A casual runner finds encouragement from a new romantic partner and makes a pact to run a marathon with him on each continent.
Divorced and facing career uncertainty in her mid-30s, Seattle-based therapist Ostman took up jogging at the suggestion of Bill, a former colleague who was quickly turning into more. Though she enjoyed running, the author was skeptical when Bill asked her to run a marathon with him in Prague. She trained hesitantly, and even using a walk-run method, had a difficult time building mileage. The race had an even more inauspicious start when Ostman and Bill missed the starting line and had to make up two miles on their own at the end. Still, she was infected by the experience—both the travel and the running—and she and Bill, who eventually married, agreed to run a marathon on every continent, which became a grueling and expensive, though ultimately rewarding endeavor. The book is more of a training log than a travel memoir, and the places become almost irrelevant apart from the actual race experience. Australia was lonely, for example—a back-of-the-pack runner, she was by herself for most of the rural course with no runners or other spectators. She earned a personal record in the shadow of Mount Fuji and got sick in Capetown, battling a debilitating stomach bug and the relentless African sun. Just as important as the races are the incredible number of training hours she logged at home, especially after a crime scare shocked the local running community. Although she and Bill embarked on the journey together, with such discrepancies in their pace, she quickly learned that it would be a largely solitary adventure, with levels of both boredom and profound introspection unparalleled by anything she had ever experienced.
Serious runners will relate to the highs and lows of Ostman's training, but her narrow, personal journey offers little in the way of universal resonance.