Book Review: In Search of Al Howie

I'm sure most runners approach the endurance aspect of running in an incremental way - this year I'll train for a 10K and, if it goes well, I'll sign up for a half marathon. Imagine this mindset being projected to another galaxy - one where multi-day races and "events"(like trying to run across Canada in less than 82 days) occur. There, you have where Canadian ultramarathon, dare I say, legend, Al Howie, inhabited. I'm giving In Search of Al Howie by author, Jared Beasley, the Experiment of One Coaching Stamp of Approval and recommend it to my readers. What I like about this book is that, like Howie, I'm from British Columbia and related to the author's descriptions of running in B.C. And, before I started reading this book, I had a vague notion of who Al Howie was but little factual detail. This book provides lots of detail.

In Search of Al Howie took me back to running in the 1980s. At this time, the connection between mindfulness and running seemed more explicit than present day. The idea was that through running ultramarathons and multi-day events, one could transcend the physical side of running. The book details Howie’s amazing ability to, not only run 100 miles in a single day, but then string this feat together over a number of days! For instance, he finished a 1300 mile race in 16 days 19 hours to set a world record in the process, a race organized by spiritual teacher, Sri Chinmoy. According to the author, Chinmoy’s instructions to runners about to embark on a multi-day race consisted of: "Run and become. Become and run. Run to succeed in the outer world. Become to proceed in the inner world." Then the runners were off, with little fanfare.

Al Howie Crossing the Finish Line at the Sri Chimnoy Ultra Distance Trio

To me, running and mindfulness just go together naturally. When this topic comes up among runners; in addition to sheer physical endurance, as Howie demonstrated, other ways runners can accomplish this include: running to raise money for charity, mentoring/coaching other runners, and volunteering for races. In this book, Al Howie did all of these acts as well.

In Search of Al Howie is available at major book retailers. Thanks for reading. In my next post, I do my own search for Al Howie by trying to locate newspaper coverage of him from the 1980s. Also, in a future post, I’ll discuss a different way of transcending the physical side of running: becoming a Citizen Scientist.