The 1980s children’s television show Why Don’t You? had one of the most stunningly honest slogans in television history. Turn off your TV sets, viewers were told, and ‘do something less boring instead’. The same injunction could apply to books about running. Running is something you should be out there doing, not something you sit in a chair reading about.
Vybarr Cregan-Reid is far too smart a writer to let this pass him by. He’s far too honest as well. From the off, we learn that he’s not an especially good runner, that he struggles with his weight and that he occasionally bunks off work. He’s much like the majority of us, in other words. At one stage, he even concedes that analysing running is to miss the real point of it. To write about it is to turn an opportunity to escape into an object of work: it is to transform the beatific ‘nothinks’ emptiness of running into something that demands thinking.
The central thesis of Footnotes is that when we run we are fully human. This isn’t a book about technique or speed or even exercise. At its heart, it’s about the transformational potential of running: how something as simple as putting one foot in front of the other for mile