Saturday, March 18, 2017

Chris Lear’s Running with the Buffaloes: A Book Review

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Chris Lear’s iconic narrative, Running with the Buffaloes, follows the 1998 University of Colorado Cross Country Team. Iconic may not lavish this text with enough praise. Lear writes what one who follows and coaches running would call a perfect text. Running, especially high school and college cross country teams, creates a brotherhood. This bond seems odd to outsiders—something they just don’t get, but distance runners bond together. Their sport offers the unique ability to punish their bodies for long periods of time, but unlike football or wrestling, the runners can hold a full conversation throughout their journey. A two-hour run is a hard, taxing workout, but it is often done with a band of teammates and with the baring of one’s soul.

That said, Lear follows the entire season for Colorado, doing so with unfettered access. He details the difficulties of a team looking to break onto the national stage and claim a national championship. Yet, this is not a team stocked full of Mercedes Benz runners. Outside of a couple guys, most of the runners are homegrown athletes without the championship pedigree of the their top name competitors. Thus, this is a season where Coach Mark Wetmore is forced to push his team to the limits in order to try to achieve both a team and individual championship.

Lear expertly reports on each and every experience. Using his background as a runner himself, he is able to display the hijinks, the workouts, and the scattered path the leads a group of individuals from disparate backgrounds to become a team. Injuries strike, misfortune sneaks in, and the pages turn with a heightened, heartfelt tension that inspires one and all alike.

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