“[H]ead out the door, in any direction, for as long as you want, your mind unloosed from your brain, free to think and feel anything. The only person you have to measure up to is yourself. It is the essence of freedom, your destiny in your swinging hands.” – Caleb Daniloff

More than a year ago I wrote to Caleb Daniloff and asked for a copy of his book so I could read and review it here for all of you. It’s taken me WAAAYYY too long to get to it and to give a shout out to the book. My sincere apologies to Caleb, and it is certainly no reflection on his writing that I have been tardy in keeping my promise. It is much more a reflection of the number of things on my plate and on the sad fact that the more I write, the less time I seem to find to read.

Running Ransom RoadBut finally, here at the end of 2013, at the dawn of a new year, I’d like to say that Running Ransom Road is a good read and one every runner should pick up. Ransom Road: Confronting Life One Marathon at a Time by Caleb Daniloff is the story of a man who undertakes a quest to revisit some of the places in his life where he experienced shame and trauma. His hope is that by running in the places where he formerly participated in his debauchery and drunkenness, he can put his ghosts behind him and solidify the life lessons he needs to learn to move forward.

Daniloff is a good writer, a self-reflective person, and a runner who truly understands the spirit of the sport. One of the reasons it took me so long to read the book is that my husband Bill got hold of it and read it slowly, savoring Caleb’s journeys and his insights on sobriety and maturity. He underlined the hell out of the book. Eventually, I had to buy my own electronic copy so I could fulfill my promise and… well, here we are.

Those of you who read my blog regularly know how important it is to me to incorporate running’s wisdom into the rest of my life. Caleb is a runner after my own heart. A recovering alcoholic, he’s not a super fast marathoner, but he understands how running can carve out a person’s character. About his first attempt to run a sub-four hour marathon, he writes, “Someone from AA once said it takes five years to leave the bottle, five years to figure out who you are, and five years to become that person. I was almost at the ten-year mark. Would a 3:59:59 help speed me toward ‘that person’?” You’ll have to read the book to find out his answer to that question. What I love is that he’s asking it.

Daniloff’s prose is delicious. He’s the kind of writer about whom you say, “Honey, listen to this….” and then you let the power of the words hang in the air as you read them aloud. His book is gritty, filled with stories of drunken stupidity from early in life, but his insights about the sober life, the life of good character and intention, are wise and hard won. An award winning author who has contributed to Runner’s World, National Public Radio, Publisher’s Weekly, and The Boston Globe, you can trust Daniloff to carry the narrative with juicy details and a well-developed story arc.

Here are some of our favorite quotes from the book:

“While some folks are uncomfortable with the religious tones in AA rooms…, accessing a spiritual side of yourself, in my view, is an essential component for successful recovery–in other words, tapping into something inside, something bigger than yourself, slightly mysterious, that is beyond judgment and isn’t fully knowable but can be felt. Achieving a mindfulness without thinking. Faith, humility, submission, amends-making, moral inventories are indeed necessary ingredients in this effort.”

“Running as an antidote for trauma, an act of rebellion; I loved it.”

“[E]very run, especially a marathon, was about conquering doubt.”

“[R]unning had cracked me open, letting light into the hard-to-reach corners. It was a confessional, baptism by sweat. You can’t be false when your legs are screaming, your heart pounding, mouth gaping. You feel naked, and when you feel naked, you feel naked in front of something. Perhaps God or some cosmic energy or simply the wonder of nature, but something bigger than yourself, stirring a need to honor, to prostrate. Running was my daily prayer service, the marathon my vision quest.”

And with that last quote, you can see why I appreciate Caleb’s perspective. Running IS prayer. It is the place we meet the Ground of Being in a way that’s hard to explain.

If you’re looking for a book to kick off the new year with inspiration and depth, pick up Ransom Road and savor it, the way both Bill and I did. If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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