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Confronting the Past, One Marathon at a Time

by Caleb Daniloff

Pub Date: Oct. 9th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-547-45005-6
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Daniloff debuts with his account of using running in his recovery from alcoholism.

After nearly 10 years on the wagon, writes the author, “the anxieties and insecurities I'd tried to cover up with booze still remained.” However, he found a “new central pattern to his life” when he took up competitive distance running, and here he chronicles the long slog back, accomplished one step at a time. It started when he found the strength to begin to fight to keep his relationship with his wife and her child, which he did “out of fear. To not be alone.” Running seemed like a metaphor for getting his life under control. There was a buildup, but the training, exercise, diet and health requirements provided the structure he sought. During the course of more than a year in 2009 and 2010, he ran in seven races, five of them marathons. Each one provided a purpose and a kind of exorcism through exercise. In an engaging voice, the author brings the courses alive for readers. He replicates the physical demands of running such courses and the barriers, mental and physical, that need to be broken through to get to the finishing line. He interweaves the story of each race with memories and dialogue from the past, and he is candid about his childhood problems and his competition with his marathon-running father. At the end of the Marine Corps Marathon in 2010, when he realized that he had “no one to answer to any more but me,” Daniloff could move on.

Confidence in the future lends appeal to this deeply personal memoir.