Sunday, July 7, 2013

Book Review: Freedom Run (by Jamie Summerlin)

Several months ago, I was seeking a "big" race for 2013 and a fellow ultra-runner referred me to the mountain 40 miler I did over Father's Day weekend last month. Just prior to that race, I was contacted by the author of this book who remembered my name from the start of the 2011 Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run. I was in Afghanistan at the time and recorded a surprise race-start greeting for the runners which was played over the speakers just prior to the 5am start. Jamie Summerlin was there as he prepared for his race across the country in early 2012. Being that the 100-day run was for wounded veterans and being a former Marine (is any Marine really a "former" Marine??!....I think not!), he remembered me. We ended up meeting at the pre-race pasta dinner, I learned about his 3,452 mile run across America and I picked up his new book. This is him signing my own personal copy.

Jamie served in the Marine Corps for 6 years and while in, he met and later married his wife, Tiffany. "Freedom Run" is about his 3,452 mile journey from Coos Bay, Oregon, the starting point...also the home of the famed Steve Prefontaine (although that had no bearing on the reason for starting there) to the east coast. I mention Tiffany because she is as much a central character in the story as Jamie is. From the months of planning prior to the run to driving the RV, being a roaming aid station, and caring for their two children while Jamie ran, it was truly a team effort and he couldn't have done it without her. Like his run, the families of today's military can't do it and serve without them. It was a great way to unintentionally highlight what crucial role our families play.

While many will first look at this book and think "this book is for runners," I will tell you it is not. My wife is reading it next and then my 12 year old will read it. If you are a human being, this book and story is one I believe you'll love. Resisting the tendency to start telling you bits and pieces of Jaime's journey, I'll just say that I really, really appreciate reading how the love and support of veterans still exists from "sea to shining sea." It is easy to start to wonder if patriotism exists anymore here in rural Ohio...and I still wear the Navy uniform. Reading the selfless acts by people along his journey, the interactions he had, and how whole towns appeared roadside to support him was so amazing to read about. Those who know me know that I very rarely finish a book. I have started many, own many more, and have finished very, VERY few. My wife, in fact, couldn't believe she kept catching me reading because it's a sight never seen in our home. So yea, it was that good and that gripping. The photo above is one she captured of me and posted on Facebook (unknown to me!) while I finished the book today.

Again, I keep wanting to tell you stories from Jamie's run, but I just can't spoil it. I encourage you to pick up the book for yourself and read it...and when you do, you'll be supporting not only Jamie but organizations that are supporting today's veterans. (here are multiple ways to get his book, both in paperback and digitally) I will briefly talk about his arrival at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, which was Day 100: One might expect tons of fanfare and a few pages chock full of the celebration. I can tell you without spoiling it that it is far from that. In fact, I don't think he spent more than a few paragraphs on that arrival which was par for the course during the previous 100 days. Jamie says many times throughout his journey that it's not about him, it's about the's why he was doing it. He was brought to tears many times over those 100 days and that's where the book shines. The stories of plain 'ol human nature, love of country and the fellow man helping another...and a few chuckles here and there about Forrest Gump and naked runners. :-) Jamie is a normal guy, too, that hurts and has struggles. 100 days of running will certainly take its toll physically and certainly emotionally/mentally. Jamie's retelling of his journey is a raw account of it all which is probably another reason I enjoyed it so much.

So please consider picking up and reading it. At the end, I'm guessing that you'll sit back and take an inventory of your life and wonder how intentionally you are living and how you are blessing others. You will ask yourself if you're doing what truly makes you happy, too. I also hope that Jamie's story will confirm in your heart that freedom in our country is not free. It was paid for and is currently being paid for by those who have served or are serving. "Freedom Run"...perfectly named and highly recommended for all.

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