‘Comes alive …constant sense of humour, clean, clear writing style’ – Rich Benyo (Marathon and Beyond Editor)
‘“It is a great idea to weave reflections on the history and culture of running around the motif of a journey to several races, Always lucid and enjoyable’ – Roger Robinson (Author of Running and Literature’ and co-author with Kathrine Switzer of ’26.2. Marathon Stories’)
“I’m a “non-avid” reader, but I had available time to start reading this exciting book on a Saturday afternoon and finished reading all 394 pages by the next evening!!! As a non-runner who has attended more than 300 marathons to be a volunteer or support person, I want to add that Malcolm gave us a book that I “couldn’t put down” until I had read every page!!” – Lenore Dolphin (Director of the North American 100 Marathon Club)
“Will surely inspire runners across the world. … well-researched history … A must for anyone contemplating the 26.2 miles.” – Scott Umpleby, Brathay Windermere Marathon race director
“The text is beautifully written and would be perfect for anyone who has an interest in marathon running.”
– Mick Rice, Athenry Athletic Club, Ireland
“It is a book that testifies that everything is possible if one has the ambition and resolution to pursue a dream. I really enjoyed the book. Indeed, I wouldn’t have read it as quickly if I hadn’t found it totally absorbing… I was genuinely inspired on a couple of occasions to just go for a run ‘for the fun of it’. It was no hardship to review a book like this and it deserves to be a great success.” – Jack Brooks, Secretary, 100 Marathon Club, United Kingdom
As a runner and author, I have ready many a blog, book or story about running marathons. Malcolm Anderson has written one of the more compelling stories that engaged me enough to get to the books finish line. His sense of humor along the way made the read very enjoyable. The books centers around his pursuit of completing 3 destination marathons in 2 months. The book is must reading for anyone who participates in marathons or half marathons. It will also be time well spent for anyone with a sense of humor or who have ever owned a pair of running shoes. (Amazon Book Review)
Comments from Marathon runners
‘I have had may happy sessions on the machines at the gym reading your book (Odyssey) and will move on the others. What a pleasure that was, you thoroughly entertained and inspired me. What an adventure to share. I just hope that with lots of effort I can get even close to that level of accomplishment with half the humour and enjoyment’. (Ontario)
I completed reading your book and thoroughly enjoyed it. A good read and inspirational! I also recently read McDougall’s book – Born to Run. That was also a great story – really he presented a model for living! The two books have inspired me to run more (Ontario)
For Christmas I treated myself to your A MARATHON ODYSSEY. I must say it was a good read … A great book for us old runners, with a few under our belt. Loved all the facts peppered throughout, and also the personal thing about your marathons, so much I could identify with. A great book. (United Kingdom)
“I am really enjoying your book. I feel like I know you so well from reading it, mainly because you are “one of us” rather than some elite racer or expert doctor. You therefore struggle with the same issues we all struggle with (need to run today but don’t want to, what gadgets do I need and what don’t I need, need to run but work won’t let me, etc.) and I can relate to that.” (Washington State)
“I am so enjoying your book! Love your sense of humor and writing style…like someone I’d like to visit with.” (South Dakota)
“Finished your book. I like your style with lots of humour. I can see where a runner – especially a novice or a fanatic like me – would enjoy it.” (Florida)
“I have a work colleague here who has turned into a runner due to me lending him the Odyssey book in the summer. He cites your book as the inspiration.” (United Kingdom)
“I thoroughly enjoyed reading your book and will recommend it to anyone”. (Running Tours operator)
“I enjoyed reading your books “A Marathon Odyssey” and “The Cayman Islands Marathon”. They are very well written. Much more interesting and personal than most running books that I have read” (Ontario).
“I feel like I’ve known you for years! What a wonderful story you tell” (Washington State).
“I must admit I was a little dubious about how much interest I would have in a book describing what was only your second, third and fourth marathon. Especially as I’ve already run 111 marathons with another due this weekend. But it was brilliant – I couldn’t put it down; that’s an exaggeration, but only slightly – I only put it down when we were on our way out. The very fact it was over half way through before you describe actually running the first of your featured marathons was a stroke of genius. The build-up made the book for me” (United Kingdom).
“What makes the book good, and it is good, is Malcolm’s writing style. He has a rather good talent at turning a phrase and when you might be tempted to let your eyes glaze over a bit and skip ahead (it is 394 pages long, but the pages are small), you would be wise not to do so as each paragraph usually has a tongue-in-cheek witticism hidden somewhere in it” (Utah).
The End of an Odyssey – from Canadian running magazine I-Run – Book review Blog
June 14th, 2013
“For a friend with an understanding heart is worth no less than a brother”
GRANT: Vicky, it’s been awhile how are you?
VICKY: I’m good Grant. I’m settled down. I’m getting married as you know. The practice is going well and I’ve been down my fair share of charitable activities.
GRANT: I’m happy to hear it. Since you’ve moved away it’s been more difficult to stay in touch. It’s been more challenging of course to keep the blog going.
VICKY: So true. What have you been up to?
GRANT: Well I did have the opportunity to sit down with our old friend Malcolm Anderson the other day. We wrote a couple of blog posts about his book The Messengers a couple of years ago and interviewed him. We also wrote about him in the magazine. That book is truly awesome. It’s a collection of interviews he’s done with runners with more than 100 marathons under their belts.
VICKY: He’s a great guy who’s spent a lot of time in the running community and helping to celebrate it.
GRANT: Yes. I love his writing too. The Messengers is one of my favorite books and now I’m reading one of his earlier books, “A Marathon Odyssey“.
VICKY: Is it as good as The Messengers?
GRANT: Yes, in many ways. It’s focussed on his first three marathons. It reads a lot like a journal and it reminds me a lot of Haruki Murakami’s book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Malcolm has such a tremendous wit. Almost every paragraph includes a sly joke. The book is really a lot of fun and it’s great to read the thoughts of an articulate person who is experiencing running and it’s challenges.
VICKY: What did you ask him about?
GRANT: Well, the book is focused on the first three marathons he ran and I was curious why he chose those ones in particular.
MALCOLM: A friend and I had seen the Goofy Challenge and decided to try it. Then, one night looking at the various marathons around on the internet I noticed Athens a couple months sooner. I’d been reading a lot about marathon running and figured that it would be kind of neat to write about the experiences of me training for and running in, both marathon events, and tracing the evolution of marathon running at the same time. They were a bit like bookends. I figured I should also attempt one in between the two of them and the Cayman’s leapt out at me. And it was perfect because it’s your classic destination marathon.
GRANT: How many marathons have you now run?
MALCOLM: Late 40s – Should have 50 sometime in the fall.
GRANT: Yeah. For those who have read The Messengers it’s really cool to see Malcolm transform himself into one of these people. I’m sure he’ll get to 100 marathons at some point. I asked him what are his favourites.
MALCOLM: MANY!! Here’s a few ….
Brathay Marathon around Lake Windermere in the Lake District, England
Comrades Ultra, South Africa
Boston (this year got stopped at mile 25)
Connemara Marathon, Ireland
Niagara on the Lake
Yakima, Washington State
GRANT: And what remains on your bucket list?
MALCOLM: Still many more. Berlin, Haliburton 100 Miler, Badwater, Comrades again
VICKY: Comrades! You wanted to do that too didn’t you?
GRANT: Yes. For sure. The other thing which I don’t think we’ve written about before is Malcolm’s involvement with a worldwide charity run, Run For Tomorrow. http://www.r4t.org Run for Tomorrow is a continuous relay-style run around the world by a team of experienced marathon runners. Each member of the team runs a marathon distance (26.2 miles/ 42.2 km) and passes the baton to the next runner. Through 30 countries and for 200 days, the baton never stops moving.
The overall goal of R4T is to improve the health and well-being of individuals around the world. R4T seeks to:
- Educate children and adults about the importance of healthy living and exercise, and
- Encourage and inspire them to commit to making positive changes in their own lives.
- Raise awareness and support for people with diabetes, heart and stroke conditions and those who are in poverty.
I asked him about the preparations.
MALCOLM: Great. Start date of April 2014 from Ottawa. We return to Ottawa in October 2014. We have 10 amazing distance runners from 7 different countries in the Run for Tomorrow Team. We’re getting interest from around the world. Very exciting. Please visit the website or the Facebook page: Run for Tomorrow (R4T)
VICKY: Of all the people we’ve met on our iRun journey Malcolm has got to be one of the most inspiring.
GRANT: For sure. No one helps me get my running shoes on quite like him and nobody makes me want to write a blog post more than him.
VICKY: But its time for us to move on.
GRANT: Agreed. We’ve enjoyed our time with iRun. There are a lot of good people associated with iRun and it starts with Mark Sutcliffe.
VICKY: It’s been a great run (pardon the pun), but for a variety of reasons it’s best for us to move on.
GRANT: We want to thank everyone, from Mark to Malcolm, Karen Karnis, Lisa Georges and all the iRun team for inviting us on board.
VICKY: And we want to wish the whole iRun team the best of luck and I’m sure we’ll see you out there at events. Au revoir to you.
GRANT: Finally we should thank the readers and by that I mean the people who clicked on this by accident. Run long and prosper….
From Marathon & Beyond Editor, Rich Benyo
Book Review of ‘A Marathon Odyssey’
There are scores of runners these days writing extensively about their various running adventures and many of them are turning into unreadable books. The resulting books are more like expanded running logs wedged between the covers of a book. “On Thursday I ran 14 miles on my regular 14-mile course. It was sunny and warm and I wore my Nike Thrill-Seeker GTs and no shirt. I looked like one of those skinny runner guys on the cover of Runner’s World, minus the six-pack abs.”
The book goes on, in tedious detail, to share with a reluctant reader every run and race for that particular year, with a stated goal of running at least one marathon a month. The only good thing is that, unlike the nouveau runner in person, who can push you into a corner and give you a cauliflower ear by relating every step of every run, you can either put a bookmark in the tome or you can consign it to a dark corner of a closet.
Enough already. Let that tree live, brother. Don’t pulp it for yet another such book.
Every once in a while someone stumbles along who manages to fashion a readable first-person running book, typically by leavening it with several factors above (below?) a step-by-step compendium:
‘A Marathon Odyssey’ covers more than that runner’s runs and races, often taking on the whole phenomenon of running…or, in this case, marathoning, giving its history as he goes along, thereby making the book of interest to even non-runners.
The author fashions stories that he inserts, either to make a point or to break up the narrative, and by so doing, entertain the reader.
The guy has a serious sense of humor, which permeates the book, and which assures the reader that, yes, this guy is serious about his running but, no, he doesn’t take himself too seriously in the process.
Some people can do this juggling act, others can’t come close. Some can keep this act going for a dozen pages or so, while others manage to go to marathon lengths and still not lose the fun along the way.
Such a book is A Marathon Odyssey, Malcolm Anderson’s tale of his personal quest to run a meager three marathons in two months: Athens (the course closest to the marathon’s origin), Cayman Island (can you say “destination marathon”?), and Disney’s Goofy Challenge (the “Donald Duck-inspired” half-marathon on Saturday and the Mickey Mouse-inspired marathon on Sunday). Anderson peppers the book with numerous sidebars, everything from a study of the growth of marathon running to the rise of running for causes. He also inserts pages of photos from his adventures, with sometimes off-the-wall captions that further lighten the mood.
A light yet informative read, one with real legs.
Book Review – NORTHWEST RUNNER, United States
What is a “messenger”? A different title for a running book, but this is different book. The author, Malcolm Anderson, has put together a thoughtful book about distance runners, especially those who have run 100 or more marathons. One can imagine how this book could have been presented, a chapter devoted to each runner with a few bromides. We’ve certainly seen many of these. But Anderson has gone far beyond this simple format and tied together these disparate athletes in an attempt to find what makes them run and what they have to teach the rest of us, including those who have not and may never run even one marathon. Inevitably Bob and Lenore Dolphin are centerpieces of the book. We say “inevitably” because Malcolm Anderson has run the Dolphin’s Yakima River Canyon Marathon and found the couple to be a source of both contacts to other 100 marathoners as well as lots of great stories of their own. And since Malcolm Anderson lives just across the border in B.C., he is especially aware of the unusually rich collection of 100+ marathoners we have in this area. Local readers will recognize names and photos of such luminaries as Todd Byers, Gunhild Swanson, Leslie Miller, Ron Fowler, Steve Yee, Chris Warren, Tony Philippi, Sean Meissner, Jeff Hagen, Van Phan, Carol Dellinger . . . the list goes on and on. Each is profiled briefly and often quoted.
The “Messengers” of the book’s title are bringing us news from a world only they know, but one into which they are eager to welcome us. How do people get into marathoning in this quantity, when to most of us one is enough for a lifetime? How do they keep going, and what benefits do they receive? Why does Todd Byers run all over the country, especially when his times are often very slow, well over six hours? Refreshingly, he says, “. . . it’s about seeing people and seeing some parts of the country (and the world) I probably would not otherwise. . . People tell me if I didn’t stop and talk to everyone (along the way) I’d probably run a marathon in about two hours.” Ron Fowler reveals the he started running to relax from the pressures of the insurance business, and while now he never feels totally rested, he still gets great benefits from running . . . still more mental than physical. The social aspect of running is important to most of these distance runners, a fact that might surprise some outside of the scene. After all, what about the storied “loneliness of the long distance runner”? As Van Pan states in The Messengers, “I have more friends now than I used to have. . . I’m surrounded by friends at races now. We all suffer through it, we all relate . . . it’s a bonding experience.” My only complaint about the book is that I wish it had an index so we could easily look up our local favorites. Still, this is a weak complaint and you’ll encounter someone you know on almost every page, the above mentioned as well as national figures such as Olympian Jeff Galloway and veteran runner/writer Hal Higdon. Malcolm Anderson has truly put together a well-written ample (300 pages) book that will make a lasting contribution to distance running, from the non-elite side, and we urge everyone to get a copy. Published in Canada, where Anderson resides, The Messengers is a bargain at $17.50. •
“The Messengers comes with our highest recommendation… This wonderful book is inspiring in and of itself. It is a breathtaking accomplishment. If you want a book that will not only inspire you to run a marathon, but may inspire you to run 100, then this book is for you”.
i-Run magazine, Canada
RAIN TAXI REVIEW OF BOOKS – Online Edition: Summer 2012
by Scott F. Parker
In Running in Literature, Roger Robinson argues that the marathon “is without parallel in being a major sports event that has entirely literary origins.” Those origins reach back to Herodotus, Plutarch, and Lucian, but it was Robert Browning’s 1879 poem “Pheidippides”—which recounts the legend of the Greek messenger of that name bringing news to Athens in 490 BCE that their army had defeated the Persians in the Battle of Marathon, running the whole way and dying promptly after delivering the message—that later led organizers to include a long-distance race in the first modern Olympics (Athens 1896) to commemorate Pheidippides’ accomplishment. That race was approximately twenty-five miles, and none of the seventeen competitors completed the event without walking. The distance wasn’t standardized at 26.2 miles until 1921. Women weren’t allowed to marathon until the 1960s, and didn’t have the race as an Olympic event until 1984.
All this history is just to say that the marathon as we know it is an upstart. This makes the exponential increase in the number of people running marathons, the number of marathons out there to run, and the number of marathons individuals are running either more or less impressive—but in any case unprecedented as far back as we have records. It’s those distance runners who are compelled not just by distance but by repetition as well who interest Malcolm Anderson in The Messengers. “Messengers,” drawing from Pheidippides, are runners who have completed at least one hundred marathons.
Anderson became interested in these runners after meeting one at the 2006 Athens Marathon; Anderson was there to run his first marathon, Dave his 200th. This accidental encounter led the author to wonder why these runners keep going, what we can learn from them, and why “they all seem so damn happy,” and these questions set Anderson out to interview scores of messengers from around the world. The book intertwines his interview transcripts with musings on the sport and readings of the running literature and philosophy.
The result is as inspirational as you’d expect. The achievements themselves are staggering—runners who earn messenger status in a single year; runners who surpass 1,000 marathons—but perhaps more striking is the amount and kind of meaning these athletes draw from their sport. Again and again, the things these runners say about running center around friendship, learning, self-acceptance, and happiness. Health for them is as much mental, spiritual, and emotional as it is physical. These runners all participate in the joy of running qua running, a jovial state wherein the experience of running becomes its sole purpose. Anderson quotes James Fixx capturing this approach well in his book, The Complete Book of Running: “We can run where we want to. We can go fast or slow, hard or easy. We can run by ourselves or with friends. We can get out seven days a week or fewer. We can think or let our minds go blank. All these choices are entirely up to us: furthermore we can change them according to the minute-by-minute requirements and fancies of our minds and bodies.” The messages these runners carry begin from running but they finish with life itself: “throw away the watch,” says Jim Barnes; “enjoy the run,” says Harold Copeland. “That’s the answer. Enjoy whatever you’re doing.”
“The stories are truly inspirational and helped us question what we previously thought were our own personal physical and mental limits. Anderson set out on a quest to, as he says, find out why runners who have run 100 or more marathons and ultras keep doing it and what can we learn from them, and to that end he interviewed more than a hundred of them. He refers to these runners as Messengers and after reading their inspiring stories we can’t help but agree.” – The Posh Mom website
“I read a book recently, “The Messengers” by Malcolm Anderson (Amazon affiliate link). He writes about people who have run over 100 marathons or ultramarathons. Anderson, himself, has logged about 45 and he finds these hardcore distance runners to be fascinating people. I know that they spend a lot more time running my dream run than I do running my usual run. I envy them.
If you are looking for a little running inspiration then you should definitely get this book. When I finished the last page, I practically threw down the book, laced on my sneakers, and sprinted out the door because I was so enthralled with this lifestyle. These people are happy, they are at peace, they travel to amazing places, and they have a blast doing it. They are part of a larger community that accepts—no, embraces—quirkiness, and they’ll all probably live until they’re 100 because they are so darned healthy.
I had the chance to speak with Anderson on the phone and, after I finished the call, I once again immediately laced up those sneakies and headed out the door. Here’s some of our conversation” ….
“The personal tales of accomplishment are pleasurable to read and to see normal ordinary people continue to finish marathon after marathon can be inspiring. …Malcolm’s style of writing flows very easily and he has a great sense of humor. He can weave tales from runners into the fabric of a narrative with ease. … Chances are, if you are a marathon runner, you will either recognize one of the runners profiled in this book or more or less see yourself described in the narrative. That is what, I feel, is The Messengers strongest point. It can take someone like Horst Priestler, who has run over 1600 marathons, and make him feel like he is just about the same person, deep down, as that runner who just finished number three.” Blue Ridge Outdoors
The Messengers, by Malcolm Anderson, The Experience Publishers, 296 pages
The Messengers is not about running, but about runners and the things they can accomplish. The book aims to inspire, and it quickly gets its message across. More than 100 marathon runners are featured in the book, all of whom have run more than 100 marathons. Anderson calls these runners the Messengers, inspired by ancient Greek traditions (distance runners would deliver messages from city to city) and implying that each runner has a message to deliver. Featured in less than 300 pages are 120 runners, meaning readers must jump from athlete to athlete without getting to know most of them or learn much from them. More meaningful are the tidbits of information throughout the book and the resourceful introductions to each chapter. That being said, the purpose of the book was obviously fulfilled. Anderson interviewed runners who have been athletes all their lives, runners who started because they were out of shape, runners with injuries, runners with severe disabilities. And each of them has run at least 100 marathons. This book was written by a runner to inspire others to run long distances. But whether readers are runners or not, the book holds a message for each reader. For Anderson, running represents goal-setting and self-motivation, confidence and self- esteem, all of which are qualities necessary for happy and healthy lives.