Lives Running by David Renton
Zero books ISBN 978-1-78099-235-8
reviewed by John Hobson
After a year in which sport had been hugely prominent, most obviously through the London Olympics, Lives Running is an unusual book which provides a deeply personal narrative of the author’s experience sof running both competitively and recreationally.
The descriptions of early expectations of – and indeed realised – success in middle distance running at school bring the reader into a private world where the joys of acheivement and pain of injury impact heavily in a context where great emphasis is placed on sporting prowess, through peer and family culture.
The author however interjects interesting facts and analysis of a sport for which he remains clearly passionate, most significantly of the oft-forgotten rivalry in middle-distance running between Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe that developed in the late 1970s and which reached its peak at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
Fascinating detail is provided about these two individuals’ backgrounds and experiences and which in particular furthers a degree of insight into Coe’s trajectory from ungracious loser to Ovett in the 800m Olympic final, to Tory MP and then ultimately to crowned glory as the Chair of the London Organising Committee of the Olympics and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) and beyond.
As the currently shallow discussions about the “legacy” of the London Olympics proceed, it is refreshing to read an account of sport by someone who was active in the important critique and attendant activism surrounding the Games.
The contributions of such individuals, as people passionate about sport but also about real accessibility and participation will be essential as the memories of London 2012 fade, the corporate Olympic juggernaut moves on and cuts in public funding for leisure services translate.
In essence however Lives; Running is a memoir of one individual’s relationship to sport and the power of the same to ultimately provide straight forward entertainment, far from the madding crowd or otherwise.
This article was first published in the June 2013 edition of Socialist Lawyer magazine. The magazine is sent to all members of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers. Details of how to subscribe can be found here.