In the tradition of Wild and H Is for Hawk, an 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.
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY REAL SIMPLE
I’m running to forget, and to remember.
For more than a decade, Katie Arnold chased adventure around the world, reporting on extreme athletes who performed outlandish feats—walking high lines a thousand feet off the ground without a harness, or running one hundred miles through the night. She wrote her stories by living them, until eventually life on the thin edge of risk began to seem normal. After she married, Katie and her husband vowed to raise their daughters to be adventurous, too, in the mountains and canyons of New Mexico. But when her father died of cancer, she was forced to confront her own mortality.
His death was cataclysmic, unleashing a perfect storm of grief and anxiety. She and her father, an enigmatic photographer for National Geographic, had always been kindred spirits. He introduced her to the outdoors and took her camping and on bicycle trips and down rivers, and taught her to find solace and courage in the natural world. And it was he who encouraged her to run her first race when she was seven years old.
Now nearly paralyzed by fear and terrified she was dying, too, she turned to the thing that had always made her feel most alive: running. Over the course of three tumultuous years, she ran alone through the wilderness, logging longer and longer distances, first a 50-kilometer ultramarathon, then 50 miles, then 100 kilometers. She ran to heal her grief, to outpace her worry that she wouldn’t live to raise her own daughters. She ran to find strength in her weakness. She ran to remember and to forget. She ran to live.
Ultrarunning tests the limits of human endurance over seemingly inhuman distances, and as she clocked miles across mesas and mountains, Katie learned to tolerate pain and discomfort, and face her fears of uncertainty, vulnerability, and even death itself. As she ran, she found herself peeling back the layers of her relationship with her father, discovering that much of what she thought she knew about him, and her own past, was wrong.
Running Home is a memoir about the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of our world—the stories that hold us back, and the ones that set us free. Mesmerizing, transcendent, and deeply exhilarating, it is a book for anyone who has been knocked over by life, or feels the pull of something bigger and wilder within themselves.
“A beautiful work of searching remembrance and searing honesty . . . Katie Arnold is as gifted on the page as she is on the trail. Running Home will soon join such classics as Born to Run and Ultramarathon Man as quintessential reading of the genre.”—Hampton Sides, author of On Desperate Ground and Ghost Soldiers
A woman's crippling grief over her father's death is the starter pistol for this marathon of self-discovery from Arnold, former Outside magazine editor and daughter of National Geographic photographer David Arnold. When a terminal cancer diagnosis halts her father's retirement project of archiving thousands of photos, those images reopen old wounds for Katie. Recalling her parents' separation when she was two, she writes, "It's nearly impossible to untangle my earliest memories from Dad's photographs." Shuttling between his rural Virginia home to care for him and her life in Santa Fe raising two children, she suppressed her anguish. After he died in 2010, she found his diaries, in which he had divulged mixed feelings about fatherhood and "deep resentment" of her. Arnold's narrative includes flashbacks of her need for her father's acceptance; she reveals how at age seven, "desperate for Dad's attention," she agreed to his dare to run a 10K race, and from that point became "a runner by accident." After his death, she relied on ultrarunning to manage anxiety and developed a friendship with Zen writer Natalie Goldberg (author of Writing Down the Bones) who offered koans during their weekly walks together ("You need to know death in order to blossom fully"). While her summations of lessons learned feel too pat, this is a bittersweet recollection of a father-daughter relationship.
What a wonderful story. I loved reading about trail running, motherhood, and grief. So many themes that blended beautifully together in a personal and intimate way and also a universal way. I was touched from the beginning and now am sad it’s over!