Running Home: A Memoir
Author: Katie Arnold
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: March 12, 2019
Genre: Non-Fiction > Historical > Autobiography > Memoir
Page Count: 384 Pages
My Rating: 4 Stars
Author Bio (From Publisher’s Page):
Katie Arnold is a contributing editor at Outside Magazine, where she worked on staff for twelve years. Her “Raising Rippers” column about bringing up adventurous, outdoor children appears monthly on Outside Online. She has written for The New York Times, Travel + Leisure, Sunset, Runner’s World, ESPN: The Magazine, Elle, and many others, and her narrative nonfiction have been featured in Best American Sportswriting. She is the 2018 Leadville Trail 100 Run women’s champion. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with her husband and two daughters.
Book Description (Publisher’s Page):
“In the tradition of Wild and H Is for Hawk, a former Outside magazine writer tells her story—of fathers and daughters, grief and renewal, adventure and obsession, and the power of running to change your life.
I’m running to forget, and to remember.
Katie Arnold learned early how her legs had the ability to carry her away to where no one could catch her. Scrappy and adventurous as a child, Katie moved between suburban New Jersey, where she lived with her mother, and rural Virginia, which her elusive father, a National Geographic photographer, called home.
Later, Katie chased her dreams to Santa Fe, where she became a writer for Outside Magazine. By her mid-thirties she had the world on a string. Katie relished the life she and her husband had built for their growing family among the rivers and mountains of New Mexico. But after welcoming her second daughter, Katie received shocking news: Her father had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Three months later, he was gone.
In the aftermath, Katie slid into a dark hole of anxiety and panic, while a stream of if-onlys looped through her mind: If only I hadn’t waited to get married and have babies, if only I lived closer, if only I’d spent more time with him. She tried every means to stanch her fear, but the only remedy that seemed to work was running long distances alone through the wilderness. Then on New Year’s Eve a year after her father’s death, Katie found herself making a startling resolution: to train for and run a 50k trail race.
Running Home traces Katie’s journey to outrun her grief over thirty-two miles of rugged terrain, mourning the father she lost and grieving for the man she never knew, while learning to let go. Clocking miles across mesas and mountains, from one side of the Grand Canyon to the other, Katie redefined her relationship to fear, motherhood, and running itself. This memoir is inspiring reading for anyone knocked over by life, who has struggled to put one foot in front of the other to find the right path forward.”
I won’t rehash what Running Home is about as the book description from the publisher’s page gives you all you need to know and more. After reading the description of Running Home by Katie Arnold, you know instinctually what is meant by, “I’m running to forget and remember.”
The loss of someone we love throws everything about our life off balance, and particularly if it’s a parent or a parent that had abandoned you as a child. Everyone grieve’s differently, just as everyone experiences a myriad of emotions, whether it’s anger, regret, despair, depression, anxiety, acceptance, forgiveness, etc.. The litany of emotions that may be experienced when we lose someone we had a connection to is as long as the list of ways in which each of us makes it through our grief. In Arnold’s case it was going from jogger to running an ultramarathon, and to be clear Arnold is not recruiting running as a means of grieving the loss of a loved one.
Running Home is a memoir, and if you read the author’s bio, you know from the beginning that Arnold was an outdoorswoman, and as she has written for the magazine Runner’s World, Arnold is a runner. Her description of becoming a long distance runner that led to her running an ultramarathon and the pain, endurance, and difficulties of running may be lost on those who are not runners and have no interest in learning about the sport of running. In this case, the reader may hop their way through Running Home and miss the emotions Katie writes about following her father’s death, but also the emotions from her childhood that centered around the relationship she had with her father.
This would be a shame because writing about emotions so that another can feel the emotion is not easy for many writers. This is a strength that Arnold has, whether she is writing about her feelings of abandonment by her father as a child, her feelings and emotions as an adult, her love for her father, her feelings upon learning of his terminal illness, followed by his death. I applaud Katie for her ability to hit the mark when writing about her emotions that come through, whether as a child or a mother of two. The other thing Arnold does exceptionally well as a writer is sharing her childhood memories while simultaneously incorporating her feelings during the events of her childhood in a way that holds you captive. I am sure that there are many in the world that can relate to the point of feeling the emotions of a childhood akin to Arnold’s childhood, and her life.
When Arnold describes the scenery in Running Home, she does so effortlessly. Arnold describes the trails, the crater at Valles Caldera National Preserve, in the Jemez Mountains, Huntley Stage, to her drive from New Mexico to Wyoming, and she does a fantastic job in doing so while taking you to the places she’s describing. Arnold’s writing is well crafted. The addition of the interspersed photographs is an added benefit for the reader when reading about Arnold’s life. Everyone has heard the idiom, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” and in Running Home, the photographs speak for themselves.
The only negatives about Running Home is that while some parts hold your attention and keep the pages turning, other parts slow to a crawl and you find yourself looking ahead to see how much more book you have to read to reach the end. I spoke to this earlier regarding Arnold’s describing all facets of running. Other than this I found Running Home to be a book that many will be able to relate to. And who knows, Arnold may recruit some runners with her memoir.