Another one ticked off the 20 Books of Summer books list (intro post here) and I’m excited to be ticking off the first of two books acquired in May 2021 before returning to my June Book Token Splurge – that’s a shorter acquisition-to-read time than I’ve had for a while, nearly only a year! I bought this in May 2021 from the local Oxfam Books along with “Endure”, another sports book, by Alex Hutchinson, which is next in my pile in the picture but might not be the next one to read. I can report that out of the “books in” I listed in mid May (here) I have read four with one to go.

This is the ninth book I’ve completed from the 20 Books project and of course also comes off my TBR 2021-2022 challenge pile. I am going to have a slight pause now while I get through the 700+ pages of Larry McMurtry’s “Moving On”, but that’s my “heatwave read” so I should be back with the 20 Books soon.

Anna McNuff – “The Pants of Perspective: One Woman’s 3,000 Kilometre Running Adventure Through the Wilds of New Zealand”

(09 May 2021 – Oxfam Books)

After an hour or so the pathway opened out and through a blustery, tussock-covered hillside was a faint trail winding its way into the mountains in the distance. I could run freely, and it felt incredible. At one point I felt so overwhelmed with happiness that I moved myself to tears. This is what it was all about, moments like these. I felt like a child, free and unshackled, with no concern beyond the immediate moments, beyond each footstep on the trail. (p. 245)

McNuff spent just under 150 days making her way from the southern tip to the northern tip of New Zealand, and this fairly long book, 400-plus pages, details that trip and the trials and tribulations, new friends and old, met along the way. There are nice maps but no pictures, probably because she originally self-published the book and those are hard to get in, but that was a shame. I did enjoy it but it was quite a lengthy read.

The author and I have very different approaches to preparing for any trip (I’ve obviously never done one that big). She reminded me a bit of Lara Prior-Palmer in her book about Mongolian horse-racing, “Rough Magic” in that she’s a bit scatter-brained, untrained and unprepared and sort of wings it as she goes – this is just a different way of being, I appreciate, but it led to some anxious moments in the read and worried me that other people might do the same with less positive results. I was impressed by her strength and gung-ho attitude, staying in huts with random strangers or wild camping and seeing off wild teens (she only seems to have been seriously unnerved about twice, but then New Zealand is a relatively safe and benign place). She’s also resilient around injury and, while they’re different from mine, has mental and emotional strategies in place for when it gets tough.

It’s also of course very nice to read of a female adventurer – there are so many books about men doing epic journeys out there, though I have read other women’s tales of running, notably Rosie Swale-Pope’s “Just a Little Run Around the World“, and it fits into my women traveller reads nicely. It was also a bit reminiscent of Mark Beaumont’s book, which is not hugely surprising, as he’s a hero of hers. I also very much liked the tales of meeting up with people repeatedly on the trail, being taken in by friends of friends of friends – or even complete strangers – and inspiring other people to get out on the trail with her. I think that was my favourite aspect, although it was interesting to read about the challenges and the different places she got to stay. I have to mention her habit of carrying thank you cards around with her just in case – that was very sweet and stuck with me.

An arc through the book is formed by her conversations with friend – or more? – Jamie, who challenges her to show the gnarly and sad bits on her social media feeds as well as the good and glossy times. These points add a sort of anchor to the narrative. The narrative itself is honest, down to earth and competent, not the most lyrical descriptive writing in the world, but that wasn’t what it was about. Oh, and the pants? Some brightly patterned running leggings that boosted her mood when needed. We all need some of those, right?

I’m glad I read this and also glad I’ve never felt compelled to do a journey like this, however much I like reading about them!

This was book number 9 in my 20 Books of Summer 2022!

This was also TBR Challenge 2021-22 Quarter 4 Book 3/28 – 25 to go!