RUNNER by Lizzy Hawker is both humbling and inspiring to a mid-pack runner like me who spends his days pounding the pavement in the suburbs. Hawker is a legend in the ultrarunning community. She’s a five time winner of the fabled Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, she held the world record for 24 hours on the road, and she was crowned women’s world champion in the 100km.
She takes us with her through all of those grueling races. And, impressive as that may be, it’s not the racing and the accolades that move the reader, it’s Lizzy’s pure and unadulterated love for running and her adoration of the natural world. She finds peace in high places and dark hours. Running allows her to explore the immediate physical world and her own uninterrupted thoughts.
On long training runs, I sometimes drift into a contemplative state of mind where clarity and truth briefly reveal themselves only to be dashed once the hypnotic moment passes. The well-trained body works effortlessly and the mind is given the freedom to wander to more interesting places. The longer the run, the more interesting this mental wandering becomes.
One cannot help but be impressed with the endurance and strength of Lizzy Hawker. She runs up and over mountains, day and night, for hundreds of miles at a time. She runs through pain and discomfort, hunger and exhaustion, and pursues her goals with fierce determination even as other world-class athletes fall by the wayside.
“Focus and attention, intention and effort. These are what bring dreams to reality, that allow us to do what it is we want or need to do. And they are what give what we want or need to do meaning.” -Lizzy Hawker
The long solo efforts are indicative of an endurance athlete’s introverted personality, but Lizzy values community and finds inspiration in the kindness of strangers. The tired runner is grateful for even the tiniest gestures. A smile, or the touch of another’s hand, can make even the toughest moments bearable.
Lizzy takes us on a world tour and introduces us to the places she runs. She brings us in close to share in her deepest thoughts and feelings about running. But, she leaves just enough out that we never know who she really is.
I found the last few chapters of RUNNER to be the most interesting. The always moving and inexhaustible Lizzy Hawker is forced to stand still. A series of stress fractures takes away her freedom and her passion, and force her to contemplate a life of stillness.
Anxiety flourishes in the gap between what we fear might and what we hope could happen. -Lizzy Hawker
As an injured runner, I ate up these last chapters in a single sitting. Hawker puts into words the powerful emotions of an injured runner with lucid brilliance and acumen. She writes from a place of knowledge and experience.
RUNNER by Lizzy Hawker, is an understated tale of epic accomplishments.