Personal Record: A Love Affair with Running
by Rachel Toor


University of Nebraska Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-8032-6033-7.
Reviewed by Doris Anne Roop-Benner
Posted on 11/25/2008

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Active Life

I'll be honest; I don't understand people who run for fun. I guess my body just doesn't feel like it's built to do that. But Rachel Toor makes me want to be a runner.

Toor admits that she started running not to lose weight or get healthy, but so that she wouldn't be left behind. She enjoyed being part of a running club because she recognized herself in others and she was welcomed by strangers as a comrade. Through running she learned to be herself.

One of the first things Toor did when she decided to run was to get a coach. This man sounds like someone you'd like to have as a friend and mentor, who takes from people the best of what they have to give and ignores everything else. In addition, she bought a watch—a big watch with large numbers so she can see her time when she's racing. Even though it might look silly on her slight wrist, she knows it makes her look like a runner.

When Toor shows up at the starting line, she expects to race, but not to win. And then the gun goes off and she starts caring about how many women are in front of her and she picks up the pace. She likes being the first woman to finish. She has participated in many different kinds and lengths of races, even one that involved teams with two people and a horse. Toor says that runners would like to keep running for their entire mortal lives. But age is a great foe. So she's joined a Pace Team. She leads groups at marathons and answers questions about training, marathoning, nutrition, and hydration. As a volunteer, she gives her time and energy to pace at about thirty minutes slower than her typical marathon time. She knows her speedy times are behind her, but pacing sustains her as a runner.

We can all find something inspiring in this book of stories about her running experiences. What might motivate me is that you get to eat pretty much what you want and the running will take care of the calories.


Rachel Toor teaches writing at Eastern Washington University, is a columnist for the Chronicle of Higher Education, and a senior writer for Running Times. She is the author of The Pig and I: How I Learned to Love Men (Almost) as Much as I Love My Pets and Admissions Confidential: An Insider's Account of the Elite College Selection Process. A graduate of Yale University, she received an MFA from the University of Montana and currently lives in Spokane. Visit her website.

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