I really dislike writing book reviews because whenever I read a disappointing book, I always feel like the horrible mean lady telling the mother their baby is ugly. So, instead, I just give them stars on Amazon and Good Reads and carry on with life assuming I didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings about their babies or their books.
When a book is really, really good, however, I have no problem writing a review. Look at the words flowing out of the keyboard, straight onto the WordPress screen like nobody’s business. This review? It’s practically writing itself.
First, the jist of it: One Step Beyond chronicles Malcolm Law’s crazy ass idea of quitting normal life and running New Zealand’s Seven Great Walks (in the mainland) in Seven Days to raise money for the Leukaemia and Blood Foundation (which is now called Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand). If you’re not from New Zealand and/or you’ve never heard of the Seven Great Walks, you can read about them here or you can just trust me when I tell you that this is one of the craziest ideas a runner could have (the equivalent of running 9 mountain marathons in seven consecutive days, having to make your way to all these remote places in different parts of the country).
The book documents the entire process from planning to training and execution, along with all the crazy bits in between. If you’re a runner, it’s the book you have been waiting to read. If you’re someone who likes adventure, it’s the book you have been waiting to read. If you love sitting on the couch doing nothing but deep down wish you were out there exploring, then you should already be halfway through this book. What are you still doing here?
By the time I first heard about Malcolm Law, a couple of years had passed since this first 7in7 adventure. His website was one of the first I discovered when I first started getting into trail running a couple of years ago. At the time, he was gearing up for his CoastPathRun an epic adventure to raise funds for Mental Health Foundation NZ. Mal at the time emailed me saying thank you for the donation to his cause (sending personal thank you notes to donors was important to him, as he talks about in the book) and I thanked him for the inspiration (I was training for a 35k trail, and felt like I needed all the extra inspiration I could find). From then on, I’ve followed his adventures closely (like that time he “climbed Everest in a day” in preparation for the CoastPathRun) and his website – a trail running bible for New Zealand – became a sort of manual of reference for me, whenever I want a new trail to explore.
In the book, he makes no secrets about all the work that went into organising 7in7, about the decision to quit his day job and run after his passion instead. The market analyst turned adventurer extraordinaire did exactly what each one of us secretly dreams of doing and turned his passion into his full-time job. What’s even more awesome, I hear you ask? He has single-handedly raised over a quarter of a million dollars to the Leukaemia and Blood Foundation in the process. Don’t even try to pretend that’s not what you want to do too.
One of the reasons it took me longer than usual to finish this book was because of the amount of times I got distracted and found myself drifting away, having flashbacks of past trail runs and an unbelievable envy of Mal for having dared to even dream to do something like the 7in7.
I’m pretty sure that was his point, though. He wanted to create that envy because it is that envy that gets you out there doing stuff. His premise is that, if he can do it, anybody can do it. Yes, even you. Or I. It’s the triumph of the “average” man. Mal doesn’t break any records other than the ones he sets for himself (which are pretty damn huge anyway). The point is, he’s just a regular person, not an elite athlete who’s been training for this his entire life. You know what that means, right? It means there’s hope. That if we suck it up and get out there like he did, if we harden up about the blisters and take the hills head on, we can do it too. That’s pretty damn exciting.
More importantly, though, he had a cause. He did it for his brother Alan, who died 40 years ago of Leukemia – something Mal could never quite get over. On his feet, during the adventure, his running shoes. Around his neck, the photo of his brother Alan, the real reason for this whole thing. Let’s get one thing straight: no one just decides that they feel like going for a massive seven-day trail run, up and down mountains and through rugged country. This was his way of finding closure for his brother’s death, an issue that had gone unresolved in his heart for 40 years. In the process, he helped a whole lot of people going through the same thing his family did back then. You know how running makes people awesome? It’s for stuff like this too.
By the time I got to the epilogue, last night, I was experiencing some weird symptoms: teary eyes (his son Beinn running the final few meters of the Kepler Challenge with him? Stop it, you’re making my heart hurt!) and really, really itchy feet, desperate to step on the trails.
If you think things have now gotten a little out of hand and he can’t get himself into anything crazier, think again. He’s plotting an even more outrageous adventure so keep an eye on Running Wild NZ for details. Also, that’s the same website where you can buy his book from, if you want to read an amazing story and get inspired to do epic stuff with yourself.