Distance running is a physically tiring, limits testing and mentally challenging endeavor that forces its participants to reach beyond their comfort zones and endure. As Jen A. Miller’s Running: A Love Story affirms, running is also a sport whose lessons are measured by far more than just podium placements or finish times.
Every mile has a story, and in Running: A Love Story, Miller takes readers along on a ten year journey that is rife with personal and professional upheaval and disappointment. It is a story of a young woman stuck in a cycle of pain brought about by a series of relationships that were destructive and unhealthy. She also offers also a tale of how she dealt with navigating the economic turmoil brought about by the Great Recession, and details her maturing parental relationships. Throughout, running is the glue that holds Miller’s memoir together as she opens a window into that period in one’s life when we learn the raft of interpersonal lessons for which experience is the only teacher.
To conclude that Miller’s life during these ten years was filled with drama would be an obvious understatement. Alfred Hitchcock once noted, “What is drama but life with the dull bits cut out.” One shouldn’t underestimate the difficulty in slicing out those dull bits in a way that leaves a narrative that is true, engaging and textured. Throughout Miller’s memoir, the sport of running serves as an important purpose as the lace that keeps her story tight and moving forward, just as it was the lace that kept her moving forward to overcome an array of obstacles.
Running serves as an important stabilizer in Miller’s life at a time when the drama around her is anything but. Her adept use of the sport to make her story compelling for strangers, like us, is fitting. Runners know the sport can give us just as much understanding as we give it in sweat. This creates a bond of understanding between Miller and her readers. Because of this familiar bond, It really doesn’t matter the degree to which our personal or professional challenges are akin to hers, as we can relate.
In artfully weaving together her personal and running experiences, Miller’s background as a freelance journalist who has written extensively about the sport comes through. She is seemingly able to anticipate and satisfy the curiosities of running enthusiasts. Running readers want to know about her training plans, intricate details of the races discussed, as well as those memorable encounters while on the road that only other runners can fully appreciate.
Though perhaps even more important than the personal growth associated with Miller’s miles, Running reminds the reader to reflect on how the sport has changed the way we too cope with whatever wrenches life throws our way. Throughout the pages, I couldn’t help but pause to reflect on my own continuing running love story. In that respect, her story invites a more active and thoughtful reading experience than one might ordinarily find when picking a book off the shelf.
Often, running reads seem to fall into one of two categories. There are those that are focused entirely on the sport’s mechanics or its athletes, and others that only touch on running in a mere glancing, superficial way. With Running: A Love Story, Miller bridges this gulf by embracing a third approach that brings the sport’s unique ability to empower to the forefront.
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