Outrunning the Demons

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 28 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

This was an interesting anthology of stories that center around running. I am definitely a beginner runner who has my struggles with the sport and my days where I hate it. But, I enjoyed the stories and the lessons learned from each of them. I’d recommend it for any runner or aspiring runner.
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After a brutal attack where he was left for dead, accomplished marathoner Phil Hewitt found a new meaning of the importance of running as he sought to get himself back on track. In his new book, Outrunning the Demons, Hewitt shares his story as well as the stories of 30 other runners who have used running to overcome PTSD, addiction, anxiety, and depression. If you are looking for inspiration, this book will provide plenty.

I started running in my late twenties after anxiety and panic attacks threatened to take over my life. The physical release of pushing myself provided me with mental clarity and calm. Gradually I was able to say goodbye to those mental demons. Throughout the years, I've continued running to keep those demons away. Life throws all kinds of things at us and it's nice to have road therapy at the ready.

Because running was such a positive force in my life, I was really interested in reading the stories of others who have found running to be helpful as well.  Hewitt starts off the book by sharing the story of his brutal attack and his journey back to and through running

Readers who run might recognize some of the names in the book: ultramarathoner Charlie Engle, who has written his own memoir, Running Man, about his life with addiction and his salvation through running; Sandra Laflamme, who blogs at Organic Running Mom and shares her story of depression and PTSD: Linda Quirk, who started running to help deal with addiction in her own family and who has run 7 marathons on 7 continents among her other major accomplishments; and Lisa Hallett, who started the "wear blue: run to remember" movement after losing her husband, an army Captain, to the war in Afghanistan. If you've run any of the Rock'N'Roll Races, then you are familiar with the Blue Mile, which has evolved from Lisa's original gesture.

There are stories of lesser known runners in the book but they are no less impactful. While the runners in Outrunning the Demons all come from different walks of life, they have one thing in common: running saved them.

I won't lie to you--Outrunning the Demons-- while so profound and moving, is heavy reading. Although every story in the book has a positive outcome, each person experienced some tragedy in their lives that moved them to start running.  I found myself having to take a break from reading after a couple of stories. Gosh, life is hard, isn't it? Thank goodness for running. The stories Hewitt shares in Outrunning the Demons all demonstrate the transformative power of running, but also the resilience of the human spirit. Wouldn't it be wonderful if more people started running?

If you're having trouble lacing up your shoes, pick up this book and read one or two of the stories. Tell me you're not feeling inspired after that.
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I've read a handful of books that focus on running; however, none have ever spoken to/centered on 'outrunning the demons.' I thought this was such a great idea for a book (and it's ultimately what led me to request it! I wouldn't necessarily call myself a runner (though I've dabbled) but this book has encouraged me to push through the physical difficulties of running and just to get out there. I was so inspired by the beautiful stories of each individual. I so appreciated the 'rawness' of the writing. I will definitely be recommending this book to my friends who love to run.
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I don’t give books 5-star ratings too often, but this one was a no-brainer for me. Outrunning the Demons: Lives Transformed through Running was inspiring, motivating, and serves as a great reminder of what’s important in life.

Outrunning the Demons is a compilation of various runners’ stories, including author Phil Hewitt’s own story - Why they run and how they got there. Many of the stories include tragic, heartbreaking elements, but they also remind us that in a world often filled with dark days, people are strong and resilient, and genuine people do still exist and care. These reminders are often displayed in the form of fellow runners. 

People run for various reasons beyond the obvious ones like exercise and a free form of a workout. Some runners run to escape pain, some run to embrace it; others run to clear their heads in solitude yet some seek a sense of community while running. Whatever the reason(s), it’s hard to deny the transformative power and impact of running. 

Outrunning the Demons touches on a lot of tough topics through the runners’ experiences. Despite the deep tone, or maybe in part because of it, this is a book I know I’ll be able to turn back to again and again for more motivation. 

“Running gives us space. It gives us strength. It gives us connection and it gives us peace. It will never give us all the answers, but it can so often be a large part of the solution.”
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Runners know the power of running for healing, therapy, happiness, and a whole slew of health benefits, mental and physical.  Few runners know the power of running like author Phil Hewitt.  After suffering a brutal beating and stabbing by a mugger who wanted his camera, he found solace and recovery from the trauma through running.

In Outrunning the Demons: Lives Transformed Through Running, Hewitt tells his own story, but he also gathers stories from dozens of runners around the world for whom running has been essential to their own lives.  Through his profiles of the runners, interspersed with the interviewees' own words, Hewitt writes about runners overcoming PTSD from war and from other traumatic experiences, running to overcome addiction, running to bounce back from loss and tragedy, running to deal with disabilities, and running to feel whole again.

Many runners can relate to sentiments like these:

"Always he could come back, determined to quit.  And every time he did, he would put on his running shoes."
"When [her] world fell apart, she turned to running."
"Running helped me find the mental strength to carry on."
"Running is pure and beautifully simple.  You carry with you only what you need, then put one foot in front of the other until you get where you need to be."
"It was running she turned to in her moment of need, and it has been running that has maintained her ever since."
"Running gave me the confidence that I so desperately lacked."

I would guess most people start running to get in shape, stay in shape, keep the weight off, or maybe as a competitive outlet.  Runners are also aware of the psychological effects, as Hewitt points out, of "feel-good endorphins, natural cannabis-like brain chemicals . . . that can enhance your sense of well being" and dopamine, which "can provide a natural high."  For many runners, running is a social outlet.  But no matter why people get into or stick with running, these stories remind us of the deeper, more profound potential that running holds for healing.  As Hewitt writes, "Running sets our spirits soaring.  No wonder we feel better when we run."

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!
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I was excited to receive a copy of this book, thanks to the always wonderful NetGalley. Allow me to provide to a brief background regarding why I absolutely fell in love with this book: In the early years of my life, I loved running. Strapping on my favorite ratty sneakers and hitting the trail was my favorite part of the day. Then life started and running kind of fell into the background of it all. Recently, however, I left a rather terrible situation and needed a way to deal with the stress, anger, frustration, and fear I was feeling. So I did. I hit the trail EVERY SINGLE DAY. During this time, I was able to process a lot of my emotions and determine where my life had been and where I wanted it to go. But, I digress. Reading Phil's story of survival and his determination to work through all the emotions and stress he was feeling was comforting to me. For me, it felt like a community of support reading his interviews with other people. Hearing about their running transformations helped me to better handle my situation. In the description for this book, it states: "When normality collapses, running can put it back together again." Never in my life has a phrase affected the way this one does. People ask me all the time why I put running at the forefront of my life lately. I tell them it helps me heal. Then I tell them about this stirring book and how it helped me work through the demons in my life.
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“An exploration of the transformative power of running - and it can be the key to unlocking resilience we never knew we had." 
Outrunning the Demons is a collection of true stories of how running changed, and saved, lives, including an on-going story from author Phil Hewitt himself, the victim of a vicious mugging in 2016. It is the type of book that was right up my alley, and I was hooked from the very first story. Despite the stories coming from a variety of life paths, and the extensive differences across socioeconomic classes of the storytellers, I found each of them relatable in some way. From the addictive personality of Charlie who traded drugs and alcohol for running to the heartbreaking losses experienced by Jessica, Theresa, and Eleanor (among many, many others) to the life changing non-verbal autism diagnosis for the Schneider family. Running is a language we can all speak and relate to. It is a way to lose ourselves, and find ourselves again. 
My heart went out to the storytellers in this book and I cried along with several of them. My heart was in my throat and it was hard to breathe as some of the traumas unfolded. But reading how all of these brave people ran their way to redemption gave me hope. It reminded me of why I used to love running, and of how beautiful it can truly be. 
The pain these survivors went through can be an inspiration to anyone who picks up Outrunning the Demons, even if you aren't a runner. So many lives are touched by tragedy every single day and having an outlet is so so important. Many of these stories force you to confront your own difficulties with every day life. Dealing with death and loss, and sometimes addiction, and trauma is something we all go through, and that's the true beauty of this book. The rawness, the reality that these events aren't exclusive to one region or one race or one socioeconomic class. Tragedy spans every demographic all around the globe and none of us escape unscathed. Running though, running is a universal freedom (financially and emotionally). A pair of shoes and a road or trail. Regardless of where or who or when or what, running is always an option. 
Outrunning the Demons is not a light read, if you're looking for a fluffy, happy ending, this is not the book for you. But if you're looking for raw emotion, heavy subject matter, and the bareness of the human soul, Outrunning the Demons will spark a fire in you. It will get under your skin and it will force you to reface every demon you've encountered in your lifetime. Touching on trauma, grief, depression and anxiety, addiction, terrorism, violence including sexual abuse, long-term health conditions, and eating disorders, these stories come from the deepest, darkest places of the human soul. 
Whether you walk, jog a few miles a week, or run the marathons many of these everyday-heroes have run, you have probably felt the healing power of moving, of being able to just be, without the expectations, the pressure, the reminders of everything difficult. It is a common theme throughout this book, and many a-runner have attested to the magic in the simplicity of putting one foot in front of the other. 
We run to escape, we run to be free, we run to lose ourselves, and we run to find ourselves.
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I cannot speak highly enough about this book. It's so inspirational. I'm giving it to my husband to read who is an accomplished marathoner as well as someone who works closely with those recovering from PTSD. I have enjoyed the stories. I have cried. I have been moved in my heart. Simply beautiful.
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A fascinating read a look at runners the need to run the addictive feeling when you run.the psychological benifits.Through his and others raw stories raw real honest,A perfect book for those who run routinely those who are rabid runners and even those who just like to read about sports or are considering running..Well written involving highly recommend.#netgalley #bloomsburyusa.
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