Saturday, January 06, 2007

1. Bowerman and the Men of Oregon, Kenny Moore. Running, 1-6, p. 417

My first book of 2007 is completed: Kenny Moore’s fine Bowerman and the Men of Oregon. Reading this book is like running a 12-mile run – exhilarating, joyous, liberating.

Moore’s book is principally a biography of Oregon Duck track coach Bill Bowerman, but to tell Bowerman’s story Moore found he must also relate something of the settling of Oregon, share the stories of the men Bowerman coached at Oregon and delve into the the history of Nike, which was co-founded by Bowerman and one-time Duck runner Phil Knight. Because of Bowerman’s success as a coach and his influence upon track and field, we also receive an abbreviated history of the sport spanning about five decades.

Bowerman was a force of nature. A brilliant and intuitive coach, he eschewed the one system fits all approach adopted by many coaches, instead favoring a training program tailored to the individual. He especially believed that less could be more, emphasizing the importance of a hard-easy approach to training.

Among the athletes he trained were the author, a two-time Olympian; Bill Dellinger, Dyrol Burleson, Otis Davis, Jim Grelle, Harry Jerome, Archie San Romani, Jere Van Dyk and late, legendary Steve Prefontaine.

Bowerman’s accomplishments extended beyond the track. He was a decorated World War II solider, helped launch the jogging movement in America after returning from New Zealand where he witnessed the popularity of Arthur Lydiard’s running program for the masses in that country, he was a tireless innovator, whose desire to prevent injuries in his runners led to countless running shoe designs, including the revolutionary waffle-sole trainer. His zeal as a shoe designer led to the founding of Nike, once a scrambling Eugene business selling running shoes from car trunks and today the largest distributor of athletic footwear in the world.

Beyond the Oregon athletes, Jim Ryun and Frank Shorter are here, Mary Decker, Lasse Viren, the Mexico City, Munich and Los Angeles Olympics, a couple of running movies by Robert Towne and much, much more. Moore, long a talented writer for Sports Illustrated, has given us an inspirational, enjoyable book. Lace up your trainers and hit the trail, this book is a delight.

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