During my sports editor days, I covered a lot of athletes. But one that has stayed with me was the story of a local woman who was involved in a serious car accident.
Doctors were able to save her life but they told her she’d never walk again nor have children. Two years later and a lot of hard work, physical therapy, prayers and a miracle or two, she not only gave birth to a child, but she was getting ready to run the Disney Marathon. Interviewing her for the story I was writing, she said she wanted to put on a running event in her home town as a way to give back. At one point, she said that I should consider running in the event and my first thought was — not unless I’m being chased by a bear.
Back then, I was exercising, but I didn’t really get how or why people ran.
Fast forward a couple of years and one evening I couldn’t go to my regular spin class. Instead, there was a running class and the instructor invited me to join. I did and while I didn’t love it right away, I began to understand a bit more why people run.
It’s hard to explain to people who don’t have any interest or desire to run (as I once did). But a couple of books I’ve read have shed some new insights and given me a couple of new ways to respond when I’m asked, “Why do you run?
Before I started running, I often wondered why people who ran did it. After all, as the old joke goes, you never see a runner smiling widely or looking like they’re having much, if any, fun.
Like author Matthew Inman (better known as The Oatmeal from his on-going web-comic), I didn’t really understand the appeal of running long distances until I actually got out there and started doing it.
Inman’s attempt to explain why he runs long distance is chronicled in The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances.
Not a how-to manual on the best technique or style to run, this book chronicles what drives a person to get out there and hit the roads, chalking up the miles and signing up for races that seem to be impossible distances. Some of the stories are serious and some offer humorous insights into the mind of this particular runner. Inman gives us some insight into how he developed his running technique and things he recommends doing (push on past the first mile, get used to being uncomfortable for most of your run) and things that he doesn’t recommend (treadmills, using an iPod while running). Some of these I agree with (treadmills are good but they have their limitations) and some I don’t (I’m just not focused enough to run without my iPod because I’d spend much of the time talking myself out of going farther). But it’s still fascinating to get inside the head of a fellow runner and hear his successes and foibles out there grinding out the miles.
If there’s one criticism I have of the book, it’s that it feels a bit repetitive at times. It could be that it’s meant to be read in single chapter servings rather than one big gulp as I did. It feels like Inman circles around a couple of points multiple times during the course of his own personal running journey.
So, if you’re a runner and you have difficulty explaining why you do what you do, this book might be a good way to help non-runners understand it a bit better. It won’t help you be a better runner, but it may help you understand your motivation to get out there and clock those miles.
Annie doesn’t run to lose weight or being in better physical condition. Annie’s running to try and escape the guilt she feels over her boyfriend Kyle’s death. And Annie is willing to endure the training and sacrifices necessary to run 26.2 miles in memory and honor of Kyle.
Annie’s guilt stems from the fact that when her high school sweetheart proposed to her, she not only turned him down but broke off their relationship. They eventually got back together. But on the night they rekindled their romance, Kyle was killed in a fluke accident, leaving Annie behind with guilt and questions over whether or not she wasted what time they could have together had she not broken things off.
Kyle was a runner and training for the Music City Marathon. In honor of his memory, Annie decided to finish what he started — even though she’s never had any interesting in running until now. So, she signs up for a training program to help her get ready and to get her lifestyle in line with what’s needed to be a long distance runner.
While training, she meets Jeremiah, the younger brother of her trainer and self-confessed extreme sports junkie. Jeremiah is addicted to the rush he feels after completing a long run, a bungee jump or a variety of other sports that cause Annie to raise an eyebrow and fear for his safety. Despite being warned away from Jeremiah by his brother, Annie still feels herself attracted to him. But Annie is conflicted by her guilt over Kyle and Jeremiah’s devil-may-care attitude about his personal safety.
Miranda Kenneally’s Breathe, Annie Breath chronicles Annie’s journey to forgive not only Kyle and Jeremiah, but also herself. During her relationship with Kyle, she grew apart from her long-time friends as well. And just as Annie works up the courage to run another mile or endure the latest complication from running, we also see her healing and allowing herself to reconnect with old friends and her family as well as allowing herself to admit she’s attracted to and falling for Jeremiah.
There’s a lot about Breathe, Annie Breathe that I really enjoyed. One of the biggest is that it’s set in Nashville and I recognized a lot of the places and trails that Annie uses to run in the story. And the character arcs for both Annie and Jeremiah ring true and thankfully, while there’s an instant attraction between the two characters, it’s not a case of insta-love, as we see with far too many young adult novels.
There’s also a mature sensibility to relationships and sexuality in this book that I found refreshing in a young adult novel. Early one, Annie is quick to let her hormones overtake and almost give into a roll on the creek bank with Jeremiah, only to have second thoughts and splash cold water on both of them. This is a young adult book that features both adult content and language, but it all feels authentic, earned and not put in there just to raise eyebrows or to shock readers.
All in all, Breathe, Annie Breathe is a fascinating character study centered around running that had me eagerly turning pages — not only to see what local landmark would be referenced next but also to follow Annie’s journey toward forgiveness and healing. This is the first novel I’ve read from Miranda Kenneally, but it probably won’t be the last.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received a copy of <i>The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances</i> from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I checked <i>Breathe, Annie Breathe</i> out of my local library.