Running Home: A Memoir
In the tradition of Wild and H Is for Hawk, an Outside magazine writer tells her story—of fathers and daughters, grief and resilience, adventure and obsession, and the power of running to change your life.
I’m running to forget, and to remember.
For more than a decade, Katie Arnold chased adventure around the world, reporting on extreme athletes who performed outlandish feats—walking high lines a thousand feet off the ground without a harness, or running one hundred miles through the night. She wrote her stories by living them, until eventually life on the thin edge of risk began to seem normal. After she married, Katie and her husband vowed to raise their daughters to be adventurous, too, in the mountains and canyons of New Mexico. But when her father died of cancer, she was forced to confront her own mortality.
His death was cataclysmic, unleashing a perfect storm of grief and anxiety. She and her father, an enigmatic photographer for National Geographic, had always been kindred spirits. He introduced her to the outdoors and took her camping and on bicycle trips and down rivers, and taught her to find solace and courage in the natural world. And it was he who encouraged her to run her first race when she was seven years old.
Now nearly paralyzed by fear and terrified she was dying, too, she turned to the thing that had always made her feel most alive: running. Over the course of three tumultuous years, she ran alone through the wilderness, logging longer and longer distances, first a 50-kilometer ultramarathon, then 50 miles, then 100 kilometers. She ran to heal her grief, to outpace her worry that she wouldn’t live to raise her own daughters. She ran to find strength in her weakness. She ran to remember and to forget. She ran to live.
Ultrarunning tests the limits of human endurance over seemingly inhuman distances, and as she clocked miles across mesas and mountains, Katie learned to tolerate pain and discomfort, and face her fears of uncertainty, vulnerability, and even death itself. As she ran, she found herself peeling back the layers of her relationship with her father, discovering that much of what she thought she knew about him, and her own past, was wrong.
Running Home is a memoir about the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of our world—the stories that hold us back, and the ones that set us free. Mesmerizing, transcendent, and deeply exhilarating, it is a book for anyone who has been knocked over by life, or feels the pull of something bigger and wilder within themselves.
“A beautiful work of searching remembrance and searing honesty . . . Katie Arnold is as gifted on the page as she is on the trail. Running Home will soon join such classics as Born to Run and Ultramarathon Man as quintessential reading of the genre.”
—Hampton Sides, author of On Desperate Ground and Ghost Soldiers
“Profound on every page . . . What Elizabeth Gilbert has done for travel, Katie Arnold has done here for running. I was breathless by the end, murmuring thanks. Running Home is an instant classic, one that will be read for years to come.”
—Michael Paterniti, author of Love and Other Ways of Dying
“Running Home is a lovely, big-hearted, and inspiring memoir that looks life’s challenges right in the eye. Katie Arnold writes about the curveballs and heartbreaks—as well as the joys—with a pure emotional courage that matches her physical feats on the ultramarathon trails. This is a book with soul.”
—Susan Casey, author of Voices in the Ocean and The Wave
“Vibrating with energy and a driving love, the writing in this book matches the cadence of running, taking you on a sprint up and down the mountains and bends of human joy and grief. I dare you to put it down. Arnold is a powerful new voice that has no limits.”
—Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones and Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home
“RUNNING HOME is totally captivating. The descriptions of running and all the interpersonal threads surrounding it are just sublime.The memoir has a wonderful deep center of gravity to it, so as Katie Arnold plumbs the depths of her history, she is also going deeper into herself through running, and all that it brings. A truly deep and wise book, and a gripping story of a most remarkable journey. What a spectacular combination!”
—Henry Shukman, poet, associate Zen master, and author of Achangel and The Lost City
“Katie Arnold is a gifted athlete and equally talented writer. In Running Home she speaks candidly about her relationship with her father and a family dynamic that verged on dysfunctional, yet was also empowering. Her story drew me in from the first line and I couldn’t stop turning the pages. A must-read for anyone looking for a deeper glimpse into the mindset of a fearless individual.”
—Dean Karnazes, ultramarathoner and author of Ultramarathon Man
“RUNNING HOME deeply touched me. I could not put this book down, but instead of racing through it I slowed down to savor every wordt. I did not want it to end. Running Home reaffirmed how precious my time is with children, and it also inspired me to run again after my treatment for stage four lung cancer. The recovery has been long and challenging, but am starting to slowly put in some miles. A powerful, beautifully written book.”
—Chris Johns, former editor-in-chief of National Geographic Magazine
“Arnold masterfully captures the vulnerability of wading through grief with each step she takes towards self-discovery. This remarkable memoir will undoubtedly resonate with runners but equally so with children of divorce, new mothers, and those who have suffered the loss of a parent. An eloquent tribute to the complexity and vibrancy of a parent-child relationship.”
—Booklist (starred review)
After her parents’ divorce when she was a young child, Arnold (contributing editor at Outside Magazine) could not shake the feeling of abandonment by her father, David Arnold, a National Geographic photographer. She oftentimes felt as though she was the one leaving him behind. When David passes away shortly after being diagnosed with cancer, Arnold is unmoored by grief. Questioning her own health and mortality, she attempts to heal her anxiety through myriad natural remedies to no avail. From a friend, she learns the art of walking meditation, which she adopts and translates its principles to running. Setting a goal for herself, she participates and wins her first ultramarathon, advocating for challenging, long-distance runs as a form of therapy.
VERDICT: Far more than book about running,this touching memoir takes readers on a compelling and emotional journey as Arnold finds relief from her sorrow. Anyone who has experienced the death of a loved one will find comfort in these pages.” —Library Journal
Blazingly honest and vulnerable, shot through with vivid imagery and interspersed with David Arnold's photographs, Running Home is a daughter's tribute to her father, a love letter to running and a powerful meditation on the stories we tell ourselves. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams