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Long-distance runner chronicles 460-mile trek, grief in new book

Emily Halnon runs past Rosary Lakes, a little before reaching the halfway point of her run on the Pacific Crest Trail. (Courtesy of Emily Halnon)
Emily Halnon will be in Durango to talk about ‘To the Gorge’

Emily Halnon’s mother, Andrea, is the reason she runs.

In fact, the Eugene, Oregon, resident is spending her third consecutive summer in Silverton getting ready for the annual Hardrock 100 endurance run.

If you go

WHAT: Author event and book-signing with Emily Halnon, “To The Gorge: Running, grief, resilience and 460 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail.”

WHEN: 6-8 p.m. Wednesday.

WHERE: The Rochester Hotel, 726 East Second Ave.

MORE INFORMATION: Visit https://tinyurl.com/4a9e3xcj.

Halnon will be in Durango next week to talk about her new book, “To the Gorge: Running, grief resilience and 460 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail.” It’s a book that takes readers with her on her 2020 record-breaking run of the 460-mile Oregon section of the PCT, a National Scenic Trail that, according to the Pacific Crest Trail Association, covers 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada.

She did it in seven days, 19 hours and 23 minutes, averaging about 60 miles of running per day and battling through everything nature and her own mind could throw at her.

“I got into running because my mom ran her first marathon the year she turned 50. At the time, I really wasn’t a runner. Watching your 50-year-old mother pick up the sport and then complete a marathon is a pretty inspiring thing,” Halnon said. “And so I started. I did a marathon a few years after that, and she did it with me, or she did it ahead of me – she beat me by about 20 minutes that day. And then I got totally hooked on long-distance running, as I think a lot of people do.”

There’s a deeper meaning to her runs – especially the one chronicled in “To the Gorge.” In 2020, Andrea died from a rare uterine cancer at age 66, after being diagnosed 13 months before. So for Halnon, running became not only a way to honor her mother and the athletic feats she accomplished relatively later in life, it also became a way for her to try to process her grief.

Emily and her mother, Andrea Halnon. (Courtesy of Emily Halnon)

She said her mother radically changed the way she lived after a health scare in her 40s. Andrea started off small, walking the dirt roads around the family home in Vermont. That led to race walking and then running. Halnon said she even learned to swim when she turned 60 so she could compete in triathlons (That was the same year she went skydiving to celebrate her birthday.)

“She just got so hooked on living in this just bold, wholehearted way, in every way,” Halnon said. “She did it all over the place with her life, and especially through sports and endurance sports. She learned to swim when she was a 60-year-old woman because she wanted to do her first triathlon. And just going to a pool as a 60-year-old woman, and not really knowing how to get from one end to the other, but taking on that challenge is just so incredible. Then she got really into triathlons, and did a ton of them. And as she got into triathlons, she got into long-distance biking.”

While “To the Gorge” is no doubt a book that will appeal to those seeking an adventure story, it’s also a story about coming to terms with losing a loved one and trying to move forward – much like having to put one foot in front of the other on the trail when the going gets tough. And like the support she received when she lost her mom, she also had a group of friends who lent support during her run.

“I think through both grief and running, you appreciate the power of when you’re going through your hardest, lowest moments that no one can actually fix, like when you’re deep in the depths of the swamp of grief, it’s like no one can really fix it for you; they can’t bring back the person you’re grieving,” Halnon said. “But just having people who are willing to move with you through those moments and show love to you, shine light at you, just the power of that in both grief and running is just so huge, I think, and I really felt that in my run across Oregon, just feeling like I was supported and feeling like I was loved while I was doing a hard thing was so extraordinarily powerful.”

Emily Halnon celebrates on the Bridge of the Gods after setting a new overall record on the Oregon Pacific Crest Trail in 7 days, 19 hours and 23 minutes. (Photo by Jon Meyers)

In a society that doesn’t give a lot of time for people to grieve, Halnon said she hopes her book offers space and connection for grappling with grief.

“I hope that for people who have known their own deep grief that they feel comforted through that, or feel connection through that. I hope that they feel seen,” she said. “I hope that reading this book for people who are grieving, or who have known grief ... that it feels like their feelings are valid, that it feels like they have permission to grieve, that it feels like they’re connected to others who have also been grieving. ... And then I really hope that it invites people to ask that question of how they want to live and what they want to do with their days. And I hope the stories about my mom really move people to think about that.”


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