Runner Reads: “The Incomplete Book of Running” by Peter Sagal

Vanessa Junkin's signed copy of "The Incomplete Book of Running," plus her ticket to his book tour.
Peter Sagal signed my copy of his book, “The Incomplete Book of Running.” (Vanessa Junkin photo)

As a big fan of “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me,” I was excited when I heard Peter Sagal, the host of the show, was coming out with a running-related book. That’s two things I love rolled into one!

I actually finished Sagal’s book, “The Incomplete Book of Running,” last year, but I’m just now getting around to blogging about it. He also had a book tour, and I attended his talk in Washington, D.C., at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, last fall. (If you’re interested, the event was recorded for Sixth & I’s podcast, too.)

The event was held just days after the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, and a candle was lit in memory of the victims before the talk began.

Sagal chatted with Linda Holmes, also of NPR. Since I listen to “Wait Wait” every week, it was fun to actually see Sagal in person and put a face to the voice.

I asked a question at the event during the question-and-answer session. As a fan of “Wait Wait,” running, and sometimes listening to “Wait Wait” as I run, I asked him whether he likes to listen to podcasts while running. He said he actually likes running without headphones, but he does enjoy “The Daily” podcast.

Then, upon seeing my orange BibRave hoodie, he noted he’d just been on The BibRave Podcast. I wore it on purpose, of course, and I’d listened to that podcast.

I’d chosen to get a ticket to the event that included a copy of the book, and he signed my book, too.

Peter Sagal, right, talks as Linda Holmes moderates at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue.
Peter Sagal speaks during his book tour stop at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in October 2018. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

Back in my eRace the Stigma recap from earlier this year, I made a note of something Sagal said at the event. It was about his experience with depression, and I thought it was right on when it comes to mental health struggles.

“Coming to the realization on my own that this was a problem I had was both terrifying but also liberating, ’cause you’re like, ‘oh, I’m not like uniquely weird,’” Sagal said.

There was also a fun and unexpected joke that came up during the question-and-answer session, in which he said to someone that what he was saying probably wasn’t her question, and then a different audience member said “That was my question,” in the perfect tone. Anyway, it was hilarious.

I found myself nodding when he mentioned certain things, such as not being able to live without running and when he was talking about running in groups. He also talked some about “Wait Wait.”

Peter Sagal sits at a table and signs a book for a fan, who is smiling.
Peter Sagal signs a book for a fan. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

I enjoyed his book, in which he wrote about many of his own experiences relating to running. The book also included parts about his personal life, including getting through a divorce.

I found it especially interesting to read about Sagal’s experiences as a guide for blind runners. I saw blind runners with guides at the Marine Corps Marathon, and I’m sure that would be such a valuable experience — but I’m not quite sure I would be fast enough. Sagal was actually guiding a blind runner during the 2013 Boston Marathon — the year of the bombing.

He wrote about banditing a race (which he assumes most runners have done at some point, but I haven’t) and how he volunteered at a Gatorade table to try to make up for it.

I love that he writes at one point in the book: “Get over it, and find a running group.” When he says “Get over it,” he’s talking about any kind of notions about only wanting to run alone or feeling awkward around others while running.

Just a little bit later, he writes, “You do not have to worry about how you look. Running is the sport equivalent of a nudist camp. We simply accept each other as we are, for in any other direction lies madness.”

The cover of "The Incomplete Book of Running" by Peter Sagal.
The cover of “The Incomplete Book of Running” by Peter Sagal. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

He then notes that if you run with others, you have the perfect people to talk to about running, of course.

I’m a huge fan of group runs and the support that a group can bring, and I started hosting a weekly Eastern Shore Running Club group run back in 2016. I love seeing people week after week, having new people join and get super into running, talking to people I’d probably have never met otherwise, and providing the motivation of a group setting.

Sagal’s book is written in a fun and conversational tone. I’m glad I was able to see him on his book tour last fall, and I’d recommend the book, too.

Find the book on Amazon here. While I read the book, I see Sagal also narrates the audiobook.

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