Second Wind by Cami Ostman

Photo: Marko Metzinger/Studio D

4 of 15
Second Wind: One Woman's Midlife Quest to Run Seven Marathons on Seven Continents
304 pages; Seal
You know those elite marathoners, the ones with the effortless strides, superhuman stamina, and 2 percent body fat? Cami Ostman is definitely not one of them. She runs slowly, legs cramping, stomach jiggling. Which is part of what makes her memoir, Second Wind so charming. Depressed after leaving her marriage and her fundamentalist church, the once sedentary Ostman takes up running as therapy. Several years later, working as a marriage and family counselor and living with a wonderful man, Ostman hasn't entirely shaken her spiritual and emotional hang-ups. So she begins a quest to find herself—26.2 grueling miles at a time. Marathons lend themselves all too easily to metaphors about finding your own pace, and her frequent allusions to her "inner wisdom" and "inner bitch" can get a bit tiresome. But her gritty descriptions of the pain and indignities of long-distance running—hint: sweat and muscle cramps are the least of it—keep the narrative grounded. She's also an openhearted traveler, interested in the people she encounters in such far-flung places as South Africa, Brazil, and Antarctica. No matter where she goes, Ostman is living proof that even those who tend to stay at the back of the pack can still be winners.
— Karen Holt