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The Incomplete Book of Running

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Peter Sagal, the host of NPR’s beloved show Wait Wait..Don’t Tell Me and a popular columnist for Runner’s World, shares his insightful and entertaining look at life and running that explores the transformative power of the sport.


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Peter Sagal, the host of NPR’s beloved show Wait Wait..Don’t Tell Me and a popular columnist for Runner’s World, shares his insightful and entertaining look at life and running that explores the transformative power of the sport.

30 review for The Incomplete Book of Running

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ron S

    A mid-life memoir you needn't be a runner to enjoy.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Van Reese

    As a long time runner, I was very pleased to win this book in a give away (thank you Simon & Shuster). The only negative, I felt, was that he talks about his divorce; a lot. It was painful, so O.K. We will let it go. Most of the book was, surprise, actually about running. I felt that I could relate well with his running experiences, and found we had much in common. My dad also ran and kind of influenced me getting started running (though I never made fun of him); I also asked for real runnin As a long time runner, I was very pleased to win this book in a give away (thank you Simon & Shuster). The only negative, I felt, was that he talks about his divorce; a lot. It was painful, so O.K. We will let it go. Most of the book was, surprise, actually about running. I felt that I could relate well with his running experiences, and found we had much in common. My dad also ran and kind of influenced me getting started running (though I never made fun of him); I also asked for real running shoes (and got them); I also ran marathons (though not as many as Pete, and not Boston...yet). One of my favorite parts was at the end when he talks about the difference between running as a lifestyle and "jogging" for exercise. I quote part of it, "Joggers wait to finish; we runners expect to get somewhere." People will sometimes ask me, "Are you still jogging?" (Jogging? As if!) Like maybe I have finally put that phase behind me. I usually just say, "Yes, I still run almost every day. The other thing is how they are amazed that I run in the winter. Actually, there might be some legitimate craziness there, but yes, I still run even when it is dark and single digits; because I am a runner. I felt that Peter expresses that sentiment quite well in this book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Vulnerable and made me want to run marathons. Should prob have a trigger warning about dieting.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    4 stars for the running parts. 2 parts for the frankly off-putting way Sagal writes about his ex-wife and daughters, as well as pretty much all other women (except for his current wife - she seemed like an actual human being). I get that he was also processing his divorce and the aftermath, I just found it really weird. Averaging out = 3 stars.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jan Van Bruaene

    I didn't know what to expect about this book. I only know about Peter Sagal from NPR Wait Wait Don't Tell me Show. And I heard he co-wrote the less than stellar movie Dirty Dancing Havana Nights. He wrote a book about running? What does Peter Sagal know about running? It turns out he knows quite a bit about it, and has a great number high paced races to show for it. I expected a funny and witty book. It is not. It is an honest and often raw story about the running part of his life. I could not p I didn't know what to expect about this book. I only know about Peter Sagal from NPR Wait Wait Don't Tell me Show. And I heard he co-wrote the less than stellar movie Dirty Dancing Havana Nights. He wrote a book about running? What does Peter Sagal know about running? It turns out he knows quite a bit about it, and has a great number high paced races to show for it. I expected a funny and witty book. It is not. It is an honest and often raw story about the running part of his life. I could not put this book down. And once I finished it, the only natural thing to do was to end it with in true radio tradition of Paul Harvey: "And now you know the rest of the story".

  6. 5 out of 5

    Michael Platt

    Highly recommended. Great book on running and life in general.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    I love the saying he recounted: if you can't play sports, run. If you can't run, run long. I can relate. I'm a fan of Wait Wait and thought this book was entertaining. Peter Sagal talks about his running history, his meshugas about his weight, and his midlife crisis leading to more running and eventual divorce. Spoiler alert, a man got remarried quickly after a divorce. What else is new? I did feel for him. He talks about his depression, how he felt he failed as a husband and a father. He also ca I love the saying he recounted: if you can't play sports, run. If you can't run, run long. I can relate. I'm a fan of Wait Wait and thought this book was entertaining. Peter Sagal talks about his running history, his meshugas about his weight, and his midlife crisis leading to more running and eventual divorce. Spoiler alert, a man got remarried quickly after a divorce. What else is new? I did feel for him. He talks about his depression, how he felt he failed as a husband and a father. He also can seem a little slimy and self important sometimes. Sorry.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Got to hear Sagal give a book talk at Sixth and I about this book and it was lovely. This is a nice, short book about how running has changed his life for the better. Also nice shout out to my buddy Bobby Gill who started Cupid’s Undie Run! I think I introduced the two on twitter when I saw Sagal tweet that he was running the race!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Auntjenny

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I really like memoirs about running. I’ve read three others that I can recall, and this one is now my favorite. Though as I read I wasn’t sure it would be, because I wasn’t sure I really liked Peter Sagal. My first criticism is that Sagal sort of comes off as pitying the blind runners he guides for. My mom is blind, so I have some experience with this (experience with blind people and, specifically, experience with blind people who don’t like to be pitied). For example, when talking to a girl at I really like memoirs about running. I’ve read three others that I can recall, and this one is now my favorite. Though as I read I wasn’t sure it would be, because I wasn’t sure I really liked Peter Sagal. My first criticism is that Sagal sort of comes off as pitying the blind runners he guides for. My mom is blind, so I have some experience with this (experience with blind people and, specifically, experience with blind people who don’t like to be pitied). For example, when talking to a girl at a blind school Sagal says, “it occurred to me that my trials and my successes were all pissant little annoyances compared to what she endured every day as she woke to darkness.” Well, hm. I have a really radical perspective on this matter, and here it is: we all have trials. Every last one of us. Some of us can’t see, and some of us are wound-up, self-critical runners with depression going through a divorce, but we all have trials. To posit that people who can’t see have worse trials than the rest of us is a way of “othering” them. And pitying them. And it’s a little icky. I will say, I think Sagal makes up for these transgressions at the end of the book, which was really quite moving. Sagal tells the story of a man with retinitis pigmentosa who just kept changing sports as his disease progressed. Sagal talks about how limitations are not roadblocks; they are fences we can all cross. This is also the same section where Sagal talks about his own depression (itself a disability!) and it becomes apparent just how awful his divorce really was: it sounds like his relationship with his daughters is maybe nonexistent at this point. I enjoyed his perspective about why people become runners too. I can relate to a lot of what he describes. I think maybe some of us runners are a bit keyed up. We’re a wee bit anxious. We’ve got a lot of energy and like dogs, we become destructive when we don’t get our exercise. Maybe by running we’re refusing to give in to sedentary modern life and becoming the people we were born to be. P.S. No surprise: Sagal is also quite funny.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    [Audiobook Review] Why wouldn't I listen to Peter Sagal's lovely voice narrate this humorous yet emotionally poignant book?! A big recommendation to everyone considering the audiobook - it is, in my opinion, the best way to experience Sagal's radio announcer persona, voice, and comedy. Truth be told, I had no idea what to expect from this memoir. Sagal is a well known comedian from NPR and one I've been listening to for over a decade. I expected more comedy than drama. However, I was pleasantly [Audiobook Review] Why wouldn't I listen to Peter Sagal's lovely voice narrate this humorous yet emotionally poignant book?! A big recommendation to everyone considering the audiobook - it is, in my opinion, the best way to experience Sagal's radio announcer persona, voice, and comedy. Truth be told, I had no idea what to expect from this memoir. Sagal is a well known comedian from NPR and one I've been listening to for over a decade. I expected more comedy than drama. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the depth he presented. He readily depicts less than flattering portraits and of himself. For example, in one chapter he delves into a overweight runner's journey to run the Boston Marathon. At first, Sagal unabashedly states that he thought the guy was a total idiot and glory hound; but, with the due diligence of a journalist, comes to sincerely appreciate and respect his journey. It's his honest voice that makes the book SO refreshing. While he is at times, self-deprecating, he doesn't employ it as a comedy trope. Sagal admits his flaws in running, life, and his first marriage. He doesn't shy away from the ways in which he's acted poorly, made bad decisions, and been completely human. As he explains, we are hardest on ourselves. This book has inspired me in life and my athletic pursuits to be a little easier on myself and find joy in the ride.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    If you need anymore convincing that exercise almost always helps with emotions, listen to this. Peter Sagal has a great radio voice (of course) and he's a comedian so he applies those things to this discussion of how running has helped him weather his family falling apart and a difficult divorce as well as doing his best to keep his weight off. The book is a wee bit repetitive - there are a couple of times where he urges the listener to take out their earbuds to run (I like to run with mine if I If you need anymore convincing that exercise almost always helps with emotions, listen to this. Peter Sagal has a great radio voice (of course) and he's a comedian so he applies those things to this discussion of how running has helped him weather his family falling apart and a difficult divorce as well as doing his best to keep his weight off. The book is a wee bit repetitive - there are a couple of times where he urges the listener to take out their earbuds to run (I like to run with mine if I'm running alone but, like Sagal, I prefer to run with other people) and I thought briefly that my audiobook was repeating itself. But it's a minor quibble. He maintains humour throughout even when discussing depression but without minimizing the pain. His stories about guiding runners with vision challenges are fascinating and you have to be very glad that the person he was guiding in 2013 gutted out the last mile of the Boston marathon finishing just a very few minutes before the bombs went off. (The interview with NPR makes him rightfully cringe but hindsight is 20/20.)

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway from the publisher. Love listening to Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me on car rides to visit family, and I’ve always enjoyed Peter’s sense of humor. The book was great - not just about Peter’s experience and time spent running but about others’ experiences and time spent running as well. And about the Boston bombings. And life. And challenges. And failures. And on running being a solo and group sport. It didn’t tell any one specific story in detail, but it tells t I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway from the publisher. Love listening to Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me on car rides to visit family, and I’ve always enjoyed Peter’s sense of humor. The book was great - not just about Peter’s experience and time spent running but about others’ experiences and time spent running as well. And about the Boston bombings. And life. And challenges. And failures. And on running being a solo and group sport. It didn’t tell any one specific story in detail, but it tells the story of running and how it has helped and motivated countless people very well. This is just what I needed for motivation to put my running shoes back on and get back out there. Though, probably for a half marathon at the most. Or at the least some chill feet-to-pavement time of casual running. I’d recommend this book to anyone who has ever had at least one good run. Or wants to have at least one good run. Or anyone enjoys retelling of not so perfect but very much inspiring stories.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Laurelin

    As a newbie to the world of running, Peter Sagal's The Incomplete Book of Running was a fun read that's motivating me to keep training even as the winter weather takes a turn for the worse. Sagal weaves tales of the many races he's run with anecdotes about the colorful characters he's met in the world of running along the way. He also uses marathons as a metaphor for relationships, juxtaposing his marathon experiences with his painful divorce. His memoir is imbued with humor and wit, and it's an As a newbie to the world of running, Peter Sagal's The Incomplete Book of Running was a fun read that's motivating me to keep training even as the winter weather takes a turn for the worse. Sagal weaves tales of the many races he's run with anecdotes about the colorful characters he's met in the world of running along the way. He also uses marathons as a metaphor for relationships, juxtaposing his marathon experiences with his painful divorce. His memoir is imbued with humor and wit, and it's an easy read that will motivate anyone to jump off the couch and give running a try. I've only run in one race, but I don't think you need to be a runner to appreciate the warmth of Sagal's stories and his lessons on life. I'd recommend it to anyone in danger of falling off the exercise or running wagon.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Luis Cuesta

    I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway. I think Peter Sagal’s book offers readers interesting insights about setting goals, making amends, and life in general while also pay attention to how running has impacted his own life. As a teenager he started running 10K races and join the cross-country team. He ran off and on through college but largely gave it up until his late 30s adn it was only years alter in life that he reconnect with his inner runner, and in one decade, he ran 14 marathons, I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway. I think Peter Sagal’s book offers readers interesting insights about setting goals, making amends, and life in general while also pay attention to how running has impacted his own life. As a teenager he started running 10K races and join the cross-country team. He ran off and on through college but largely gave it up until his late 30s adn it was only years alter in life that he reconnect with his inner runner, and in one decade, he ran 14 marathons, including one with a personal best time of 3:09. Waht I like more about the book is Sagal's writing style, brilliant and accomplished, but also self-deprecating and funny. He is not here to make you faster, but he’ll make you smile, reflect. And most important perhaps take action and lace up your sneakers, make those first steps out the door and get running.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Justin Leatherwood

    Really enjoyed this book. Don’t read if looking for specific guidance for running. But do read it if you have a weekend, want some laughs, riveting race stories and some life advice from a seasoned runner. Peter writes this as a memoir on his life, particularly about the ending of his first marriage through the lens of running. Lots of enjoyable race stories, which, if you’ve ever run a race before, you’ll enjoy. Funny and introspective, Peter digs into a particularly hard period of his life (spo Really enjoyed this book. Don’t read if looking for specific guidance for running. But do read it if you have a weekend, want some laughs, riveting race stories and some life advice from a seasoned runner. Peter writes this as a memoir on his life, particularly about the ending of his first marriage through the lens of running. Lots of enjoyable race stories, which, if you’ve ever run a race before, you’ll enjoy. Funny and introspective, Peter digs into a particularly hard period of his life (spoiler alert, he got divorced) through the lens of running. His experiences with the 2013 Boston marathon bombing also weave throughout the book. Though the book isn’t explicitly giving running advice, you’ll definitely pick up on some good ideas littered here and there. Peter also offers some great thoughts about running as a lifestyle, again, less so about specifics.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Doug Gordon

    I'm a runner and also a fan of "Wait, Wait", so I really expected to enjoy this book a lot, but would find it hard to recommend to either a runner or non-runner. Mainly, I thought it would be mostly about running with a lot of humorous anecdotes, but instead it was more of a personal memoir that delved a bit too far into the author's personal life and problems, which he dwelt on a bit too much in my opinion. The book also had the feel of being a bit rushed to print and could have used a bit more I'm a runner and also a fan of "Wait, Wait", so I really expected to enjoy this book a lot, but would find it hard to recommend to either a runner or non-runner. Mainly, I thought it would be mostly about running with a lot of humorous anecdotes, but instead it was more of a personal memoir that delved a bit too far into the author's personal life and problems, which he dwelt on a bit too much in my opinion. The book also had the feel of being a bit rushed to print and could have used a bit more editing to smooth out the flow from chapter to chapter. Maybe it would be useful to someone thinking of taking up the sport of running, but the useable information was scattered too thinly to be very helpful.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    It's not a "how-to" book, but you'll pick up knowledge. It's not a "humor" book, but you'll laugh! It's not a "memoir" or "historical" book, but you'll get both vibes. And if you're even sort of thinking about running, just go ahead and get your shoes ready, because after about 3 chapters, you'll be lacing them up to head out for a little jog. This was a Goodreads give away that I really enjoyed! Maybe because I'm the cliche' "target audience" (40's, sorta-runner, looking for a motivation but not It's not a "how-to" book, but you'll pick up knowledge. It's not a "humor" book, but you'll laugh! It's not a "memoir" or "historical" book, but you'll get both vibes. And if you're even sort of thinking about running, just go ahead and get your shoes ready, because after about 3 chapters, you'll be lacing them up to head out for a little jog. This was a Goodreads give away that I really enjoyed! Maybe because I'm the cliche' "target audience" (40's, sorta-runner, looking for a motivation but not SERIOUSLY). Honestly, though, it's a fun read no matter what age you are! You'll just identify with it a little more if you're a little older. It's a quick read about long runs, life changes, relationships (and the dissolution of them), growing, learning, pain, laughter.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kitty Galore

    This book is not about Sagal as a NPR announcer of an excellent radio show "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me", but about his marital difficulties and his evolution as a marathon runner. Unless one is into running (I am), I'm not sure a non-runner could appreciate all the nuances of his struggles and accomplishments in that sport. At times he seems a little too much into himself in that capacity, but then he occasionally undermines his boasting, so perhaps it evens out. He often detailed too much of his t This book is not about Sagal as a NPR announcer of an excellent radio show "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me", but about his marital difficulties and his evolution as a marathon runner. Unless one is into running (I am), I'm not sure a non-runner could appreciate all the nuances of his struggles and accomplishments in that sport. At times he seems a little too much into himself in that capacity, but then he occasionally undermines his boasting, so perhaps it evens out. He often detailed too much of his training program for this reader, but overall it is recommended for both aspiring and devoted runners.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    I love "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," but I had no idea Peter Sagal was such an avid runner. The best parts of the book for me were the ones where he told stories from his life - his running and his family. But the passages about how and why to run were interesting as well. I bought the book at an event after hearing him speak - fascinating - and if I'd had the chance, I probably would have bought the audio version of this book, because it would have been fun to hear him read it. But I loved the h I love "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," but I had no idea Peter Sagal was such an avid runner. The best parts of the book for me were the ones where he told stories from his life - his running and his family. But the passages about how and why to run were interesting as well. I bought the book at an event after hearing him speak - fascinating - and if I'd had the chance, I probably would have bought the audio version of this book, because it would have been fun to hear him read it. But I loved the hardback version anyway.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Carissa Liebowitz

    As a longtime NPR listener and runner, I was very excited about reading this book. The history of his running and race stories were certainly the best parts of the book in my opinion. I found it to be a bit jumbled as things were told out of order, but it certainly was still very readable. The "human" part of owning up to his flaws and mistakes was actually hard to read at times. In some instances, I'd expect a well-educated "minor celebrity" to not do or say the things he did.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    If you enjoy Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me on NPR (which I do), Peter Sagal's humour (which I do), and you run (which I do), pick up this book. Despite being a Wait Wait fan, I never knew Peter ran (and ran fast!) until I heard about the release of this book. I listened to it on the plane to New York to run the 2018 NYC Marathon on 4 November. It was a poignant, funny, and I highly recommend the audiobook!

  22. 4 out of 5

    John

    I loved this audiobook - it was funny, was about running, and was interspersed with Peter's observations and reflections about some of his personal life events. He has the courage to open up about his failed first marriage, which can't be easy, but sometimes it sounds like he's playing the victim card a little heavy and looking for sympathy. Nonetheless, I loved the book and look forward to reading his other books.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Hall

    A great compilation of running stories and how running fit into and improved his life, with a good dose of humor. Some people have described this as a running book that's not *really* about running; I disagree. It is absolutely about running, and I don't think it would resonate well with a non-running reader. They may get something out of it, but not as much as someone who can identify with the thoughts and emotions of training and racing.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    This is one of the better running memoirs I’ve read. It truly encapsulates the heart, grit, humor and dark moments that running can give us. My heart breaks a little for what happened with his family and I can tell this still causes him some grief. There was a lot of honesty here, but also a lot that I could tell was held back (and I don’t begrudge him of that).

  25. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    Oh I loved this book! It seems to have been written just for me...I love running and I love Wait Wait Don't Tell Me. It was heartwarming and laugh out loud funny. Reflective without being terribly sobering. Consider it the light hearted version of Murakami's "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running".

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mike Dennisuk

    This is an interesting book written by Peter Sagal ( host of NPRs “Wait, Wait ... Don’t Tell Me”). The book is about his running life with particular focus on the year of his divorce. The book varies between being funny, thoughtful, sad, insightful. It is an easy read ... part memoir, part running book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Megan Rosol

    Blah. He tells some semi-entertaining stories about running and complains much about his divorce and his ex-wife. "I don't want to burden you with the details of why my wife hates my guts and my kids want me to move out, but this whole thing is crazy expensive and unfair" spiel reminded me why being married to a comedian may not be all giggles. Too bad. I was looking forward to this book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Carroll Larremore

    I liked it. That's why it got a 3. I didn't love it and I am a huge fan of what I consider "running porn." Usually I can't put a book down that's about running. I love Peter Sagal, 100% really love him on "Wait Wait" but I didn't "love" his book. Liking his book is a huge compliment, however.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Donlon McGovern

    A very nice book about experiences, trials, humor, pain and elation. I have not heard Mr. Sagal's radio show (like listening to my music while driving more), but with the way he writes and similarities in life, I think I'll start. I highly recommend this book for the older runners (like me).

  30. 4 out of 5

    Karin

    I already had a geek crush on Peter Sagal, after listening to him on Wait, Wait first on the radio and now in my ears each weekend on my long run. After reading this book of his life and his running, my crush has grown. A lovely book, for both runners and geeks alike.

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