Syracuse Online


Dr. J. on Running

Res Severa Verum Gaudia

Running Book is a Good Read

Published January 15, 2001 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

I returned to my office after a lengthy meeting. I slumped into my chair, and took a deep breath. I examined my surroundings to realign my mental bearings. I noticed Latin written on my blackboard: "Res Severa Verum Gaudia". Its translation followed: "To be serious is the greatest joy."

I seldom use my blackboard. Chalk dust and computers do not mix well. My favorite college harrier had used my office earlier. She left me with food for thought before heading back to school.

Several days later, I boarded a plane for sunny Saskatoon in the province of Saskatchewan. Strategically located halfway between Montana and the Arctic Circle, Saskatoon hosts The Knights of Columbus Indoor Games in early January, Canada's largest indoor track meet. My younger harriers accompanied me on the trip.

"Anyone has something to read?" I asked. Paula handed me a black-and-white paperback titled "Running with the Buffaloes" by Chris Lear. I had run with deer on occasion, but not buffaloes. The subtitle read "A Season Inside with Mark Wetmore, Adam Goucher and the University of Colorado Cross Country Team." Those Buffaloes!

"This book was published on-demand in cooperation with Trafford Publishing," the credits read. "On-demand publishing is a unique process and service of making a book available for retail sale to the public taking advantage of on-demand manufacturing and Internet marketing." Cheap paper! Even the pictures inside the book are poor black-and-white scanner quality.

I glanced at the table of contents. The sentence "Res Severa Verum Gaudia" jumped out at me. I read the foreword by Adam Goucher, 1998 national cross-country champion. Chris Lear had this crazy idea to follow a Division I cross-country team through their season and write a book about their trials and triumphs.

Lear's writing style gripped me. After carefully introducing the cast and setting the stage for the National Championship, he took us back to the start of the season. He wrote a book about the 94 days of singular preparation for one event. Lear ran with team, lived with the team, ate with the team, laughed with the team, and cried with the team.

A thousand miles later, I started the last chapter. It sounded much like the first chapter, describing the final pre-race preparations. Only a runner could understand these rituals. Lear succeeded in immersing the reader into the moment. Bringing closure to the book and to the season, he created a must-read true story on the lives of college harriers.

Except for the occasional use of vulgarity and the poor practice of starting sentences with the word "but", "Running with the Buffaloes" is one of the best books written on running. A real book company has recently agreed to publish the second printing, adding a hard cover and glossy pictures. Save your original paperback edition. It may be worth a fortune some day.

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. Dr.J. created, webcasting live Every Lap of Every Race. He receives email at

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