What I Think About When I Run With My Wolf,
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This review is from: Running with the Pack: Thoughts from the Road on Meaning and Mortality (Paperback)
Mark Rowlands's "The Philosopher and the Wolf" - a popular philosophy best-seller based upon the writer's decade spent living with a wolf - was one of my favourite reads last year, and I was delighted to see that Rowlands came out with a new book. As a keen runner (and walker - I run the walking blog The Walking Post dot com) with a lay interest in philosophy, I was looking forward to a book about running and philosophy.
I have not read a lot of books about running, but I imagine that many of them take kind of a can-do, optimistic view of things. Doesn't regular physical exercise turn most people into more optimistic beings? If this is so, Mark Rowlands is not one of them - at least not in the traditional sense. "Running with the Pack" does not have an ounce of esoteric "our bodies are just avatars" speculation or "you can be whatever you dare to dream" pep talk in it. Rowlands does think a lot about the body and the mind (Descartes and dualism feature prominently in the book), but he keeps his feet firmly on the ground.
Nevertheless, Running with the Pack, and The Philosopher and the Wolf for that matter, are by no means pessimistic books - actually I find them very life-affirming in their core, mainly because of their sincerity. Rowlands takes a really honest look at life, and at the inevitable end of it, which awaits all of us. But it's this expiry date of the human body (and not speculation of what may lie beyond) that really makes him explore and live the here and now in a very intense way. So this sense, "Running with the Pack" is an optimistic book - not optimistic in that it puts its hope into faith (religious or other), but in that it explores who we really are and concludes that we can search for the meaning of our own lives if we try hard enough.
If you're interested in physical activity and philosophy, and how they marry up, "Running with the Pack" is a very engaging read. It is in many ways very different from Murakami's "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running", but both writers use running to talk about life and philosophy (Rowlands) or writing (Murakami). My guess is that if you liked Murakami's running memoir, you will want to read Rowlands's "Running with the Pack".