GO FAR: How Endurance Sports Help You Win at Life, written by Jennifer Strong McConachie, Hatherleigh Press, 2021. Reviewed by trail runner Laura Clark. Laura is an avid mountain, trail and snowshoe runner who lives in Saratoga Springs, NY, where she is a children’s librarian.
Notice that the above title, GO FAR, is all in caps. Also note that it is not the more common exhortation to “Run Far” that we are accustomed to seeing. This simple difference highlights McConachie’s penchant to leave herself open to all experiences and in the process expand her athletic horizons. While she is certainly no slouch as an athlete, that is not the point. Her true focus is to embrace all that life throws her way. Journey alongside her as she incorporates her three-pillared method into her endurance efforts.
While the popular mindfulness approach is certainly useful in our “to-do list” culture, the term is in danger of becoming so hackneyed, however, as to be easily dismissed. McConachie’s three pillars, however, offer a concrete, unique approach to going far, whether running, free swimming or mountaineering. The first, “Develop an Explorer’s Mindset,” can be likened to a form of treasure hunting. To be sure, new sights and sounds can be expected in a foreign country or an unfamiliar city, but there is no need to limit yourself to occasional vacations. Follow hometown side streets, explore a sketchy trail, attempt a familiar route from finish to start. One of our Western Mass race directors always urged us to pause at the top of the mountain, take in the view and appreciate the climb we had just nailed. How many of us are too eager to move forward to the next thing on the list?
Her second pillar, “Use Outlier Tactics,” first popularized by Malcolm Galdwell in his landmark book, Outliers, explores long distance sports through his lens. Stymied by the restrictions of the typical 7-day training cycle? Then opt for a 10-day plan. Not enough time in the day to run? Then think outside of the box, run in lousy weather and in nighttime conditions.
Finally, and most intriguing to me, is the third exhortation, “Practice Immersion Theory.” Don’t be the person who hops out of the plane, runs the race and gets back in time for Monday at the office. The adventure is more than the event itself. Take the time to meet the locals, go to the beach, savor the food. Next time I blithely shuttle to North Adams, Massachusetts for another trip up Mt. Greylock, I promise myself to visit the celebrated MASS MoCA museum! Included in McConachie’s months-long training for dream events, is an effort to immerse herself in the culture of the country, its food, its people. Before sailing in the Virgin Islands she read Treasure Island. For her Escape from Alcatraz swim, she not only viewed the films of the story but also researched other famous prison escapes. This not only made her experience that much richer, but also provided an extra layer in case her event did not go as planned.
Preparation and playfulness are my key take-aways. And while I realize that the focus of this book is to present a different attitude toward sport, I couldn’t help but wanting a few more details about the life of this professional speaker and trainer. How did she support herself in her earlier days while hopping around the globe? Towards the end we do discover that sometime in her mid-thirties she married and had a child and is now eager to explore the next chapter of her life in true-to-form fashion: home-basing her new adventures while including her growing child as her dad did for her so many years ago. With this mindset, there are many new adventures to come!