Book Review: Running Water

Sometimes it takes me forever to read a book. I squeeze in paragraphs here and there while waiting outside my kids school or in those last twenty minutes before I fall asleep. Other times I get so wrapped up in a book that I can’t put it down. I recently finished “Running Water” by Abraham Louis Clark and I found myself completely drawn into his cross country journey- to the point that I was almost ready to drop everything and head out on a crazy adventure of my own.

In 2010, Milwaukee area runner Abe Clark became the 15th person to run across the entire country solo and unsupported. His goal was to raise money and awareness for Living Water International, an organization that helps bring clean drinking water to those in need. Unsupported means he packed all of his supplies into a red jogging stroller (affectionately named “Ruby”) and either camped, bunked with strangers or stayed at the occasional cheap hotel along the way. You can imagine that someone would encounter various obstacles while on a journey like this and you would be correct in that assumption. But despite the pain of all those miles, the extreme weather, and both mental and physical fatigue, Abe told a story of perseverance and ultimately hope for the future.

The book starts out pretty straightforward and reads very much like a journal at first. There’s a wrap up of each day’s events (hint: running) and some excerpts from the actual diary he wrote in along the way. As the trip unfolds though he begins to shift from logging the technical events of the day to becoming more introspective about how this huge undertaking is affecting him. Hours upon days upon weeks of running alone eventually begins to take its toll and he begins craving regular human interaction and a “normal” life again. The closer he comes to the east coast the more excited he becomes not only to finish this amazing feat but to embark on a new adventure in the next stage of his life. It’s almost like running 2,960 miles across the country by yourself gives you some time to evaluate things. For example:

“ I spoke with so many people who had regrets of dreams unlived. They kept telling me I need to do these things while I’m still young, before life gets a hold of me. Their advice always struck me as odd since they were usually standing alive right in front of me. They were still capable of fulfilling their dreams in my book; however, they usually never saw it that way. If you want to accomplish something, the answer is not tomorrow, not yesterday, but today. It is always now.”

My book is completely dog eared up so I can go back and reread passages like this one. Not that I’m planning on doing a copycat run, but sentiments like this really spoke to me. Other times, a completely introspective moment will be interrupted by absurdity and you just have to laugh:

“A Navajo woman led her sheep across the patchy vegetation dirt landscape. Scenes like these help me grasp how big and diverse America is. There is a good chance the white collar worker from California will never meet the Navajo shepherd only one state over. I guess that’s the beauty of America. A man zoomed by with a jacked up truck and a trailer full of four-wheelers and yelled, “Ride a horse!”

Never having traveled across the country myself, I found it intriguing to read about not only the changing landscapes and weather patterns, but the people he encountered on the journey. Many were nothing short of characters. What a way to experience our country! Unsurprisingly, crossing said country on foot doesn’t come without trials either. My jaw dropped reading about how he rode out a snowstorm in the mountains by digging himself a cave in the snow and literally burrowing in for the night. You’d never know from the accompanying smiling photo what a miserable experience that must have been. But it was the injured little rabbit that he picked up and tended to, eventually carrying it along in his stroller for miles that really got to me. Setting out on a trip like this, I can’t imagine you would ever really know fully what to expect. Reading this story I felt the same way.


Anyone else read this yet? What books have inspired you?

2 comments to Book Review: Running Water

  • James Davis

    Great book! I was fortunate enough to hear him speak at Boswell Books. He is a local guy. It was nice to read in the book his references to the “milwaukee river trails”. Which by the way are a 8 mile trail running “gem”!

  • Tracey

    I need to get out on that trail! I usually just hit Lapham Peak or various parts of Kettle Moraine. I did meet Abe at a run with the Milwaukee Running Group recently and we chatted about ultra running a bit but I didn’t make it to the Boswell Books event. I really did enjoy the book though.

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