Book Review: Sky Runner: Finding Strength, Happiness, and Balance in Your Running

Sky Runner: Finding Strength, Happiness, and Balance in Your Running, written by Emelie Forsberg, Photography by Kilian Jornet. Blue Star Press, 2018. Reviewed by trail runner Laura Clark for the Fall 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.

In Sky Runner, Emelie Forsberg, a world champion sky runner, ultra-runner and ski mountaineer, demonstrates that she is so much more than her impressive titles with this book that is a mix of travelogue, cookbook, contemplation and training advice. A sensory delight at the get-go, even my hands took pleasure in roaming the textured cover and examining the thick, substantive pages. Kilian Jornet’s stunning photography is a fitting complement to Emelie’s poetic reflections. As a premier sky runner himself, he truly captures not only the spirit of the mountains, but also Emelie’s joy in her journey of self-discovery.

To be honest, I had certainly heard about Emelie’s accomplishments but only in a footnote sort of way. After reading her account, I know I will actively follow her career because I have gained such a great respect for her as a fellow runner. As she depicts her outdoor childhood in Sweden and her college studies, we learn that running is an essential part of her being. I had often wondered what would prompt an athlete to turn their passion into their profession, realizing that the necessity of making a living would color the gift of freedom that running provides.

But Emelie’s common sense extends well beyond her years and when her obvious talent precipitated this decision, she vowed to continue only as long as she could maintain her joy in the sport and the sense of adventure it gives her. In fact, while Emelie offers excellent training tips, the main take-away is spontaneity. Rather than be rigidly tied to a fixed schedule, Emelie prefers to self-coach. For her, “The trick is to see your training as something playful, something you want to return not something you have to do.” As someone who has run longer distance trail and snowshoe events, as long as I get in the requisite miles, I too prefer to run by “feel.” And I bet you do too. How many times have you, like Emelie, extended a run just to discover what was at the top of a mountain or where a particular trail led?

This work is meant to be read (and reread) thoughtfully, with plenty of pauses as we examine Emelie’s captioned reflections superimposed over Kilian’s inspiring photos. Her goal the is an attempt to strike a balance between the predictable and the unknown, and more importantly to recognize the necessity of that balance to her life as an athlete and a contented human being.

Not a bad lesson for all of us!