Can running a marathon mend a broken man? Robert Powell’s latest book, Running Away, is a memoir of his attempt to do just that. Divorced, unemployed, and on the brink of suicide, he decides to turn his life around by running the Boston Marathon. Powell moves to Boulder, Colorado, running mecca of the United States, to seek salvation by throwing himself headlong into the almost puritanical routine of a serious marathon runner.
In just one year, he will train, qualify for, and run ‘Boston.’ He is both inspired and intimidated by his father’s same accomplishment. His father, an overweight smoker, began running at the age of 39. Within a year, he finished the Boston Marathon in under three hours. His father credits Frank Shorter and the 1970’s running boom as a source of inspiration.
The younger Powell finds a running coach, a masseuse, and a running club in Boulder. He surrounds himself with friends that discourage his bad habits and help him through his rigorous training plan. He fights his doubts, fears, and personal history of failure as he attempts to find the will to complete his quest.
The story weaves back and forth through time and space to tell the tale of Powell’s childhood, his failed relationships, and his shaky history of employment. Powell tells all, and reveals the unvarnished truth to the reader. His progress as a runner and his progress through life are told in parallel.
As I read this book, it reminded me a lot of Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. I found myself wishing Powell would talk more about running and less about his failed relationships. However, I’m sure many of you will find the details of his relationships and life struggles to be the best part of Running Away.