Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I am a RUNNER. That’s what I do. That’s who I am.

Earlier this summer, I decided to read Wendelin Van Draanen’s The Running Dream.  I knew the general premise of the book was about a high school track star that lost a leg after a horrible accident.  The thing is, this tricks you into thinking you know what the book is about.  You’re wrong.  This event only gave Van Draanen the fuel to catapult the story into empowering one young runner to find the strength and will-power to help a friend cross her own finish line.
I picked up this book because 1) I’m a runner, 2) I enjoy YA fiction, and 3) I’m a fan of the author that wrote Flipped.  I’ve met Van Draanen while she visited St. Louis to sign books.  She asked where the best running path would be.  “Forest Park,” I said without skipping a beat—my favorite stomping—errrr….running grounds.  And in my head, I knew that I admired Van Draanen even more.  That’s why I knew I would appreciate her book featuring a character that ran—she knew what it was like to be a runner. 
Now, you could argue with me that track and field is different than the type of running Van Draanen and I do, long-distance, and I would agree to an extent.  But, people who participate in either form recognize running as an art form and sport.  And if you belong to either in high school, you are part of a team—a family.  Van Draanen did a wonderful job narrating the camaraderie between Jessica and her teammates: from the welcome back party Jessica’s best friend orchestrated at school to cheering each other on at “Rigor Mortis Bend” to fundraising money for Jessica’s running prosthesis.
While reading The Running Dream, I related to Jessica’s freedom she felt while running.  Even though the beginning of the book focused on her memories and more importantly her running dream, I understood her reminiscence of just being able to renew. 

“….Running aired out my soul.
It made me feel alive.”

The last 1/3 of the book, Jessica comes to realize that her running dream is no longer for herself, but for her new-found friend, Rosa.  Rosa has never been able to walk or run—she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at a young age.  She is incredibly sweet and friendly, not to mention a whiz at math.  One day, Rosa asks Jessica about running and racing and states how “going over the finish line must be wonderful.”  Jessica relates, “Especially if you’re the first one there.”  “But [to Rosa]…it means you finished.  You made it.  Even if you don’t get a medal.”  This moment leads Jessica to later train for the River Run, a 10-mile course, that will be a test of her strength and will—but, most importantly, it means helping Rosa cross her first finish line. 

Book trailer press here!

Van Draanen, W. (2011). The Running dream. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.

1 comment:

  1. This post was not only beautifully written, it spoke to the commitment you have made to your sister and not just sharing running (& reading) with her, but coaching her and setting such an amazing example. The book sounds incredible & also reminded me of South African Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius, aka, "Blade Runner", who qualified yesterday (or whenever in London). That would be a great pairing for a text study, plus American LaShawn Merritt's hamstring injury & his incredible attitude about that, in what must be tremendous disappointment. News articles or clips paired with this book would be a powerful way to reach reluctant readers who happen to be runners or vice versa; but powerful role models and text to touch any heart. Nicely done, number 1 runner!