On a sleepless night during the holidays I was internet surfing and realized Facebook was recommending that I “friend” Kim Jones. Yes, I geek out when I find I have less than six degrees of separation from a world class runner, but I am not going to lie. I knew she was a phenomenal runner, but did not know the details of her career. Like most internet surfing sprees, this lead me to google her and learn about her accolades. After a few minutes and several articles read, I knew Kim Jones was going to be my newfound heroine.
For those of you who do not know the details of Kim Jones’ running career, let me give you a brief synopsis. Jones has a marathon PR of 2:26:40 from the Boston Marathon (1991) while also placing 2nd among the world class field. During her career she placed second twice at the Boston Marathon and the New York City Marathon. She also placed second at the Berlin Marathon. Jones has run a remarkable seventeen marathons under 2:33 since 1986 and was ranked third in the world in the marathon in 1989. A similarly impressive mark is that Jones has run five marathons in 2:30 or faster. In a mind blowingly difficult feat, she won the 1989 Twin Cities Marathon (2:31:42), but stomach distress kept her from reaching her sub 2:30 goal. Despite the fact that the NYC Marathon was just three weeks away, she asked to be added to the field to get one last crack at her sub 2:30 goal. Despite the quick turnaround, Jones ran 2:27:54 on the hilly NYC Marathon course and placed second. Although Jones has an 8th place finish at the 1993 World Championships Marathon, was ranked as the fastest US Marathoner for years, and continuously ranked among the world’s best marathoners, Jones has never made an Olympic team due a series of unfortunate events.
Kim Jones chronicles her running career alongside her personal life in her memoir, Dandelion Growing Wild: A triumphant journey over astounding odds to become an American marathon champion . Her book pulled me in, due to my desire to learn more about her career and the path she took to get there, but almost immediately, I realized her memoir was about more than just her successful running career. Dandelion Growing Wild leads you through her tumultuous childhood that is ravaged by alcoholism, drug addiction, family deaths, and an emotional teen pregnancy that is filled with enough sadness to give anyone an excuse to lead a life full of destruction. Jones’ memoir goes on to depict an adulthood that is no stranger to tragedy. She struggles with domestic abuse, continuous family heartbreak, and a pain that no mother should bear, but Jones’ down to earth and honest personality prevents her from presenting her stories with any need for excuses. Her recollections do not beg for your sympathy. They are written with so much strength and heart that it is obvious to the reader why Jones is a successful marathoner. As her story continues, you find yourself expecting Jones’ misfortune to end when her running career takes off, but the truth ends up being quite the opposite. Just like a true story rarely has a fairytale ending, Dandelion Growing Wild becomes less about the steps to become a world class marathoner and more about how Jones’ strong spirit allowed her to become a world class marathoner DESPITE the strife she has had to endure. Even Jones’ abrupt end to her professional running career does not leave her begging for the audience’s sympathy. Instead, Jones leaves the reader inspired by the remarkable strength she has brought to her own life and the desire to persevere through the reader's own hardships.
This book is ideal for everyone ranging from a runner who is looking for inspiration from a real life running legend to any person who is looking for the strength and courage to forge their own path and leave their ugly past behind. Personally, I read Dandelion Growing WIld while not only struggling with an injury that did not allow me to run, but also while trying to find the inner strength to let go of some of the demons of my past. Dandelion Growing Wild not only reinvigorated my running motivation, but allowed me to begin the healing process of moving on from issues that have left an unnecessary weight on my back for far too long.
Dandelion Growing Wild is available on Amazon in both paperback and for your Kindle. I bought it for my Kindle for $9.99. The opinions expressed in this review are mine and do not represent the opinions of Kim Jones or anyone else.