By Justin Slater
I’ve read several books about running, but Justin Slater’s Blood, Sweat, and Shame is one of a kind.
Slater, for me, is easy to relate to. He says that his entire “list of personal attributes” that qualifies him to complete an ultra marathon is this: “Really, really compulsive tendencies. Usually about food.”
The author is always funny and honest—sometimes too honest. And he never has a superior tone. His main goal, it seems, (besides sharing his experience) is to make fun of himself:
“At no point during your reading do I expect you to feel a twinge of anything approaching inspiration.”
Slater does a fair amount of taking jabs at the running culture in general. As a runner myself, I agree with all his observations and criticisms, even when they apply to me.
The author’s main story is how he went from being out of shape and overweight to completing a 50 mile run, and what he learned from it. In the end, he concludes that “running doesn’t matter,” that it can be a selfish pursuit, but that it can also be good therapy. If you like it, do it, but don’t try to justify it or expect others to be impressed by it.
Slater seems to go out of his way to make you not like him, but he comes across as very likable—a normal guy who would be fun to hang out with. One of the things I liked most about his book is how much he shows his appreciation for his wife, whom he always describes as supporting and encouraging. During the second half of Slater’s 50 mile run, she shows up on a bike to ride along with him. Slater writes:
“I could not have been happier if Jesus himself was riding that bike. She was smiling and happy and the exact opposite of everything I was feeling. She also brought soda and chips…”
What more could a guy ask for?
My only criticism is that Slater’s language is unnecessarily harsh; I had to keep my kindle out of the reach of my kids while I was reading his book. But other than that, he is a good writer and story-teller. Whether he keeps running or not is up to him, but I do hope that he keeps writing.