Running with the Antelope
by Melanie Carvell

The Dakota Institute Press, 2014. ISBN 978-0-991-60410-4.
Reviewed by Pat Bean
Posted on 11/05/2014

Nonfiction: Memoir

Running with the Antelope is the memoir of a North Dakota woman who broke her traditional family's expectations that as a female she would stay close to home and family. That's not to say she didn't have a full family life, with a husband and children, it's just that it wasn't to be her only life. And if you follow running and cycling events, or competitive triathlons, you may have already recognized the author's name. Melanie Carvell has been running, cycling and participating in triathlons for over 30 years, along the way earning many national and world awards.

But this isn't the story of a super hero. This book is about a real person, someone who cares about people, someone who learns lessons from defeat, and someone who might be your unassuming next door neighbor, the one who drops in with a casserole when your child is in the hospital. Reading this book made me want to be a better person, a better writer, a harder worker, and a person who took better care of her body. If Carvell can fulfill her dreams, I thought, so can I.

Running with the Antelope, however, is more than just the story of one small-town, late-bloomer who got hooked on triathlons. It is also the story of one woman's love affair with her native roots. North Dakota's plains, badlands, and wildlife play as important a role in the author's life as do her competitive dreams. Carvell's training arena was often bursting with such North Dakota wildlife as unfenced bison hogging a little traveled road, or a band of prong-horned antelope. The bison gave her reason to pause, and sometimes turn around and go another route, but the antelope only gave her joy. And the rare occasion when they joined her for her run was the inspiration for this book's title.

Running with the Antelope is the story of a juggler, a woman who is often torn between her work as a physical therapist, her responsibilities as a wife and parent, and her drive to compete. To describe the dilemma, Carvel writes:

All of us seek that elusive balance between competing demands of work and home and personal life. At what point do you leave the project at your desk, decline to attend the out-of-town conference, refuse the promotion, and limit, or even forego workout sessions and just head home. But once there, how long can you stay and be content with routine responsibilities? How long before your heart aches for the sun and for your bike and for its speed?

Carvell, at 51, is still out there pushing the limits, hoping that she will come around a bend and find a herd of pronghorns that will run with her again. Hoping, too, that despite age and injuries, there are still competitive races ahead of her.

Reading Melanie Carvell's story inspired me. I bet it will inspire you, too.

Melanie Carvell, a native of Mott, North Dakota, is a physical therapist and the Director of the Sanford Women's Health Center in Bismarck, North Dakota. In addition to being the author of Running with the Antelope, she is a six-time All American triathlete, a wellness consultant, a motivational speaker and a community volunteer. Visit her website.

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