Northern Illinois University Press


The Long Running Life of Helena Zigon

A True Story in 21 Kilometers

Jasmina Kozina Praprotnik

“Praprotnik’s narrative, crafted from interviews with the legendary Slovenian runner, uses each kilometer of the Istrian half-marathon as a chapter marker, weaving together the course of an amazing life with that of a grueling race. It is a compelling, inspirational, and humbling story.” —Amy Nelson, author of Music for the Revolution: Musicians and Power in Early Soviet Russia

“This original book combines a specialist’s story, written by someone who has made a career of inspiring people to run, with the biography of a remarkable woman, who ran her way through the twentieth century. It will be a delight for anyone interested in a life well-lived, as well as anyone with an interest, competitive or recreational, in running and what it can do not only for the body, but for the soul.” —Noah Charney, author of The Art Thief

Anthropologist Jasmina Praprotnik met Helena Zigon while running. Over the course of an icy Slovenian winter, the two marathon runners got together frequently, and Zigon told Praprotnik about her life. Here, Praprotnik tells Zigon’s captivating story in Zigon’s own voice. Each chapter is marked by a kilometer of the half-marathon Zigon ran along the Adriatic Sea on her eighty-sixth birthday, shortly after losing her husband of sixty years, Stane.

Zigon’s life spanned most of the twentieth century. She witnessed the Second World War, the rise and fall of Yugoslavia, and the founding of the new state of Slovenia. Abandoned by her parents and having grown up poor and mistreated by her stepmother, Zigon demonstrates the stoic resilience of a long-suffering Slavic woman. Though beset with challenges, she found a source of strength in the act of running. From a young girl running errands to an old woman running in the face of new grief, running has been a bright thread braided throughout her life. It has served her as a balm and a joy—one that she is grateful to still be able to savor. This inspirational memoir will appeal to general readers, especially those interested in history and running.

October 2017 176 pp., 6x9
ISBN 978-0-87580-773-7
$29.00t Paper

Jasmina Kozina Praprotnik is a writer, journalist, ultra-marathon runner, and running trainer who lives in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Along with her husband, Urban, she leads the country’s largest recreational running club. They have four children.

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ISBN: 9780875807737
paper $29.00