Running: In book, runners recall their best race

Posted: November 04, 2013

Chris Cooper wasn't even done with Long May You Run, a compilation of running essays he edited, when he got the idea for another running-related project.

"It began during a chat with Olympic marathoner Brian Sell, who wrote the forward of my first book," said Cooper, a sub-three-hour marathoner from West Chester who also writes the blog "Writing on the Run."

"I assumed his best race was the one that qualified him for the Beijing Olympics, but I was wrong," Cooper said. "For him, it was a race years earlier as a member of his small college cross-country team."

Sell didn't even win the race, but his second-place finish helped his team's overall rankings in the meet.

"When I picked the brains of other runners about their best race, I began hearing many more not-what-you'd-expect kinds of stories," Cooper said. "They were inspiring, poignant, funny, and definitely worth writing about."

The result is My Best Race: 50 Runners and the Finish Line They'll Never Forget, an e-book that was published in September, and sells for $5.99.

For the book, Cooper interviewed 50 runners over a seven-month period. Some of the runners are well-known names to running fans, like Olympians Kara Goucher, Zola Budd Pieterse, and Amy Hastings; coach Jeff Galloway; Kathrine Switzer, who was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon as an official entrant; and Runner's World's "chief running officer," Bart Yasso. Others are not-so-famous runners like Dan O'Connor, a Vietnam veteran who has done more than 20 marathons in a hand-crank wheelchair; and Alexa Martin, who coaches the Dirty Girls Trail Runners.

Meteorologist Cecily Tynan of 6ABC is part of the book as well, talking about the 2012 Gary Papa Run for Prostate Cancer, which is held in honor of her former colleague, who died in 2009, as is Trisha Meili, the woman who was once known as "The Central Park Jogger." Her best race is one she founded - 14 years after she was brutally attacked - that raises funds for disabled athletes.

You can't buy Cooper's book in print, though you can download it wherever e-books are sold. An audiobook version is also available on He went with an e-book format for a very specific reason: While Cooper's first book was published in print by Simon & Schuster, he chose to do My Best Race with Diversion Books because of the company

s enthusiasm for the project, even though a print publisher had also bid on this book.

One race Cooper didn't tell in the book? His own. So I asked him:

"To my surprise, when I was 10 years old, I won the cross-country obstacle course at Echo Hill summer camp," near Clinton, N.J., he said. "When I remembered that years later, it gave me the inspiration to try running again and enter races, which I am still doing to this day."


Racing Schedule


Run the Bridge 10K run, 2-mile walk. At the Ben Franklin Bridge, Camden side, 8:30 a.m. Fees: 10K: $45, registration closes when cap of 4,500 is reached. No 10K race-day registration. Walk starts at 8:35 a.m, fee: $25. Walk is free for children 10 and under but must be registered and accompanied by an adult. Walk caps at 1,000. There is no in-person registration at running stores. Youth event starts at 8:45 a.m. at Campbell's Field, fee: $10.

Runners Chai 5K. Tyler State Park Art Center, 10 Stable Mill Rd., Richboro. Registration opens at 7:30 a.m., race at 9.

Free to Breathe Philadelphia, Lung Cancer 5K run/walk & 1-mile walk. Memorial Hall, Fairmount Park, Registration: 7 a.m., Run: 8:30. Fee: Event day: $35/$15. More information:

Lax Life 5k, 1 mile walk. 5k starts at 10, registration at 9. Timothy's Restaurant, 929 S. High St., West Chester. $20 pre-registration, $25 walk-up; $15 students.

Nov. 9

Miles for Medals, 5k and 1 mile Fun Run, Rowan University Rec Center. 11 a.m. Benefits Special Olympics. Fee: $15 before Nov. 4, then $20. Contact

Puma 5k & 1 Mile Fun Run/Walk. Willow Dale Elementary School, 720 E. Norristown Rd., Warminster. Mile Fun Run begins at 9, 5K begins at 9:30. Registration at 7:30. Fee: 1 mile $5 ($10 race day) 5K $10($15 race day) for those 18 and older. Under 18, 5K is $5 ($10 race day).

Y12K, Fred 5k. Fairmount Park, 9 a.m., also 3K family walk/run, and Y Kids Family Fit Zone. Fred 5K honors Fred Rogers' lifelong commitment to the welfare of children. Philadelphia Museum of Art to Falls Bridge and back. Supports WHYY's programming and community outreach.

Nov. 10

Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation's Lemon Run 5K, Memorial Hall, Fairmount Park. 8 -10 a.m. Fees: $35 for 5K, start at 8:30 a.m.; $25 for 5K walker (not timed), $15 for 100-meter Kids' Dash (10 and under, not timed), starts at 8 a.m.

Veterans First 5k run/1 mile walk. Race begins at 1 p.m. at Mas Mexicali Cantina; Walnut and Market Sts.; West Chester. Registration noon day of race. Online registration at $20 fee for pre-registration; $25 day of race. Proceeds benefit Philadelphia Veterans Comfort House.

Nov. 15-16

Health&Fitness Expo. Convention Center, Hallway F, free, open to public and includes numerous activities, vendors and seminars. Friday: noon-9 p.m., Saturday: 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

Nov. 16

Marlton Lakes Fall 5K/2 Mile, Marlton, 9 a.m. start, $15 preregister, $20 post.

Rothman Institute 8K, 7:30 a.m. 22d Street&Benjamin Franklin Parkway, near the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Kids Fun Run onsite registration begins at 9 a.m., races begin at 10:30 a.m.

Nov. 17

Gore-Tex Philadelphia Marathon and Half Marathon. Wheelchair and handcycle competitions begin at 6:57 a.m.; Runners begin at 7. 22d Street&Benjamin Franklin Parkway, near the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Nov. 28

Mid Atlantic Dairy Toss Your Turkey 5K, Pottstown Campus of Montgomery County Community College, 8:30 a.m. Fee: $30, family rate of $120 for up to 6 members. Free running shoes to male/female who throws the provided frozen turkey the farthest. or Race benefits Pottstown Meals for Homeless Program and Pottsgrove H.S. XC.

Dec. 7

Winter Wonder Run 6K at the Institute Woods, Princeton Friends School, 470 Quaker Rd., Princeton. Check-in 8:45 a.m. 6K starts at 10. Limited to 150 participants. Walkers welcome. Prereg. online only till Nov. 23 is $29, including T-shirt; after is $35. Discount for no-shirt option. Day-of registration credit card only, $35, not including T-shirt.

Light Up Lansdale 5k & 1 mile Fun Run. Penndale Middle School, 400 Penn St. Lansdale, Pa. Registration: 7:45 a.m. Fun Run starts at 8:30, 5k at 9. Register at $25 before 12/1, $30 after. Long sleeve t-shirts to the first 250 registrants.

Dec. 15

Freezer 5k run & 1-mile family fun walk. Horsham, along the power-line trail at the Simmons Elementary School. Fun Walk, 9:45 a.m., 5K at 10. Online registration: $25 at, ends Dec. 11. $30 day of race.

E-mail date, name of race, site, time and fee, plus registration information, to sports editor John Quinn at Put Running calendar in re: field.

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