September 22, 2023
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Running Douglas County
Biography Book Reviews Non-Fiction

Running Douglas County: Bringing you closer to a small slice of country heaven


Author: Steve Pierce

Genre: Biography – Photography

Year Published: 2023

Nerdection Rating:

“Nerdection Good Read”

Running Douglas County is dedicated to everyone who has ever suffered or currently suffers from any kind of chronic pain. Steve Pierce allows us the opportunity to tag along on his runs across all the gravel paths of Douglas County for hours of mostly silent exploration.

Spoiler-free Plot

To start with, we are treated to some very important background on Steve Pierce’s competitive running career which kicks off in his first year of high school. Sparked by the emergence of the American road racing scene, the author builds a life around sustaining himself for the sole purpose of competition. His youthful years consisted of numerous throwaway jobs; those that could easily be put on hold or abandoned at a moment’s notice to fill in the spare time between training, traveling, and races.

Serendipitously, he meets his other half—Annette, a former college teammate— on the site of a Friday night race. Their shared passion takes them to far off places. From Colorado to Germany, throughout Europe, back to Colorado and finally, to Douglas County, Kansas where the idea for this book is birthed on a morning run—a fitting naissance to a book devoted to that very activity.

Not only are we guided down the many gravel paths of Douglas County by descriptive and emotive language, photography features on nearly every page throughout the book. Maps help us track Steve’s progress for the entirety of his undertaking.

A four year setback brings about the author’s need to reevaluate his philosophy. His opinions and beliefs on the sport that has played an active role for the majority of his life, as present as a silent character, are stripped down to the bone and reconstructed to fit the new reality of his life.

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My Take On Running Douglas County

Have you ever read a book that oozes personality and charm? If not, you’re in luck as that is an early impression this autobiography hits you with from the start. Quirky stories unique to the locale accomplishes this in an utterly endearing manner. Run-ins with deer and occasionally aggressive working farm dogs, overeager cows intent on accompanying Steve on a portion of one of his runs are but a few examples of short vignettes which capture the allure of rural, small town living. The writer’s voice is noticeable in the way he writes. Nuggets of midwestern colloquialisms scattered here and there inject some soul in places where it works best.

The task at hand, this book’s reason for being, speaks to the perseverance and humanness still existing in the present day. In the modern world, the feeling that every frontier has been conquered multiple times before is overridden by this simple, yet oxymoronically difficult challenge Steve sets himself. Despite it sounding strange to some, it’s a quest small enough to be achievable. Any ordinary person could accomplish it if they set their mind to it. Because of this, our engagement increases tenfold. We become invested in this challenge in an outstandingly short span of time. With every turn down each “new” gravel road, we find ourselves wondering what lies ahead in the next quadrant we are yet to explore. What one would consider a microadventure carried out in a seemingly average part of a lackluster state quickly turns into the charming, beautiful homage that this is; to a hidden, untapped gem of a place and to the modesty of running.

The powerful adjectives used conjure images in your mind so accurate they match up perfectly against the photographs they precede. Falling in love with an incredibly foreign, far off place—this rings true for me, at least—has never been a more effortless affair. Vinland valley, Chicken Creek Arch Park, the area surrounding the Wakarusa River; all of it is brought to life before our very eyes. The wind and the temperature it influences are both tangible as we figuratively run through it. Sections of poetry tucked into the spaces between prose and photographs ignite evocative emotions which further binds us to the author’s unique storytelling.

We experience the passage of time together—me, you, everyone else who loses themselves in this captivating autobiography, and Steve himself. In part one, images usher us through the four seasons whereas in the second part, dates give us a detailed look into the near daily changes in thoughts and physical wellness; this is as close as we can get to receiving real time updates of Steve’s well documented condition. Realistic depictions of progress after the medical setback Steve endures are incredibly hard to find in other pieces of literature. We are reminded that healing, mental and physical, is not the upward curve we often consider it to be. It is messy, nonlinear and inconsistent but as long as there is a goal, a beacon of light shining at the end of the tunnel so to speak, improvements can be made. Slowly but surely. The process of relearning can be just as important as the education was the first time around.

The introduction of this Book unwittingly made us, the readers, a promise which is fulfilled during the course of the book. A satisfying ending to an overall wholesome read.

About The Author Of Running Douglas County

Steve Pierce has lived quite a life and run through most it. Born in Kansas, he started running in high school and continued into college, running at Wichita State University, then the University of Kansas. Afterward he took to the roads and raced frequently over distances from 10K to the marathon. In his 30s he turned to triathlon and duathlon, qualifying twice for the world age-group duathlon championships and was ranked 14th American at age 38.

Having studied in Italy and being fluent in the language help land him a job with a photography company based in Germany. For 11 years, this seasonal work had him traveling throughout Germany and Italy and left free time to travel the rest of Europe. When back in the United States he worked for several professional photographers from whom he learned much. He did freelance work and had a stint with the Kansas City Star doing product photography.

He has traveled to and run in many places in the United States as well as in 28 countries on three continents. In 2000 he returned to his Kansas roots with his wife, Annette, and children, Joe and Luisa. There he found a preference for a quiet life and happily gave up planes, trains, automobiles, and the hubbub of cities.

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