Review: No Finish Line: My Life As I See It

This morning I finished reading a very enjoyable autobiography by Marla Runyan. Among her list of accomplishments as a runner are participation in 2 Olympic games (only 1 as of the writing of the book). She currently holds the 5000 meter indoor track world record. She ran competitive hurdles and competed in the heptathlon. All of which is amazing to be sure. What is more amazing is when you learn that she is blind!

She really tries to downplay her blindness in every day life. If you met her today (from what I have read about her) she certainly does not make a big deal of it and chooses to focus on the fact that she is an athlete primarily. But, I am glad that she got into the whole story of her blindness within the book.

For those of you who are not runners, have no fear, this book is not as much about running as it is about her life and story. While the second half of the book is focused on her first trip of the Olympics by the time you get to that point you will be so entranced with the story of her life you just have to know how it ends. However, “the future has not been written.” Or, at least her life is far from over. Since the writing of the book she has competed in the 2004 Olympics, had a baby and is continuing with Olympic hopes for 2008.

Her blindness is caused by Stargardt’s disease, for which there is no cure. She has some peripheral vision, though it is not even good enough with which to read.

The book is not a political one. It really is simply her autobiography, but she does end the book with some great words.

I have also learned that running saves lives. It saved mine, and Matt’s [her boyfriend at the time]. Running has the potential to alter lifestyles and priorities. I believe that many of the diseases and conditions that plague our society–hypothyroidism, Type II diabetes, obesity–are the results of a lifestyle of poor judgment. Children run. This is a fact. Yet, somewhere between puberty and adulthood, they stop running and start slouching and dragging their feet. And they sustain themselves on staples of potato chips and Coca-Cola. And the cycle continues.

Perhaps it’s idealistic of me to believe that the world could be saved if only everyone started running. “I don’t have the time,” people say, or “I’m not a runner.” There are a million excuses. But the body was made to move. Muscles, tendons, heart, and lungs were designed to be challenged and to move our bodies through our environment naturally. I believe that running is the fountain of youth. You need not look any farther than inside your own body to find a way to feel and look younger. Beauty comes from the inside out. Running doesn’t require an expensive gym membership or a lot of equipment. Kenyan children run barefoot along the grass fields and unpaved roads of their villages….

Basically, what it comes down to is a choice: a decision to do the opposite of what mainstream America tells you to do every day. There is no secret, no pill, no quick fix. Put away the Snackwells and the fat-free potato chips, and shop in the produce section more often. Leave your car in the garage. Move your body. Breathe. Sweat. Eat less. Drink water. A line from Matt’s favorite movie, The Shawshank Redemption, says it best: Get busy living, or get busy dying.

This is the only “preaching” she does in the book. The rest is the very interesting story of her life. Whether you are a runner, or never plan to be, I think you can find the book very enjoyable and inspiring.

My thanks to Terry for loaning me the book. He told me it was an “easy read” to which I have to agree. I am typically not a fast reader, but this book captured my interest so much that I finished it in just a few days.

No Finish Line: My Life As I See It. Marla Runyan with Sally Jenkins. Berkly Books. 2001. 303 pages.

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