Runner Reads: Katie Arnold’s “Running Home: A Memoir” a look into grief and mental health

The more I read, scroll through Instagram and watch TikTok videos, the more I see I’m not alone when it comes to mental illness. I’ve been doing well for a while, but there’s something validating about realizing just how common it is.

Screenshot from Audible of “Running Home: A Memoir” by Katie Arnold

I recently listened to Katie Arnold’s book, “Running Home: A Memoir,” in which the topic of anxiety arises.

Calgonquin 25K/50K Race Director Jason Swanson posted in the Algonquin Ultras Facebook group that he would be hosting a Zoom event with Arnold. Her book had already been on my radar, so I downloaded it on Audible ahead of the event and was able to listen to about half of it in the time before the Zoom event, finishing the book after that.

As I recently noted in a tweet about another free virtual event I’ve signed up for (that one is being held by an Austin bookstore), this is one positive of life nowadays: getting to connect with authors through virtual events. Arnold noted in the call that normally, she’d be on a book tour.

When I mentioned this book in a book club channel I’m in, someone noted that it wasn’t enough about running for her. So, if you want something that’s entirely about running and training, this might not be the book for you. But I enjoyed it, and there were parts I could relate to.

The memoir involves Arnold dealing with grief surrounding the loss of her father. I don’t feel like I have a ton of personal experience with grief — although I’ve read we have all suffered grief due to losses of “normal” life and plans in 2020.

However, as noted above, mental illness has been a part of my life. Arnold and I don’t have the same diagnosis, but during the time I was listening to this book, I had a sore throat. And although I didn’t really think I had COVID-19, I couldn’t help but wonder. It’s frustrating to have any semblance of a symptom nowadays, which for me can turn to worry about whether I possibly have COVID, or worse, could then unintentionally spread it to someone else. (I did end up getting a test, it was negative, and I am careful.)

Arnold, the mother of two young daughters, experiences a time when she is going through intense worry about illnesses and dying. At one point, her husband mentions what he believes to be someone going through a scarier situation — a man who suffered the loss of his arms when lions attacked him.

“I’m not going to Tanzania anytime soon, which means chances are slim that I’ll be mauled by wild African lions,” she says. “Here at last is one thing I don’t have to worry about.”

I could completely relate to that. For me, it’s much easier to brush off a worry if it seems like there’s no possibility that it could happen.

She writes some about her racing and successes, and I wrote a couple notes during the Zoom call, knowing that I planned to write a blog post. I wrote down that Arnold said her priority is to be a joyful runner.

Although Arnold has won competitive races, I like that she prioritizes joy — and since she has been successful, it must be a strategy that works for her. I think stressing out about a time or pace can take away the enjoyment of running.

In addition to the above quote about not having to worry about lions, there was another note I clipped on Audible. This one comes when Arnold suffers calf pain after running for hours.

“Mentally, walking is harder than running,” she says. “It feels like one step closer to quitting. But it’s actually the opposite. It’s what enables you to run again.”

I liked this quote because while it can definitely be taken literally, and it’s true, it could also be looked at as a metaphor for life. I’m also a big supporter of walking when you need to during runs.

Arnold is a contributing editor for Outside Magazine, and as a former reporter and freelancer myself, I’ve always liked books written by current or former journalists. The audiobook is also narrated by Arnold, which is cool.

Without giving anything away, I also think you’ll like how the book starts and ends.