When an injury put and end to the Swedish runner Markus Torgeby’s running career, he lost his foothold in life. Then he wrote the book about his four years living more or less alone in the remote northern forests in Sweden. “The Runner: Four Years Living and Running in the Wilderness” is a memoir about loving in the wilderness, withstanding the elements, seeing no one, and doing almost nothing but running. The Swedish runner is a metaphor of the essentials in life.
As a teenager, Markus Torgeby didn’t do very well at school. “I don’t understand why I should be stuck inside doing something I don’t want to do,” he writes of his boyhood. “I don’t bother with my homework and always have the lowest marks in my class in every test. I just want to run.”
And he turned out to be a very talented long-distance runner. It didn’t take long before he was discovered by an enthusiastic coach who set very high goals.
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The Swedish runner
However, while Markus performed brilliantly in training, during competitions he often failed inexplicably. In 1999 when Markus was just 20 years old, he moved to one of the most isolated and cold regions of northern Sweden. When he first took to the trees, he regularly covered 40 miles a day. His resting heart rate was 40 beats per minute. The average for a healthy moderately fit individual is 72.
he lived as a recluse for four years staying in a tent and braving the harsh Scandinavian winters. And he ran. His time alone would prove to be more than an escape and was in fact a search for a direction in life. He was running in the depths of the Swedish winter, with temperatures as low as minus 42C “so your pee freezes before it hits the ground”. When he was unable to run on account of the snow, he skied similarly fearsome distances instead.
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Portrait of an extraordinary man
Markus took odd jobs in the countryside when his money ran low. A journalist wrote some articles about him, but he wondered why people were interested. Some readers may be tempted to agree with him, as he didn’t come across as particularly perceptive or reflective.
The Runner is a unique and powerful book: a portrait of an extraordinary man as well as a fascinating exploration of running and personal wellbeing. However, the book isn’t about running per se. For the young Torgeby, running was the means — and now, in this book, the metaphor — for stripping life to its essentials to see how he coped and what he could learn about himself.
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A Swedish bestseller
The book became a bestseller in Sweden. Other runners found inspiration in his story, and he made his re-entry into civilization, with a wife, a family, and a message about how little you need to live life to the fullest.
“Few people have the courage to be true to the person they really are… A fascinating story about a man dedicated and entirely devoted to his true love, running,” wrote Dean Karnazes, legendary ultramarathoner and NY Times bestselling author
The Swedish Runner, written by Tor Kjolberg