A runner, denied her chance to compete as a teenager, returns to the challenge almost 50 years later—and finds her path to self-understanding in the process.
In 1959, Kern (100 Whispered Words, 2015, etc.), an Austrian teenager, was offered the chance to compete as a sprinter for a place on the Olympic team. She was ecstatic. Then her father said “no!” and slapped her to the floor. It was a major disappointment but didn’t really come as a surprise. He had been beating and verbally abusing her for years. After his death two years later, the author went on to snag some acting and modeling jobs in Europe. Fast-forward to 2004. Kern was living in Los Angeles and from a casual acquaintance she learned about the “Senior Olympics.” A new spark had been lit. In 2007, almost five decades after having been denied her chance to compete, the author acquired a coach and returned to training. This entailed an extraordinarily demanding schedule, especially for a woman working as a real estate agent, the manager of her apartment building, and a part-time interior design consultant while writing several books. It also involved a substantial level of pain, as one body part or another rebelled against the intense exercises. In April 2008, at the coach’s suggestion, Kern began a journal to keep track of her workouts, diet, and thoughts. This memoir, covering her experiences from 2008 to 2013, is culled from that journal. As she deftly reveals details of her past, readers gradually learn that the physical pain mirrored the psychological trauma she had kept tucked away for decades, what she calls “the Monster within”—the fear that she was not good enough, not worthy: “Whatever goes through my head is only intensified because I am still wrestling with my father.” So much of the very ably written text is devoted to the minuscule details of her training program that readers not involved in athletics will likely become restless. But her story of overcoming layers of damage caused by her father’s violent attacks is compelling.
A guide for aspiring senior athletes and an inspirational shoutout to victims of abuse.