Weekend warriors who constantly push themselves to PR in local 10Ks, run marathons or dip their toes into ultra running will recognize themselves in Alexander Sebastian. He's not an elite athlete, but he's got enough talent, ambition and willingness to push himself through pain to crave the constant challenge and accomplishment that comes with endurance sports. In this way, his essays will remind readers of the classic cult novel Once a Runner.
But beyond the athletic aspect, at the heart of this memoir is really a deep dive into the psychology of running. What is he running away from or running toward? That's what he seeks to find, one run and essay at a time — even or especially if it's a painful process. "Sometimes my running provides too much introspection, long miles with the same deep conversations with myself," Sebastian admits.
Sometimes this journey takes him veering off the beaten path and getting lost, and sometimes it takes him to familiar territory in his San Francisco backyard that teaches him something. Eventually, it reveals the one thing that's missing in his life, as the title suggests. In the end, it's running that he finds gives him strength to believe in himself and believe in others.
Make no mistake, this is a book that will appeal to hardcore runners. While the themes of seeking are universal, the tool that Sebastian uses to complete his journey are primarily about being and identifying as a runner. In that way, it will remind readers of the running memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.
The book, like running itself, can feel like therapy. Sometimes there's a breakthrough, and other times it feels like you're getting stuck or don't know where to turn next. The book doesn't come to any tidy conclusions, but rather shows that the journey continues, on both good days and bad days.
Author. Reader. Podcast addict. Ashton Kutcher called me a "clever punk."