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Running Away: A Memoir

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When journalist Robert Andrew Powell finished his first marathon, he cried, cradled in his father’s arms. Long distance runners understand where those tears come from, even if there are others who will never understand what drives someone to run 26.2 consecutive miles in a grueling mental and physical test. Powell’s emotional reaction to completing the race wasn’t just When journalist Robert Andrew Powell finished his first marathon, he cried, cradled in his father’s arms. Long distance runners understand where those tears come from, even if there are others who will never understand what drives someone to run 26.2 consecutive miles in a grueling mental and physical test. Powell’s emotional reaction to completing the race wasn’t just about the run, though. It was also about the joy and relief of coming back up after hitting rock bottom. Running Away is the story of how one decision can alter the course of a life. Knocked down by a painful divorce and inspired by his father, Powell decided to change his mindset and circumstances. He moved to Boulder and began running in earnest for the first time in his life. Over the 26.2 chapters that follow, Powell grapples with his past relationships, gaining insight and hard-won discipline that give him hope for the future.


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When journalist Robert Andrew Powell finished his first marathon, he cried, cradled in his father’s arms. Long distance runners understand where those tears come from, even if there are others who will never understand what drives someone to run 26.2 consecutive miles in a grueling mental and physical test. Powell’s emotional reaction to completing the race wasn’t just When journalist Robert Andrew Powell finished his first marathon, he cried, cradled in his father’s arms. Long distance runners understand where those tears come from, even if there are others who will never understand what drives someone to run 26.2 consecutive miles in a grueling mental and physical test. Powell’s emotional reaction to completing the race wasn’t just about the run, though. It was also about the joy and relief of coming back up after hitting rock bottom. Running Away is the story of how one decision can alter the course of a life. Knocked down by a painful divorce and inspired by his father, Powell decided to change his mindset and circumstances. He moved to Boulder and began running in earnest for the first time in his life. Over the 26.2 chapters that follow, Powell grapples with his past relationships, gaining insight and hard-won discipline that give him hope for the future.

30 review for Running Away: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Terzah

    If you had asked me yesterday, I would have told you this was a 2- or a 3-star book. It had so much not going for it: I hate memoirs--the bestselling ones are usually navel-gazing pity parties, often written by privileged people who can afford to take the pity party to Bali or through-hike gorgeous trails while the rest of us work for a living (yes, I'm bitter); I hate divorce and adultery stories--call this a hang-up from my youth if you want; and I hate reading the musings of people who refuse If you had asked me yesterday, I would have told you this was a 2- or a 3-star book. It had so much not going for it: I hate memoirs--the bestselling ones are usually navel-gazing pity parties, often written by privileged people who can afford to take the pity party to Bali or through-hike gorgeous trails while the rest of us work for a living (yes, I'm bitter); I hate divorce and adultery stories--call this a hang-up from my youth if you want; and I hate reading the musings of people who refuse to grow up--the male variety, it turns out, is just as annoying as the female. In this book, well....all of that features prominently. But it's also about running and qualifying for the Boston Marathon, and it's set in Boulder, where I work. There's a lot of funny commentary on the place, several spot-on descriptions of tough training runs and almost every chapter mentions somewhere or someone I know. So I was going to grit my teeth and finish it, even if the author's descriptions of his Daddy issues and his married ex-lover Mrs. Wisconsin and his ill treatment at her hands were wearing *very* thin. Talking to a friend on the phone about it (this friend is mentioned in the book), I asked, "Did you *like* this guy?" That was before I read the last couple of chapters (spoilers here--don't continue if you think you'll read this book). Powell's description of his Boston qualifier attempt at Myrtle Beach is something I've been looking for for a long time in the many books and blogs I've read about running: someone, an ordinary someone, not someone who discovers long-hidden talent or is returning to the glory days of their cross-country youth, but someone like you and me who writes about the experience of NOT achieving a big goal in a way devoid of New Age crap. So much running literature (to say nothing of what's on the Internet) is "inspirational" in such a way that all it does is make those who have failed feel like, well, failures. Sure, I like reading about guys like Meb Keflezighi and Alberto Salazar, and I can learn from them. But the truth is, most of us ordinary folks are going to fail if we're setting the bar high enough. Powell gets this--and it redeems his story in the end. "Running," he writes, "is practice for not quitting." He adds, "It really is, I can now confirm. Whatever my shortcomings out here in Boulder, I never quit." I don't understand anyone who would choose Miami over Colorado (because you don't have to live in the lala land of Boulder to get the benefits of living in this state), and I doubt Powell is someone I'd ever be friends with (too much whiny resentment of women). But he's got writing chops, and he's got running chops, so in the end he's got my respect. I don't know if he tried for Boston again. I hope he has, and I hope he made it. I'll raise a glass of good Avery beer to not quitting any day.

  2. 4 out of 5

    adrienna

    Some people found this book really depressing, but I didn't. I think you need to be a runner to "get" this book. Otherwise, how do you know how significant it is to qualify for Boston? A non-runner would have so much trouble identifying with the author. Aside from running, I have nothing in common with him. His actions are largely selfish, his motivations kind of embarrassed me (I can't imagine being driven to do something because my dad did - especially at almost 40 years old). But I found his Some people found this book really depressing, but I didn't. I think you need to be a runner to "get" this book. Otherwise, how do you know how significant it is to qualify for Boston? A non-runner would have so much trouble identifying with the author. Aside from running, I have nothing in common with him. His actions are largely selfish, his motivations kind of embarrassed me (I can't imagine being driven to do something because my dad did - especially at almost 40 years old). But I found his journey impressive. He worked hard to improve. What did he say? Running is practicing not to quit? Something like that. And it's true.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Happyreader

    His massage therapist was right. His gratitude muscle really needed stretching. So much good was achieved and received in one year and yet he rarely enjoyed or appreciated the process of working towards his goal. A cautionary tale on the downside of being so fixated on a narrowly defined end result to the detriment of missing out on all the benefits of the process and on the opportunities of achieving beyond your expectations. I enjoyed the tales of Boulder, its racing community, and expanding His massage therapist was right. His gratitude muscle really needed stretching. So much good was achieved and received in one year and yet he rarely enjoyed or appreciated the process of working towards his goal. A cautionary tale on the downside of being so fixated on a narrowly defined end result to the detriment of missing out on all the benefits of the process and on the opportunities of achieving beyond your expectations. I enjoyed the tales of Boulder, its racing community, and expanding his racing capacity. The personal drama was tiresome and all of his own creation and perpetuation to avoid growing up. Well-written but ultimately unsatisfying. The transformation is limited and temporary. One bump in the road and he’s out. At the end, I felt the worst for Rich and Carl. They were more invested than Robert.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Moderow

    A Pavement Pounder It's a bit of a pity party at times but it slogs on and with some humor here and there. Any book you finish by choice isn't a bad book and I hung around until the very end.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jane Dance

    What a disappointment. A book about discovering running should be uplifting, and for me this was not.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sara Russell

    Appreciate the anti-climatic and decidedly non-self-congratulatory nature of this running-focused memoir. I liked the realness that underlined Powell’s story— I just wasn’t fully captivated. I wish his self-worth was based on training for and completing the marathon itself, rather than the (arbitrary) time goal of AG Boston qualifying. Alas, that’s life in running, it would seem.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Seth Hiatt

    Sorry, I love running and love books written by the people that it happened to, but this fell flat for me. It felt like a millennial snowflake trying to cash in on his father's achievements but not having the determination to actually make his own dreams come true. Felt like an exercise in mediocrity.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    Four stars because this book was so well written. Clearly Powell is a talented writer. But I would only give it 3 stars based on the story. Because Powell is so self absorbed. Cheats on his wife after making her move to Miami. Moves to Boulder to pursue a dream of qualifying for Boston and to prove to his father that he is worthy. Doesn't work, just hires a coach and sinks himself deeply into debt. Seriously? Still, his journey makes for an interesting read. But I just wanted to reach into the Four stars because this book was so well written. Clearly Powell is a talented writer. But I would only give it 3 stars based on the story. Because Powell is so self absorbed. Cheats on his wife after making her move to Miami. Moves to Boulder to pursue a dream of qualifying for Boston and to prove to his father that he is worthy. Doesn't work, just hires a coach and sinks himself deeply into debt. Seriously? Still, his journey makes for an interesting read. But I just wanted to reach into the book and strangle him. Anyways he wrote this book, so hopefully he's getting himself out of debt. I hope he's working, and better yet, I hope he's still running.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ramon

    It's a nice change of pace to read a running book written by an ordinary dude with ordinary dude problems. Unlike other running books where the writer glorifies his or her running ability to the point where you think they had cured cancer, Andrew Powell remains humble throughout his journey while he constantly improves during his attempt to qualify for Boston. Anyone who has raced a marathon will be able to appreciate and relate to Powell's determination throughout all 26.2 chapters.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Brandon Orr

    I loved everything about this book. It's not a love story or feel good story but an honest story with a great ending. Loved it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ying Zu

    fascinating read. As a start-up runner, I enjoyed every bit of struggle described in the book, be it during training/running, or doubts about life and love.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Holly Mowery

    For me this book can be divided into 2 parts. First, the story of his running. I'm an avid runner; fell absolutely in love with it about 6 years ago. I took a break and though I'm back now, I regret that decision. Powell is a great writer and his back stories on his marathon quest had me aching for more. However, the second part of this book centered on his life, his decisions, daddy issues and all around negativity and it grew very old, very fast. I too, laughed as many did, when he claimed he For me this book can be divided into 2 parts. First, the story of his running. I'm an avid runner; fell absolutely in love with it about 6 years ago. I took a break and though I'm back now, I regret that decision. Powell is a great writer and his back stories on his marathon quest had me aching for more. However, the second part of this book centered on his life, his decisions, daddy issues and all around negativity and it grew very old, very fast. I too, laughed as many did, when he claimed he was going to qualify for Boston in 1 year after deciding to start running from a point of no running, being overweight and beating his father who qualified in a year decades earlier. Talk about EGO and needing some humility. Reading his story, he was not a likable person but his marathon quest taught him valuable lessons in the end and I think he knew that. Running has the capacity to do that. It will teach you how not quit, to persevere and expand yourself if you shut up and show up long enough to truly embrace it and respect it. This book fell short of my expectations but still a somewhat enjoyable read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Carrie

    This was a quick read and a little inspirational. I think it would take a runner to truly enjoy the narrative. In some ways I could identify with the author (trying to find meaning, meaningful work, meaningful relationships). He and I are around the same age, or at least we were at the time he wrote this book. However, there was plenty about him to dislike. As others have said in their reviews, he blames his dad and his relationships for a lot of the wrong in his life. He seems needy and reliant This was a quick read and a little inspirational. I think it would take a runner to truly enjoy the narrative. In some ways I could identify with the author (trying to find meaning, meaningful work, meaningful relationships). He and I are around the same age, or at least we were at the time he wrote this book. However, there was plenty about him to dislike. As others have said in their reviews, he blames his dad and his relationships for a lot of the wrong in his life. He seems needy and reliant on others' opinions of him. Also I had trouble mustering up any respect for him since he seemed remiss to hold a real job or take any responsibility for his finances (after his parents put him through both undergrad and graduate school). I finished it, so that is saying something. But I wasn't super fond of the author or his goals.

  14. 4 out of 5

    April Davidson

    I enjoyed the running aspects of this book, and even the author's personal issues, but at times felt it was a bit of a downer. You can tell he tried to end the book on a positive note, but it still came off a bit depressing. What was nice was to read about Boulder as I've never been, and it actually seems maybe a bit too liberal for me now that I've read this. His assessment at the end of the book about Boulder is great. I really wanted to like this book, but struggled.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kenton

    I kept waiting..... I kept waiting for the author to come out of his slump. While it was interesting and he did a good job of narrating the audible portion, the whole book to me was kind of depressing. If I knew the entire book was going to play out like it did I probably wouldn’t have stuck with it. Of course what brought my attention to this book was that I enjoy running, although I’m much older & much slower than the author or his father.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Abby

    I felt compelled to keep reading this (I did finish it) but was so frustrated by this author. Talk about a failure to launch. He’s so often disgusted by people’s decisions but *at least they made decisions*! Meanwhile, he’s a total burnout with a single goal, no job, no effort to get one, no commitment to anyone or anything, no problem leaving his dog out in the cold, and no way to see himself out of his father’s disappointment.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lucifersliege

    We've all been there... I'll be honest, this book probably connected with me more than most, as I've just turned 40, and am trying to rewire my brain and body for betterment of self. Well written. Good insight. Plenty of emotion.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    An inspiring read for anyone who has set a lofty goal and the hiccups that happen along the way. It was interesting to read a running story that wasn't some elite athlete, but actually an average Joe, if you will.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Terry

    Accurate and honest. I identified with many of the author's feelings, experiences and struggles in a running career. I so wanted Robert to achieve his goal, but in the end he achieved much more. I'm sure many runners who read this book will identify with many of Robert 's life lessons woven through a running and training experience.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Courtney Burns

    Do you enjoy running? Do you have daddy issues? If so, this is the book for you!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly Tucker

    Boring Read I couldn’t finish the book. Lost interested. Wish it would have just stuck to the running story, not the hate he felt toward his dad or ex wife.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay Russo

    I'm a sucker for memoirs about fuck-ups. There's a distance here that mostly works for me. It's vulnerable and raw - but not too visceral. It's the written version of a caress or a slap - not dirty talk or a brutal attack.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Jo

    I love stories on people's journey into running & hearing about their experiences in races. So I was excited to give this book a go. I just didn't get into this one. This was the story of Robert & his life after his divorce, finding his living arrangements in Hotels & without a job. He decides to try something his own father did at his late years in his life. Take up running. Except his father qualified for Boston on his first marathon out & then finished Boston in an amazing I love stories on people's journey into running & hearing about their experiences in races. So I was excited to give this book a go. I just didn't get into this one. This was the story of Robert & his life after his divorce, finding his living arrangements in Hotels & without a job. He decides to try something his own father did at his late years in his life. Take up running. Except his father qualified for Boston on his first marathon out & then finished Boston in an amazing time. A true natural. Robert decides to try the same, moving from Miami & going to Boulder, Colorado. The book documents the whole thing, the people he meets, the people that train him, all the way through is qualifying Boston race - his first marathon. But the book just kept traveling back & going through the past & this book seemed more like a therapy book about the relationship he had with his father more then anything else. Everything was a comparison, an attitude of being better then his father, how his father seemed to think of his son as worthless & this was just a point to prove to his dad. I actually got so bored with it at one point, I skipped like 10 chapters & STILL didn't feel like I missed anything - the next chapter started with the same feel. I will say, I did enjoy the chapter on his marathon he ran...but even that, his father being at the race & at the finish line, & the voice of his dad he heard in his head... yeah, more of a therapy book then a running book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tara Scott

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I've met very few running books that I didn't like but this one...my God it was awful and hard to get through. Without giving away too much for any of you out there who may want to read it, I will just say that this guy comes off as a whiny little bitch with daddy issues. The majority of the book is just him perseverating on his father's accomplishment of qualifying for Boston on his first try, and while this is a very stunning accomplishment, the way he talks about it makes it seem like no man I've met very few running books that I didn't like but this one...my God it was awful and hard to get through. Without giving away too much for any of you out there who may want to read it, I will just say that this guy comes off as a whiny little bitch with daddy issues. The majority of the book is just him perseverating on his father's accomplishment of qualifying for Boston on his first try, and while this is a very stunning accomplishment, the way he talks about it makes it seem like no man has ever qualified for Boston before or after his dad. Also the author recounts numerous magazine and newspaper articles about his dad's qualifying run, but the whole time I'm just sitting there thinking, what the heck? Has no one in their New Hampshire town ever run before? Why is everyone so in awe of this guy? He also makes his dad out to be a huge jerk and it is the same for his portrayal of Frank Shorter. The only thing I like about this book was that the author tried, but came up short to actually qualify for Boston. Almost every other running book I read starts out as someone whom has never run before or has not run in a long time but busts out this amazing qualifying time on some ridiculously hard race and is then transformed into a running God. This was not that book. You'd think this would make me like the book or at least the guy who wrote it, but honestly he just came off as a huge tool and a giant loser that can't keep his life together and just cries about it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Terje Fokstuen

    Running, divorce, Fathers and Sons, and starting over in midlife after the failures of his earlier years are the ground covered by Powell in his remarkable and brutally honest memoir of a year spent in Boulder, Co trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon. At the age of 39 Powell's father, a successful businessman and father of four, began running, within a year he qualified for, and finished, the Boston Marathon. Stuck in idle at that same age, living in a down rent hotel in Miami, Powell Running, divorce, Fathers and Sons, and starting over in midlife after the failures of his earlier years are the ground covered by Powell in his remarkable and brutally honest memoir of a year spent in Boulder, Co trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon. At the age of 39 Powell's father, a successful businessman and father of four, began running, within a year he qualified for, and finished, the Boston Marathon. Stuck in idle at that same age, living in a down rent hotel in Miami, Powell decides to cash in his 401K, give up his nonexistent career in magazine journalism, and move to Boulder, where he begins to run. The book follows his training, it is divided into 26.2 chapters, one for each me in a marathon, and how he acclimated to the world of serious running. Some of the highlights are his insights into the world of serious running, and the camaraderie that exists there. As the book progresses we learn about Powell's failures as a husband, and of a life lived in the shadow of his father. It's an almost great book that derives its strengths from Powell's commitment to honesty. I heartily recommend it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Shelly♥

    Robert Powell's life is all but practically in the dumbster. Divorced and mostly unemployed, he decides to emulate his father in his 39th year. His father, in one year, turned around from an inactive person. Trained, qualified and ran the Boston Marathon. He's been a runner ever since. Now, since Robert is 39, he's going to move to Boulder,CO, focus on training and accomplish this same feat. And maybe in the middle of all this, he will put his life back together. The book will be enjoyed by Robert Powell's life is all but practically in the dumbster. Divorced and mostly unemployed, he decides to emulate his father in his 39th year. His father, in one year, turned around from an inactive person. Trained, qualified and ran the Boston Marathon. He's been a runner ever since. Now, since Robert is 39, he's going to move to Boulder,CO, focus on training and accomplish this same feat. And maybe in the middle of all this, he will put his life back together. The book will be enjoyed by runners, but also by people who have felt like they have never met their goals, or achieved their potential. Powell has a slew of poor choices to back up his state of unhappiness. Yet, he still seeks to grab for that brass ring. What does running do? It teaches us not to quit. I found it motivational, even if it's not a true warm-fuzzy, feel good, I did this kind of story. It's a "didn't make it to the mountaintop, but I'm not jumping off, I'm trying another mountain" kind of story.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Mcquiston

    I really enjoy books on running, and even though "Running Away" is another of those memoirs that could be stuck in the muck of being an ungrateful navel gazer, but Powell does not get completely caught up in a "woe is me" attitude. He is trying to go from being inactive to qualifying for the Boston Marathon. This is an interesting concept for someone who does run and who knows that the Boston Marathon is very difficult. But he is doing this because he wants to follow in his father's footsteps, I really enjoy books on running, and even though "Running Away" is another of those memoirs that could be stuck in the muck of being an ungrateful navel gazer, but Powell does not get completely caught up in a "woe is me" attitude. He is trying to go from being inactive to qualifying for the Boston Marathon. This is an interesting concept for someone who does run and who knows that the Boston Marathon is very difficult. But he is doing this because he wants to follow in his father's footsteps, who was able to qualify for Boston in the first year he was running. He wants so much to get the respect of his father, and he is to the point in his life that he feels as if it is time to prove himself. Mix this in with moving to Boulder Colorado, a city that is important and friendly to the world's running community. In the end, the memoir is well written and the creativity makes for a memoir that could be less interesting in another person's hands. This is a nice edition to the group of nonfiction books I have about running, even one of the better books.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lorri

    Goals are not necessarily meant to be reached, but rather a format to utilize in our search for Self within our environment. We are all a piece of the whole, within humanity's fold. There are lessons to be learned through trying to reach a goal. I liked the structure of the chapters...one chapter for each mile run. I liked how Powell was able to glean from his journey, no matter how overwhelming it felt at the time. Running Away: A Memoir is a book that defines the struggles and hardships we Goals are not necessarily meant to be reached, but rather a format to utilize in our search for Self within our environment. We are all a piece of the whole, within humanity's fold. There are lessons to be learned through trying to reach a goal. I liked the structure of the chapters...one chapter for each mile run. I liked how Powell was able to glean from his journey, no matter how overwhelming it felt at the time. Running Away: A Memoir is a book that defines the struggles and hardships we encounter through life, often through our own choices. Powell emphasizes those issues within his memoir, but emphasizes them through the act of running a marathon, his metaphor for his life journeys. I was awarded a Goodreads Giveaway for this book, but did not receive it. So, I borrowed Running Away from my library, because I felt it would be a book I would like to read, having run, and finished, a marathon, myself.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sean Halpin

    An easy read with some decent introspection--but ultimately a depressing tale of a sad sad man. I can empathize with the unrelenting drive to throw every ounce of energy toward accomplishing a goal time in an endurance race. It takes a level of persistence that is very challenging to maintain; and that is something that the author does a good job of portraying. Yet the story he tells is just not very compelling. Powell lives a privileged life--yet he has a history of dropping out, giving up, and An easy read with some decent introspection--but ultimately a depressing tale of a sad sad man. I can empathize with the unrelenting drive to throw every ounce of energy toward accomplishing a goal time in an endurance race. It takes a level of persistence that is very challenging to maintain; and that is something that the author does a good job of portraying. Yet the story he tells is just not very compelling. Powell lives a privileged life--yet he has a history of dropping out, giving up, and moving onto the next best thing. At times I found myself just wanting to reach through my Kindle app and slap Powell. It would be useless though. This book presents like a Ben Stiller movie with the funny parts stripped away. In the end the reader is left with a man who just can't get his life together.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Bearcatgary

    My 4 star rating is based upon the fact that I am a runner. For non-runners, I don't think this book would be a that interesting. The author is the son of a man who quit smoking at age 39 and started up running. Within 1 year, the father was fit enough to run a Boston Marathon qualifying time. The story is about the son's attempt to repeat his father's feat. As a runner, I will say that to do what the father accomplished is quite incredible. I liked the parts of the book that pertained to My 4 star rating is based upon the fact that I am a runner. For non-runners, I don't think this book would be a that interesting. The author is the son of a man who quit smoking at age 39 and started up running. Within 1 year, the father was fit enough to run a Boston Marathon qualifying time. The story is about the son's attempt to repeat his father's feat. As a runner, I will say that to do what the father accomplished is quite incredible. I liked the parts of the book that pertained to running, however the author's obsession with his failed romances sometimes bordered on pathetic. For me, the intrigue was whether the author would make the Boston qualifying time. I also liked that the author moved to Boulder, CO to submerge himself in a running environment. Since I have never been there, I enjoyed his description of this quintessential running town.

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