The Mock Olympian by Michael Long
|The Mock Olympian by Michael Long|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: Long challenged himself to partake in an event in each of the Olympic cities before 2016's Rio games. An enlightening and inspiring read.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 172||Date: September 2016|
|External links: Author's website|
It started with an idle conversation just before the 2012 London Olympics: Michael Long's friend Sarah gave him a book as part of his birthday present. It was Time Out's guide to the history of the Olympics and it covered each of the summer Olympics in chronological order from the inaugural games in Athens in 1896. Sarah's boyfriend James commented that with all the running Michael did, he'd probably have run in most of the Olympic cities. Although Long had done a goodly number of runs, bike rides and triathlons he'd only competed in two of the twenty three cities - London and Athens. Now most of us would have left it at that, but that's not the Michael Long you're going to come to know and love. He saw it as a challenge and what's more he blogged about it and then wrote this book.
Long was born in Athens and so, incidentally, was the marathon - so Athens was his first visit. Now Long is and was a man who has to work for his living, so runs always had to be factored in to when he could get time off work or weekends and training had to fit in with his other commitments. I liked that he's serious about what he does but doesn't take himself too seriously: throughout the book I had the feeling that much as he wanted to achieve this challenge, he wouldn't do it if it wasn't going to be fun to do. He doesn't have tunnel vision either: wherever he goes he wants to see the sites and meet the locals. This is about real life but with a purpose.
For each of the Olympic cities visited we get a factoid about those particular games and some of the facts are not particularly well known. For instance, the Olympics were held in Melbourne in 1956 and it's the only time that the games have been shared between two countries. Because the Australian government didn't allow foreign horses into the country the equestrian events were held in Stockholm. Long's good at giving information but without obviously shovelling in every bit of research he's done: he's equally good about not over-burdening us with times of his runs and all those other figures which mean so much to competitors: he tells us about finishing times, personal best and how he was placed, but it's obviously not the be-all and end-all of what he was doing.
Not every event in the Olympic cities was a marathon: the logistics and expense of getting to each of the cities for such a race would have been prohibitive. We get to see Long compete in fun runs, marathons, half marathons and shorter distances such as five, seven, ten, fourteen and fifteen kilometre runs as well as a city swim in Amsterdam. I was fascinated by his preparations for each event, which involves 'carbing up' and intrigued by things which I'd never thought about before, such as toilet stops and the problem of where to leave your bag whilst you're running. It's an enlightening and fun read and I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
For more on the Olympics we can recommend How to Watch the Olympics: Scores and laws, heroes and zeros – an instant initiation to every sport by David Goldblatt and Johnny Acton.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Mock Olympian by Michael Long at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Mock Olympian by Michael Long at Amazon.com.
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