Book Review: Racing Heart: A Runner’s Journey of Love, Loss, and Perseverance

Racing Heart: A Runner’s Journey of Love, Loss and Perseverance, by Kate Mihevc Edwards. 2018. Reviewed by Laura Clark for the Winter 2018 edition of our Trail Times newsletter. Laura is an avid mountain, trail and snowshoe runner who lives in Saratoga Springs, NY, where she is a children’s librarian.

We have all experienced downtime due to injuries and have dreaded the resulting grieving cycle of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and eventual acceptance. Six weeks cross-training can seem like six years, when even the sight of someone running in a downpour ignites inordinate envy. The most telling loss, however, is the loss of community, the feeling of being anchorless with life stuck in a holding pattern.

Now imagine that this condition unforeseeably becomes permanent. That is exactly what happened to Kate Mihevc Edwards, who, like us, had used her running to escape from stress and put her life back into perspective. In high school Kate ran to cope with an alcoholic mother and as a bonus discovered something she was good at. Running helped her cope with a boring first job and eventually led to her career as a physical therapist. Whenever she moved, she found a home within a circle of new running friends.

Life was good. Until that very act of running betrayed her as she tired for no apparent reason. After an agonizing process replete with hope and then further setbacks, she was ultimately diagnosed with ARVC, arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy and was confronted with a life-altering choice: either continue running which defined her and face an early death or restructure her goals and live to see her son grow to adulthood.

As Kate articulately documents her ensuing struggle to let go of stress and perfectionism, it is impossible not to put ourselves in her place. Personally, I wonder how she can continue to work so intensively with athletes, teach college endurance classes and lecture throughout the country, but for her it gives a measure of release and continued access to the running community.

This is a painful book to read. In the back of our minds “what ifs” always lurk. Personally, I have been brought up short by injury-induced arthritis of the knee and have coped by trading trails for roads. But I am still running, not permanently relegated to the sidelines. Nevertheless, lurking in the background for all of us is the looming specter of old age. I have already jettisoned 50 milers and now find myself working the rear. Eight years from now, into my eighties, will I still be able to get out there? If not, I hope I can accept the situation as Kate has, always striving to discover another facet of myself.

Still, as Kate ultimately comments, “Maybe when I am an old lady, and have lived a full life, I will put a magnet on my ICD, lace up my running shoes one last time, and run out the door.”

Once a runner…..

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