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Running Away: A Memoir Hardcover – International Edition, April 15, 2014
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Feeling depressed and out of shape and living in a slummy Miami apartment, journalist Powell (This Love Is Not for Cowards, 2012) remembers how his father changed his own couch-potato life years earlier by running the Boston Marathon. Having little to tie him down to anywhere or anything, save his pooch Valentine, the 39-year-old Powell heads to Boulder, Colorado, to reinvent himself. His writing is congenial and honest, and along the road to becoming a marathoner, he admits the worst: he shoplifted as a kid, he thinks “church is boring,” he cheated on his wife and then divorced her, he wishes he had trashed his married lover’s studio instead of just leaving. In Boulder, a town serious about running, Powell lives in a former chicken coop, and as he starts shedding weight, he starts shedding his remorseful past as well, sharing with the reader the hills and the valleys (figurative and literal), the PowerBars and the lightweight shoes, and the sparely dispensed but growing approval from his father. A companionable run from real regret to near-respect. --Eloise Kinney
“I truly enjoyed Running Away, not only because it seemed so real, and was so well-written, but because I could feel Robert’s struggle. It's more than just a book about running. It is one of those few books that you have to read straight through – and you won’t want any interference while doing so.” —Bill Rodgers, four times winner of the Boston Marathon and former American marathon record holder
“As authentic as a hard-fought ten-miler through the bitter cold of winter, Powell's memoir is an open book, warts and all. Like a transcendent race, Running Away delivers.” —Chris Lear, author of Running with the Buffaloes
“Powell's tale is raw, introspective, humorous, and touching. It is the story of his abrupt transformation--via running--from living like a deadbeat to living like a clock, and it hits like an interval session. It will move anyone who has ever found meaning in the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other.” —David Epstein, author of The Sports Gene
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More importantly, the writing is excellent (well, there were a few stretches of way too much catalogue-like detail about his childhood home and father that were slow going) and well edited enough to keep it a good read---almost a page turner, in fact, which I wasn't really expecting.
The rich descriptions of Miami and Boulder's very different subcultures was excellent. Kind of wish he had left out the considerable monetary cost of all the running gear he bought from the usual overpriced small boutique running stores (a typical newbie mistake, when you can get it for 30-60% less online if you know what you're doing) because it made me feel sorry for his naivete.
The author's own memoir-style retelling of his relationships/marriages were the most interesting part of the book really...kind of surprising for me to say that since I'm also a long distance runner. I wanted to hear more about that, and more about the father-son dynamic which I had a feeling he restrained himself from really going into the real blood and guts emotional violence that probably was there.
Anyway, this type of breezy but still thought-provoking book is perfectly suited for the Kindle format.
I mostly enjoyed the book, specifically the chapter about the marathon and the author's interaction with his father immediately afterward. Some of it choked me up. I wonder, though, if the book will be as effective for readers who don't fit into the fairly narrow demographic Powell seems to have written for. It's a demographic I personally fit into precisely... male marathon runners wirh a history of parental issues, self indulgence, ruined relationships, poor decisions, and many false starts.
Robert Powell is relentless in his self examination, both as a runner and as a man. That is not to say the book is without humor and heart. Like a good run, there is a little trudging but a lot of reward. I'm glad I bought it.
Powell writes the way he runs... his reach may exceed his grasp a bit, but he leaves absolutely everything on the road. I'd do well to run as courageously.