Running For The Hansons: Book Review


We all know, or at least have a pretty good idea, of the lives that professional athletes like Tom Brady, Kobe Bryant, and Alex Rodriguez have.  In short, they’re ballers.  Fancy cars, mansions, and a singular obligation to perform on the field.  These guys don’t have day jobs, unless you count shooting commercials as a day job.  I don’t.  Less understood is the world of the professional runner, whose life likely has little to do with the three gentlemen referenced above.  What Chris Lear’s Running With The Buffaloes did to illuminate the world of D-1 collegiate running at the University of Colorado, Sage Canaday’s new book, Running For The Hansons, does for the world of professional running as he chronicles his training with the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project (otherwise known as Hansons-Brooks ODP).

In Running For The Hansons, we learn about Sage’s path from high-level high school runner to Cornell University and on to ODP.  In brief, the Distance Project is a professional training group founded by the Hanson brothers Michigan.  As you may have guessed by the team name, Brooks Running provides sponsorship for the team, both in gear and lucrative bonuses for runners achieving certain time and place goals.  So far, the two biggest names to have slipped on the fantastically garish ODP uniforms (I’m being serious here, go bold or go home I say when it comes to running gear colors) are Olympian Brian Sell and 2011 Boston Marathon runner-up Desiree Davilla.  For anyone watching, Desi, as she’s more commonly known, produced one of the more inspiring performances ever as she fought tooth and nail with two Kenyan racers, clearly gassed but unwilling to give up.  The ODP team is now making a name for itself alongside teams like Nike’s Oregon Track Club, Mammoth Running Club, and Team USA Minnesota.  With young guns like Sage Canaday on the squad, ODP will continue to increase its visibility on the national racing scene.

[OFF-TOPIC NOTE: I can’t help but tell you, dear reader, that as I write this review I am seated on a plane next to a grown man wearing a fanny pack and watching that Justin Bieber movie.  I anticipate an Amber Alert concerning this man sometime in the near future.]

Well, that was less than brief, but on to the review.  Running For The Hansons alternates between chapters on Sage’s life, his training, his racing, and the Hansons team more generally, with chapters devoted to Sell and Davilla.  The chapters about Sage on a personal level are the most striking  as they reveal not only the self-doubts that many of us amateur runners struggle with, but also the relentless drive and determination that many of us amateur runners wish we could conjure up.  While it’s tough to commiserate with him when he describes being the fat guy at 150 pounds, it’s easy to empathize when, after a particularly disheartening race he finds himself asking “what am I doing with my life?  Is this what I want?”  Although Sage recognizes that someday he may have to get a “real” job, he also knows that he is blessed with a true gift and is determined to see how far he can take that gift.

But Running For The Hansons isn’t all deep thoughts and ponderous moments.  Sage also tells us of what is essentially a frat house full of skinny very fast dudes.  This isn’t a luxury condo in the mountains outfitted with zero-g treadmills where the athletes essentially are either running or resting.  No, Sage lives in a drafty old house, provided for him by the Hansons and inhabited by runners who are either running or working at one of the Hansons’ multiple running stores.  Working in the shop provides Sage with fodder for one of my favorite chapters where he describes the various types of people that come into the shop seeking his assistance.  For anyone who has either worked in retail, or spent a great deal of time in running stores, and I’ve done both, it is spot-on.  Sage somehow simultaneously made the me both envious of his life as a pro runner and thankful I worked a job with a steady paycheck that didn’t depend on my ability to get from Point A to Point B faster than the next guy.

As for the training, Sage gives the reader a very good idea of just what it takes to become a world-class runner.  If you thought your 30-40 miles/week was going to get you there, I have good news, you’re about a third of the way there.  A typical daily run for the Hansons-Brooks crew is a long run for most of us done at a pace that many of us would be happy to run for a quarter mile repeat.  When it comes to racing, we learn about the amenities big races bestow on the elites as well as the highs and lows these elites can feel at the finish line when their livelihoods depend on what the clock shows.  Even though my times will never be within an order of magnitude to Sage’s (I don’t actually know what that means mathematically, suffice to say he is wicked fast), he makes it easy to relate to that feeling that comes when expectations are met/unmet (I don’t want to give anything away).

The humanity that Sage lends to his writing is what makes Running For The Hansons such a compelling read.  He doesn’t fill his writing with religious references and you won’t see him in Runners’ World advertising for a Japanese car company (no, I won’t name the gangly blonde runner I am subtly referencing here).  Instead, his writing speaks to the amateur runner hoping to understand his world a little better, cutting through all pretense.  If you’re looking for inspiration for your summer training, a revealing autobiography, or an interesting read on being a professional runner, I highly recommend you check out Sage Canaday’s Running For The Hansons.

To learn more about Sage’s book, check out his website at: http://vo2maxproductions.com/

[Full disclosure: Although I purchased this book myself, I am a member of the Brooks ID team and therefore affiliated with Brooks Running.]

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