Book Review: "The Summit Seeker"

I recently had the pleasure of  reading The Summit Seeker, written by Vanessa Runs. Vanessa's pure passion and excitement about running is almost tangible while reading her series of short vignettes. The subject of each chapter varies from trail running, to religion, to love, and more; each story a single thread intertwining together to form the tale of a woman's journey to becoming an ultrarunner.

Throughout her book, Vanessa describes her tough upbringing as a South American born child living in Canada. After her mother died very young, Vanessa had to find ways to support her siblings while her over-protective and seemingly absent father fails to provide for them. After moving around Canada throughout  her childhood, Vanessa eventually found running and her life was changed forever. She soon became enamoured with trail running and ultimately moved to San Diego to spend more time on the trails. Her specialty in ultrarunning is the 100 mile distance, and she describes her love for 100's in depth in the book. Today, Vanessa lives on the road in an RV with her boyfriend Shacky and their pets, driving from place to place to climb mountains and run trails. 
Over the past five years, I've read a lot of books about running. I've pored over thousands of pages trying to absorb all the useful information out there. Over the past six months, I've read even more books about trail running and ultrarunning. I'll admit, there have been some that aren't exactly thrilling or inspirational, like the 300+ page book I recently purchased about foot and blister care. While those types of informative, prescriptive books provide a tremendous amount of valuable information to any trail runner, the ones that really excite me are the autobiographical, motivational stories that I savor like a fine wine, and tend to stay up past midnight reading. The Summit Seeker is one of those books.

I tore through The Summit Seeker in just a few days, and found myself highlighting paragraphs on my Kindle almost every other page. I could not believe someone had written almost my exact sentiments about running. In one chapter about "home" she states:

"When I'm on the trails, I can be in unknown surroundings yet it still feels familiar. A tree will always be a tree. Earth and ground and sky - these are the constants in my life. Rain and sunshine are recurring events that I can count on year after year. My traditions are the passing of time. The changing of seasons. And like all these things, I am always just passing through." 

Like Vanessa, I too feel most at home on the trails. These are the constants in my life as well, no matter what city or apartment I am living in. Nature is always there beckoning for the trail runner to come  back home.
Later on, she describes how she dealt with feelings of hopelessness in life:

"I run because running hurt. My muscles ached and I couldn't breathe. Like an ice pick through my heart, it focused my mind on trying not to collapse. The greater the physical pain, the deeper the emotional relief. It felt good to push until I could push no more."
Vanessa had a tough childhood that was marked by loneliness, hunger, and grief after her mother's death at age nine. I also turned to running as an emotional release after my brother died in 2008, and found it to be the most effective form of therapy.  Pushing past the limits of your body and mind has a both a physical and mental effect unlike anything else in the world.

I highly recommend The Summit Seeker for both runners and non-runners alike. Vanessa's inspirational story gives hope to anyone looking to accomplish more in life, and do something "bigger" than themselves. Check out Vanessa's blog at if you want to find out more about her, and head over to to grab yourself a copy of this awesome read.

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