Second Wind: Taking the Marathon to Sea

21 08 2011

Commercial fishing is a manic endeavor, boots-on-deck busy when we’re in ‘em, and plenty of book devouring downtime when we’re not. “You should post some reviews of what you’re reading,” Cap’n J’s mom urged. Sounded like a good idea. There’s an abundance of beautifully-written Alaskana and nautical tales, genres that might appeal to Hooked’s audience, that I’d like to share with you all. But this inaugural review is devoted to something different, a memoir especially close to my heart.

Second Wind: One Woman’s Midlife Quest to Run Seven Marathons on Seven Continents is summarized thusly: “The story of an unlikely athlete and an unlikely heroine, a woman edging toward midlife who decides to take on a challenge that stretches her way outside of her comfort zone. That challenge presents itself when an old friend suggests she go for a run to distract her from the grief of her recent divorce. Excited by the clarity of mind and breathing space running offers her, she keeps it up — albeit slowly — and she decides to run seven marathons on seven continents; this becomes her vision quest, the thing she turns to during the ups and downs of a new romance and during the hard months and years of redefining herself in the aftermath of the very restrictive, religious-based marriage and life she led up until her divorce.”

Let me be very clear: I am not a runner.  Uneasy with my body and unwilling to exert it in front of others, I was the kid who spent all of middle school forging notes to get out of gym class. If you’d suggested a book about marathons, I’d have shrugged indifferently. Meh… Not my thing. Then I glanced at a reading schedule for the local bookstore last November, and saw that Second Wind was authored by Cami Ostman. Her name jumped off the page, and I made immediate plans to attend the reading.

A decade earlier, Cami and I had worked together in Seattle’s homeless youth scene. I gained a quick admiration for her, a trained therapist who significantly enhanced our services and encircled kids and coworkers alike with compassion. She left the neighborhood a few years before me, leaving a deep absence.

So I went to the reading. It was a packed house, an evening that showcased her gifts: funny, reflective, absolutely present with her audience. I bought a book and stood in the long line for her autograph, figuring that even if I wasn’t into “the running thing,” it was cool to support an old colleague.

Turned out, I couldn’t put Second Wind down. Told with Cami’s signature blend of self-effacing humor and naked honesty, I marveled that the narrative voice was so recognizably that of the woman I’d known. As welcoming in the written word as in person, she shared a journey uniquely hers, yet made it completely relatable – even to a slothful non-runner like me.

There were life parallels I hadn’t considered. “Training for the marathon gives a person the opportunity to learn things about the self that, I would argue, can be learned only through hard physical training. How much pain can you take? Can you tolerate being alone? How long can you entertain your own thoughts and really be with just yourself? How many times can you repeat the same motion with your body, the same mundane activity, and still find value in it?”

These are some of the very questions I’ve posed to aspiring deckhands. It’s no coincidence that boats here boast names like Endurance, Perseverance, Tenacious, Constance. Worn smooth as a tideline pebble by our complete vulnerability to nature’s whimsy and anxious dependence upon our bodies’ continued allegiance, my faith is woven from commercial fishing’s sleep deprived haze. I keep my head down and trudge on to the season’s finish line, carried forth on the conviction that the work will set you free. Not so unlike the faith of the marathon, I learned.

As I found a unique point of connection with Cami’s story, others will, too. Fitness enthusiasts will enjoy the race reports, the struggles and triumphs each marathon presents. Travelers will connect with the global adventures and cross-cultural friendships. Those examining their belief systems will relate to her quest to craft a spiritual identity that empowers, rather than restricts, personal growth.

Cami wrote, “ These pages hold not only tales of the races and the travels, but stories of inspiring, interesting people around our globe. I hope that once you are done reading, you will want to take a look at the ‘shoulds’ that may hold you captive and that wherever you have gotten stuck in your life, you will see a way to break free and find your second wind.”

And that’s precisely the lasting gift I got from Second Wind. In awe of my friend’s courage to re-create herself, then expose that vulnerable journey on paper for others to learn from, I thought of the years I’d surrendered, too frozen by fear, self-doubt, and laziness to write the stories that were increasingly insistent about being shared.

Beyond a book recommendation, this is a post of gratitude. Thank you, Cami, for your story, and for being such a powerful mentor and advocate of mine. I wouldn’t have had the courage or commitment to finally dive into this blog or the memoir without your example and unyielding encouragement.

(You can find Second Wind through your local bookseller, and learn more about Cami Ostman’s continuing adventures through her blog,


%d bloggers like this: