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Book Review: Today We Die a Little

·2 mins

Today we die a little is a biography about the Czechoslovakian runner Emil Zátopek: I accidentally learned about him this summer and, being an amateur runner, decided to read this book out of curiosity… and so it happened that I learned about an athlete who redefined modern running training, turning himself into an Olympic champion through sheer determination and effort: he came up with his own training regime, made up by a combination of endurance and interval training sessions, which pushed the boundaries of what was (and is, I should add) humanly possible… let it suffice to say that at his peak he would have daily training sessions of 40x 400m intervals, which he would all run at maximum effort 😱

The Communist regime that ruled (what was then) Czechoslovakia used him for its own propaganda and held him in high regard for years, until he fell out of favour after the Prague Spring in 1968, when he joined the protests against the Soviet invasion: from that moment on, he would face years of menial (and manual) labour, as the regime tried its best to break his spirit, before being finally rehabilitated in the 90s.

The book highlights his friendliness, big ideals, and charisma while not making a mistery of his flaws and of his controversial relationship with the regime: the resulting portrait is that of an amazing human being trying his best to live up to his own ideals, but occasionally failing to do so.

I occasionally skimmed a page or two because it went into too many details (for my taste), but I enjoyed the book a lot, reading it in the span of in few days!