Running Through Fear – One Woman’s Quest to Fight Prejudice With Trust

Kristina Paltén is in her mid 30’s when her world comes crashing down: her husband walks out on her, she burns out at work, and she learns she will never be able to have children. In her darkest hour, she is lured into running a race with a friend. Kristina has never run a mile in her life, but suddenly it’s as though she has found the missing piece to her existential puzzle. Running becomes her sanctuary, a transcendental experience of pure presence in herself. It also turns out she is exceptionally good at it and finds pleasure in covering extreme distances – the longer the better.

After several years of challenging herself physically through record setting ultra runs, Kristina realizes she wants to commit her running to a cause beyond herself. In 2015, as the international community becomes ever more polarized, Kristina decides that she will run across Iran in order to challenge her own and other Westerner’s prejudice against the Muslim world. Kristina is an unlikely adventurer, cautious by nature, but she is determined to not let her anxiety stop her. Despite numerous attempts from friends and family to discourage her, she begins preparations for what will be over two months as a single Western woman running unprotected in a country governed by Sharia law.

Kristina is afraid. But rather than allow her fear to paralyse her, Kristina is determined to run through her fear – and in so doing try to show that many of the fears we all harbor are unwarranted. She wants to believe that, despite what the media feeds us every day, the world is inherently a good place. Will her journey prove her right?

Kristina lands in Iran on a hot day in August, but only one kilometer into her run she finds herself sobbing by the roadside, wondering what she has gotten herself into. A few hours later, a man approaches her tent to offer her food – and from there on the kindness continues. It does not take long before a constant flow of generosity, of breaking bread and sharing bed space, turns her list of fears upside down.

Through this riveting travel story, readers follow Kristina on her journey into the lives of ordinary people who open their homes and their hearts in a way she had not imagined possible. But darkness still lingers – as regime police stop her and friends harbor hidden agendas, she must ask herself: who can she really trust? In this eye-opening, life affirming, and highly commercial read, Swedish engineer-turned-adventurer Kristina Paltén sets out to challenge her own fear by doing what seemed impossible: running over one thousand miles across Iran as a single woman.

“The first pages grab hold of me. It’s incredibly thrilling and the book offers a lot of moments of identification.
Outside (SE)

“This is just as much an adventurous account of a journey, as it is an inner reflection on personal growth. Kristina is personal and isn’t afraid of talking about prejudice – her own and others’ – hopes, and fears. […] When I finish the book I do so with a warm sensation in my stomach. Above all Running Through Fear is perhaps about the good that exists within a person. That it can take you by surprise – and mean everything. And it carries greater weight than hatred. […] Already at the first few pages it feels as though you become friends with Kristina and you get to know her. It’s a friendship that you’ll come to miss once you’ve finished the book.


Kristina Paltén is a Swedish adventurer, ultra-runner, lecturer, and writer. Desirée Wahren Stattin is a journalist, writer and publisher. Together they have written Running Through Fear, in which they portray Kristina’s adventures running through Iran.

Learn more about Paltén & Wahren Stattin