Stories to inspire us all, Daniel Lovewell
August 11, 2021
With the Olympics coming up, it seemed a perfect time to read about some inspirational runners in Dreydon Sobanja’s latest book, The Kiwi Runners’ Family Tree – Volume Two: 2000-2020. I already have three other books by Dreydon Sobanja on my bookshelf: Jean Dreams of Flying, Bruce Wants to Go Faster, and my favourite, Ed Climbs a Big Hill. These books are great because they tell the stories of some of New Zealand’s most inspiring people in a way that is appealing to younger readers. Now that I am not a younger reader anymore, I was keen to read a book pitched at older readers.
The Kiwi Runners’ Family Tree – Volume Two: 2000-2020 follows on from the first volume, which was published in 2020. The first volume covered international athletes from the 1800s through to 1999. This new volume looks at current and recent athletes competing in modern events that many of us are familiar with, as well as other, less known kinds of running. I was excited to see Nick Willis and Zane Robertson in the book, as they are both Olympic athletes in at the Tokyo Olympics.
The book covers all kinds of different running: sprinters, marathon runners, and ultra runners. It also includes para-athletes, race walkers, and steeplechasers. I was especially interested in the steeplechasing as I thought that was something horses did! It is actually an event where runners race on a track, but have to jump over hurdles and sometimes land in water, as well as running fast. And it turns out we have lots of runners who do well at steeplechase and hurdles at international events, including the Commonwealth Games.
I could write an awful lot about all the amazing stories in this book, but that would take a very long time. But I do have some favourites that really stand out to me. One is Para athletic track runner Dani Aitchison who actually died soon after birth but was resuscitated, and now competes with cerebral palsy. I’m also amazed by Malcolm Law, who ran all of New Zealand’s seven Great Walks in seven days. And my absolute favourite: Harita Davies, who runs 5000 kilometre races – and takes 51 days and 25 pairs of shoes to achieve that!
There are many inspiring words from the runners in this volume. I really liked a quote from Māori hurdler Sarah Langsbury, who said, “…it’s not your failures that define you, it’s how you grow from them.” I think this quote is not just about running, but about life. I am not a runner, but I found many of the stories in this book inspire you to give your best at everything you do, whatever your passion is.
I recommend The Kiwi Runners’ Family Tree – Volume Two for anyone who is interested in sports, and also for less sporty people who want to read about inspiring individuals. Readers 10 years and up will definitely get something out of reading the carefully chosen stories. Adults enjoy this book too – my parents and visitors at our home found themselves reading out loud stories of athletes they knew about, or the amazing achievements of those they didn’t. The photos and layout of the large A4 size make you notice this book and want to open it. It is a great reference book for young people as well, as each person is so well researched with lots of background about how they came to running, and their achievements. It is the sort of book you want to pick up and flick through so you can enjoy one story at a time.
Personally, it has inspired me to watch Olympic and Paralympic running events to see if I recognise any names, and also to go out and run the kind of running I like to do: the kind where you scramble up hills, plough through rivers and jump over tree roots trying to be the first to find things. It turns out that’s actually a thing, and is known as ‘Adventure Running’. Who knew?
- Daniel Lovewell is 12 years old and lives in Masterton.