After signing up for my first ultra, I thought what better book to read than Ultra Marathon Man by Dean Karnazes. I was looking for some training insights and what I got was a tremendous amount of inspiration and motivation!
The book begins with the Ultra Marathon Man running (imagine that). As he approaches a hill and gains cell phone reception, he orders a pizza and dessert to satisfy his growing need for calories. The delivery guy, so awed by the fact that Dean has run so far and is continuing to run so much further, asks the underlying question of the book: “So, dude, do you mind me asking why you’re doing this?”
From that point forward, we get an insight into the soul of endurance athletes that few other writings capture even half as well. Start with a young adolescent Dean, who was into surfing and a runner on his high school cross country team. His stories about these experiences will bring fond memories back to anyone that has run XC in high school. From the brass-knuckles training philosophy of Coach McTovish (“If it felt good, you didn’t push hard enough. It’s supposed to hurt like hell.”) to the more insightful Coach Brenner (“Don’t run with your legs. Run with your heart”), Dean keeps the reader entertained and lays down a great foundation for his bastion of strength that he’ll need to tap later in life.
After a methodical, number-crunching track coach squashes “Karno’s” spirit and love of running, he hangs up his running shoes for 15 years. But after stumbling home from his 30th birthday party, he breaks his hiatus and leaves on a Forrest-Gump-style 30 mile run. From there, the adventure begins!!
The reader is sucked into the ultra marathon man adventure from the start. And for those that are distance runners, you’ll likely find yourself laughing out loud as he is able to express extremely well the challenges, emotions, and reasons that we keep lacing up our shoes each morning. You’ll be amazed by his breath-taking tale of the Western States 100-mile endurance run…a race that includes a total of 38,000 feet of elevation change and crosses rivers and streams?! His story of the 1st South Pole marathon will give you a boost of determination…and The Relay will have you cheering on “Team Dean” to the end. His summary at the end of the book as to why he runs…nails it.
It was really enjoyable to read the writings of someone that is extremely well-grounded. Dean has found a way to follow his passion, yet still be a positive and present family man. He ‘squeezes’ in his daily 26 mile runs while his family sleeps and he’s outfitted his office with a pull-up bar and does his 200 push-ups, 50 pull-ups, and 400 sit ups during the work day. As a husband and father of 4, I closed the book knowing that I could do more. Dean’s accomplishments have thumbed their nose at what used to be considered the limits of human endurance and will open your mind to think, “I wonder if I could…”