Running and Returning: Seeking Balance in an Imperfect World, by Vicki Ash Hunter, PhD. CG Sports Publishing, 2022. Reviewed by trail runner Laura Clark. Laura is an avid mountain, trail and snowshoe runner who lives in Saratoga Springs, NY, where she is a children’s librarian.
It is often observed that runners tend to be addictive, Type A personalities with a need for control and an independence tinged with lone wolf tendencies. Team sports are not always a comfortable fit. But do we wonder why we have chosen this path in the first place? Is there something about running that makes it easier to live with ourselves and within our circumstances? Or does the physical act of motoring through time and space simply make it easier for us to cope without resorting to drugs, food, destructive behavior or other distractions? While insights are as unique as individual circumstances, author Vicki Ash Hunter bravely shares her own personal work in progress, reminiscent of George Sheehan’s Running & Being total experience approach.
And I say bravely, for self-exploration is one thing, but the act of honestly barring all to the general public is no small act of courage. Currently a retired University of Colorado political science professor and Foundation Training coach, Vicki Hunter presents us with a “tell-all” memoir that will undoubtedly strike a chord with your own compulsion to run. Looking back, she understands that as a teen, running soothed her self-doubts and helped subdue a family tendency toward depression. How many times have we gone for a run to escape a tough situation? Except that, for Vicki, every day was a tough situation. Inevitably, this dedication led to a running resume piled with elite accolades and storied events such as the Olympic Trials, Boston and Pikes Peak.
While we will hopefully never experience a life-threatening car accident or traumatic trail injury or a teen addicted to drugs, some of Vicki’s reactions were particularly telling for me. How many times have I tried to negotiate workouts on days when family or work obligations or even just a serendipitous opportunity should intervene instead? Vicki herself recognizes she does this and now, as part of her quest to run and return, is introducing a lifestyle based on more self-love and less compulsion. I must admit in the earlier sections, when her seeming sole concern was to get her run in, I cringed, recognizing myself. I am also going to try to learn, along with Vicki, that daily satisfaction does not necessarily depend upon rigorous completion of a to-do list. More important are personal interactions.
The take-away is that no matter how beneficial running is, equally important is the act of being in the moment, of relishing every birdsong, every human interaction, every sunrise and sunset.