What better person to be stranded in the wilderness, miles from nowhere, than someone who is experienced in running through the wilderness, miles from nowhere? In Dave Essinger's debut novel, Running Out, Dan Collins and his wife and baby daughter crash in a remote part of Canada. Their pilot is killed, Dan's wife's leg is broken in the crash, and they have no way to contact anyone. Dan, who ran cross country in college and now competes in ultramarathons, barely hesitates before he concludes their only option is for him to run until he can find help.
And run he does. He recalls seeing power lines from the air, and decides to run toward the power lines, then follow the power lines to civilization. He runs and runs, for a couple of days, but the bulk of the story is flashbacks to his college days, running cross country, training for longer distances, pursuing a doctorate in physical therapy. Besides reflecting on his personal story, he gives a lot of technical information about running mechanics and the physiology of running. Dan's research involves the limits of human endurance and the stresses the body endures while running long distances. He uses himself as a research subject. While running out of the wilderness in hopes of saving his own life and his wife and daughter's lives, he experiences the realities of his research to the extreme.
I enjoyed Running Out even though the flashbacks got a bit old. I was wishing for more "running out of the wilderness" narrative, not so much the "autobiography of a runner" narrative. To be fair, if it was just the former, the story would have been a little flat. "Our plane crashed. I ran for help. I ran until the sun went down. Then it came up. Then it went down. Still I ran." So, yeah, the balance between present day and flashback was well done. Toward the end, Dan begins to lose his grip on reality, hallucinating and talking to people who aren't there, so much so that I wasn't quite sure what actually happened in the end. . . .
Barnes is a good writer. Runners especially will enjoy his detailed, insider's view of the world of running, but readers of all stripes will enjoy the story of human struggle, reminiscence, and striving for redemption.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!