Monday, August 11, 2014

"Wannabe Distance God" by Timothy Tays A Quick Review

A lot of thought went into the book Wannabe Distance God: The Thirst, Angst, and Passion of Running in the Chase Pack by Timothy Tays: that can be a good thing and it can also be a distraction. There has been a small amount of chatter on the running message boards about this book, so I decided to give it a read. I do like hearing true stories about champion runners, and despite the title Mr. Tays was quite an excellent runner. I thought it would be fun reading about a runner in the chase pack competing with the great runners of my time as Tays is the same age as I am. And that is why my favorite parts of the book has to do with his racing and training.

Tim Tays is also a clinical psychologist and his story revolves around his thoughts growing up and the interactions he has with teammates, his family,  and others along the way. In fact he goes deeply into describing how and why he was the person he became. His mom was a staunch Christian Scientist and that comes into play, too. Since I previously knew nothing about Timothy Tays before reading the book, these parts weren't as interesting to me as it would have been if Tays became an Olympic champion or a runner of more note.

I found these passages a bit laborious at first, but by the second half of the book, I noted that Mr. Tays had grown as a person and had put much effort into figuring out who he was a person, and it was interesting to note these changes and how he uses his reasoning in dealing with patients who visit his office. In the end, I enjoyed the book and the journey that Tays undertook first to become a top tier runner and then later in the realization of what dynamics propelled him on that journey.

Some of the great runners of the day are mentioned in the story: Jim Ryun, Alberto Salazar, Bill McChesney and others, but probably the most telling was his mentions of Paul Cummings. Tim Tays felt great angst over being dissed by this great American runner and only learns in his later years, that Paul was probably no different than himself. While at first annoying, the reflections that Tays has over his career usually come to a well thought out conclusion as he matures into a deeply insightful person.

If you are a runner who enjoys reflective type stories this book may interest you. If you enjoy reading about what it means to be a competitive runner and trying to live the dream, then this book will also be a good read. It is about half and half of each.

Here is an interview with the author from Paul Duffau.


Paul Duffau said...

Hi Jim,

Wanted to thank you for the link back to the interview I did with Tim Tays.

Like you, I knew little to nothing of the Christian Scientist religion but that part I found interesting.

The running parts I expected - not the depth that I found in his journey. That surprised me, in a pleasing way as I like success stories.

Paul Duffau

Jim Hansen said...

Paul, As I reflect on the book, it really is a story of a life's journey and for many people running plays an important part in the struggle and rewards of finding out who we really are!

Tim Tays said...

Jim, thank you so much for buying, reading, and thoughtfully reviewing my book. The points you made were all issues I struggled with while writing "Wannabe Distance God." I wanted to write my story about being a distance runner, but I needed something unique to say. What? I decided the only unique thing I had to offer was myself. So I told about being raised as a Christian Scientist in New Mexico in the 1960s and 1970s. About bullies and family dynamics that fueled my drive to be someone, in my case a distance runner. As a psychologist I could apply a psychological perspective to my story. Finally, after explaining the motivation and passion of running, I could describe my growth as a human over the decades. So at a certain point (i.e., Chapter 10) I consciously decided to delve deeper into my personal psychology. I knew it was a risk, but I concluded that if I did not do it then the running story would be too shallow. So thanks again, Jim, for taking a serious look at my story. I really enjoy your blog. Tim Tays

Jim Hansen said...

Thanks, Tim! I should use this line when I teach writing to my fifth graders, "I decided the only unique thing I had to offer was myself." That is what makes good stories! Congratulations for being Letsrun's "Blue Collar Runner of the Month!"