Running to the Edge
Three questions for Matt Futterman, the author of a new book on legendary distance coach Bob Larsen
A new book on distance running Coach Bob Larsen, who guided superstar marathoner Meb Keflezighi, is earning rave reviews. “Running to the Edge,” by Matt Futterman, is available now on Amazon.
The New York Times Book Review called it: "Gripping . . . the narrative is smooth and immediate, almost effortless in its detail, if occasionally breathless, like a good fast run .."
We had the chance to speak with Futterman, whose day job is deputy sports editor for the Times, and a lifelong runner himself. Here are the insights he shared:
1. How did you stumble upon Coach Larsen's interesting story and what prompted you to make it the subject of your book?
Futterman: I always knew Bob as Meb Keflezighi's coach. I had interviewed him several times, and he invited me to a documentary that was largely about how he trained Meb and guided his comeback to win the Boston Marathon in 2014. There was a segment in the film about Bob's story, and the runners from San Diego he coached in the 1960s and 1970s who were known as the Jamul Toads. They were essentially his lab rats, the guinea pigs he used to hone his techniques, and there was this great picture of them at the 1976 National Cross Country Championships, which they came out of nowhere to win. They were all scraggly and I thought, I have to get to know these guys and write a book about them. I thought they could be a vehicle to answer the essential question for runners: "Why do we run?"
2. Slow runners, rather than fast ones, are the most prevalent group in American marathons today. What message does the story you tell have for them?
Futterman: There are three foundational principles to the Larsen philosophy of running and life that can provide invaluable help to anyone at any speed. 1)Teach your body and your mind to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, which is what happens when you go to your edge day after day, that place where if you go a little bit faster you won't be able to breath, your threshold. Do it for one mile, and then three next week and then five. We now call these "tempo runs." Find your edge and go to it. 2) Train with a group, because the group is more powerful than the individual and we can help each other be better. And 3) How you are born, where you are born, how much money you have, what kind of shoes you wear, whether you have a fancy sponsor, that is not your destiny. Your destiny is what you make of it through the work you put in. If you believe that, being a little better tomorrow than you were yesterday is possible.
3. What running lesson (or two) did you take away from writing "Running to the Edge?"
Futterman: I was always a volume person. I ran a lot of miles at the same pace. Bob taught me the importance of pushing myself, to try to give a purpose for every mile, to go to the zone of discomfort and to enjoy it because when you do the thing you are afraid of, that is where the magic happens.