a great reminder to me just simply listen to my body to avoid injuries that could take me away from my long term goals.
Find unique ways to challenge your limits
This past summer as I was training for my three marathons I had two 20 mile training runs I had to do. Knowing that I wanted both of them to help prepare me for the marathons and my 50 miler — I wanted them to be tough. My friend Jill recommended that I do one of them on the treadmill. Which is asking a lot out of me, because — well — I hate the treadmill.
But, I was intrigued.
I figured it would give me both a physical and mental challenge, so I decided to step up to the challenge. But, to make it even more of a challenge I decided to start my run at midnight. Yes, midnight. Runners and non-runners alike questioned my sanity — which isn’t new. But, it was exactly what I needed.
Jill and I have always been inspired by Cory’s crazy ideas. It’s gotten to the point that we don’t bat an eye to his next crazy adventure, because while they are crazy, we can see the reason and purpose behind it. Even if it’s doing 100 miles on a high school track or running a 100 miler each month for a year — Cory’s insanity just makes sense.
Plus, it makes the challenge a bit more “fun” to attempt. Why not make your attempt crazier? Why not make it tougher? More insane? More out there? Because, really you don’t know who’s watching and being inspired by your challenges — I know for one if it wasn’t for some of Cory’s crazy challenges — I probably wouldn’t think some of mine were possible.
The Back of the Pack is the Best Place to Run!
This was where I could really resonate with Cory — because I live in the back of the pack. Those are my people. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you go, it matters that you go. Not to give away anything from Cory’s book, but the way he illustrates this in his book really reminded me of how important your attitude is however fast or slow you may be.
I’ve hung out a lot in the back of the pack over the years — whether it’s been pacing, sweeping or just giving my best effort — and it took me a couple years to embrace that. I’ve learned over the years that there will always be someone faster than you — and that’s okay. That doesn’t make you any less of a runner. There are many more important intangibles that make you a runner than your place or pace.
Some of my fondest memories out on the course have been while hanging out in the back of the pack. Whether it was running with Jill during her first marathon or JessicaSue during her first half marathon or just finishing my first ultra marathon last year — I’ll remember those moments and friendships more than any time or pace. I’ll always love the back of the pack for those very reasons.
Needless to say, I loved Cory’s book. It really hit home to me about how to internalize and process suffering — on and off the course. It also reiterated the need to find joy in life. That’s something that is sometimes much easier said than done. But, through Cory’s story he illustrates that both can coexist — it’s just up to you.
For those who think this book is just for those interested in ultra marathoning that could be the furthest from the truth. This is a book for not just ultra marathoners, but runners of all shapes and sizes. This is a book for pretty much anyone. Because it’s a story and struggle of something much deeper than just a running story. I found myself laughing out loud and shedding a tear of sympathy throughout this book and I know others will as well.
You will love it.
Being the generous gent that I am and wanting to share this book with others, I am giving away a copy of Cory’s ‘Nowhere Near First’ to one lucky runner. Don’t worry, I am not giving you my used copy. I’m keeping that. But, I bought an extra copy and I want to give it someone that wants it.
So — here is what I am doing … to be enter into a drawing for the book all you need to do is ‘LIKE’ both Cory Reese’s Facebook page and PhatJosh’s page and then share this post on your Facebook wall. Let’s help get Cory’s message out to the masses and I want to put a copy of his book into someone’s hands.
I will name a winner here on the bloggy blog this upcoming Wednesday (October 12th).