Every month members of #travelbookclub discuss a book about travel on Twitter. Here’s this month’s The Pants of Perspective review:
There was a time a few years ago when I got quite into running. On a mad whim I signed up to run the first ever marathon in Brighton and Hove and then realised I’d better do something about it. So I stuck a training plan on my fridge, bought some lycra and dutifully pulled on my running shoes every couple of days.
It wasn’t something I fell in love with straight away, but as the weeks went by and the miles started to add up I came to appreciate the joy of pounding the streets of my favourite city. The run itself was SO HARD but I did end up getting my medal (and vowing never to attempt a marathon again!).
However, that was a long time ago and these days the thought of attempting to run 26 miles makes me shudder. So it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I picked up The Pants of Perspective by Anna McNuff.
I wasn’t sure whether a book which chronicles Anna’s account of running 3,000km through the wilds of New Zealand would appeal to me, as a life of daily runs seems very removed from my reality at the moment.
However I’m a big fan of the jazzy legging and I was attracted to the title of the book. I figured that whoever had given it that name was likely to have a sense of humour and so I decided we’d review The Pants of Perspective for #travelbookclub (the book club I run on Twitter).
What I enjoyed from the get-go about the book was Anna’s honesty. At the start of it I was actually surprised at how unprepared she seemed for the challenge. This was something she readily admitted herself when she asked: “Was I just a stupid girl from London who had bitten off more than she could chew?” However, I appreciated her openness and felt like she had the determination to persevere.
The first question we discussed for #travelbookclub was whether you need to have a certain type of personality to attempt a challenge like this? I felt that perhaps you do. As not only do you require the confidence to believe you can do it in the first place, you also need the tenacity to keep going during the inevitable tough times.
Memories of New Zealand
Anna’s journey through New Zealand featured some well known paths, as well as many off the beaten track ones. I loved reading Anna’s descriptions of her surroundings as it brought back so many memories of my time in New Zealand. I really got into ‘tramping’ when I was doing my solo six week trip through the country as part of my grown up gap year and spent many hours walking through the beautiful scenery, just thinking about how lucky I was. It was one of the few times in my life when I’ve been totally alone and I really enjoyed and appreciated the total freedom.
Reading Anna’s account of the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing also really made me want to return to New Zealand, as when I did the same route it was so foggy that I couldn’t see a thing!
I also enjoyed her descriptions of the trail huts she stayed in and the small day to day details of how she cooked food, where she slept and how she washed. These are the things I always end up wondering about when I read about adventures like this.
However what I enjoyed most about The Pants of Perspective was the characters Anna met along the way. Each person was hiking the route for their own reason and it was interesting to read about the self-imposed rules people made for themselves about what constituted ‘doing’ the trail. (For example, two hikers would never accept lifts from the trail into the towns, which added countless extra miles to their journey.)
I also loved the warmth of the people who helped Anna along the way. I especially liked the couple who took it upon themselves to “kidnap” people along the route and heal their tired bodies with food and kindness.
Something else I enjoyed about The Pants of Perspective was that, unlike in some books, Anna doesn’t purport to have some special skill which no one else does. She freely admits that there were difficult days and negative voices in her head which needed to be kept at constant bay. This was something else we considered in our #travelbookclub chat: whether the greatest challenges of Anna’s trip were physical or mental?
I felt that Anna did a good job of highlighting that it’s a combination of the two. She ran the whole route carrying her belongings and often battled on-going, niggling injuries. There was also the risk that a big injury, such as a fall or a break, could instantly end her challenge. However her own negative thoughts could have had the same effect if she hadn’t worked to constantly banish them with her ‘cheerleaders’.
The joy of running
Something I realised as I was thinking about this The Pants of Perspective review was that Anna was trying to encourage other people to discover a love of running. Along the way she spoke to countless people, including schoolchildren, about her journey.
After meeting a lady called Nikki (who runs 20km with her) Anna says she is a perfect example of what her challenge was about.
And when it comes down to it, I think that’s what her crazy, jazzy-legging’d journey was about. Sharing the pure joy of running. The freedom it gives you, the time and space it provides you to think and the feeling of exhilaration at having completed a set number of miles.
In fact, she did such a good job, that I might even consider getting my own running shoes out of retirement.
Have you read any books that have encouraged you to do something new? I’d love to hear about them.
If you enjoyed this The Pants of Perspective review, you can also check out my review of Revolutionary Ride by Lois Pryce.