I have a lot of NetGalley books to read this month so I might not make them all. This one is an inspiring story of overcoming difficulties in life which I was fortunate enough to win in June, when I had a bit of a requesting frenzy.

Johnny Agar with Becki Agar – “The Impossible Mile: The Power of Living Life One Step at a Time”

(23 June 2021)

Johnny Agar was born prematurely and diagnosed as living with cerebral palsy, affecting his whole body quite severely so that by the time he was 18, the furthest he’d walked was 23 steps. But after a series of sporting endeavours, starting with his dad pushing him in an adapted buggy and moving on to being assisted around a triathlon by a team of people who were set up to do just this, he then decided to try to walk the last mile of a local 5k fundraiser for his church. The struggle, work and training he did for this are fully akin to that which elite and non-elite runners do, and it was moving to read about him going through the same processes as all of us.

It was lovely to read about the people who inspired him but then came to be inspired by him – baseball players and the great swimmer Michael Phelps. The folk at the Under Armour sportswear company take him under their wing and feature him in one of their adverts, but also ordinary people share with Johnny and his mum, Becki, the effect he’s had on their lives. The role the family’s strong faith plays is major and that’s a bit harder to get a grip on for a non-religious person, but fair play to them, of course. I love that he made contact with the doctor who gave the first diagnosis but also so importantly gave his parents permission to not upset themselves reading up in the textbooks but to just go out there and take every day at a time with their new baby.

One particular point that I found interesting was Johnny’s support by the Institutes for Conductive Education – an organisation founded in Hungary that helps people living with conditions like cerebral palsy to move more freely through exercises and physiotherapy. The British national Institute happens to be in Birmingham, and I help out at a 10k race run to raise funds for it every year, so it was lovely to read more about the use of the system across the world.

It’s a warm and honest book. Johnny’s family are obviously very supportive and tight-knit, his parents refusing to mention his diagnosis in front of him and always turning the negatives into positives, while Johnny himself does mention his frustrations and embarrassments as well as his triumphs. He thanks them and his sisters as well as other people in the long Acknowledgements section at the end. The book isn’t perfectly written; it has a feel of self-publishing about it and could have done with an edit to excise a few repetitions. But it will certainly inspire, and that’s what it’s there to to do.

Thanks to publisher Dexterity for giving me access to this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review. The book is published on 14 September.