Malcolm Anderson’s latest book, The Messengers, is a collection of tales from over 120 runners, each of whom has run over 100 marathons. While I am personally honored to have been one of the 120 runners Malcolm spoke to in order to formulate this book, I wish that myself, and perhaps about 60 others had not been included. Do I have a vendetta against those 60 people? Not at all. It is just I think this book, while very enjoyable, could be so much more entertaining if it focused more on the tales told by fewer people and not necessarily getting as many people who have run over 100 marathons crammed into one book as possible.
Having said that, the personal tales of accomplishment are pleasurable to read and to see normal ordinary people continue to finish marathon after marathon can be inspiring. But far too often the stories would echo each other. You would begin to think perhaps you had read something very similar earlier in the book and chances are you did. The couch potato turned marathoner is a story which, say ten years ago, was new. But as marathon running has moved completely into the mainstream of racing, completion of a marathon, or ten or even 100, has become increasingly, dare I say, easier.
As I mentioned, I am listed in this book and Malcolm is a friend. I obviously have nothing to gain by being negative here but I do so anyway as I thoroughly enjoyed what I read. I just wish there had been less of it. Malcolm’s style of writing flows very easily and he has a great sense of humor. He can weave tales from runners into the fabric of a narrative with ease.
As Dave McGillivray, the RD of the Boston Marathon says “The Messengers is a collection of so many of these inspirational stories that will leave the reader believing they can accomplish anything they want to if they are willing to make the sacrifices involved and if they have the courage and guts to make the commitment.” I whole-heartedly agree. Now, whether a runner can actually accomplish those things they wish to accomplish is entirely different. However, it is the belief that they can, even when faced with insurmountable odds, that is contained within these pages.
Chances are, if you are a marathon runner, you will either recognize one of the runners profiled in this book or more or less see yourself described in the narrative. That is what, I feel, is The Messengers strongest point. It can take someone like Horst Priestler, who has run over 1600 marathons, and make him feel like he is just about the same person, deep down, as that runner who just finished number three.