on May 7, 2019
Published by Pegasus Books
Setting: England, U.S., South Africa, France, Spain, Italy, Oman
An electrifying look inside the wild world of extreme distance running.
Once the reserve of only the most hardcore enthusiasts, ultra running is now a thriving global industry, with hundreds of thousands of competitors each year. But is the rise of this most brutal and challenging sport―with races that extend into hundreds of miles, often in extreme environments―an antidote to modern life, or a symptom of a modern illness?
In The Rise of the Ultra Runners, award-winning author Adharanand Finn travels to the heart of the sport to investigate the reasons behind its rise and discover what it takes to join the ranks of these ultra athletes. Through encounters with the extreme and colorful characters of the ultramarathon world, and his own experiences of running ultras everywhere from the deserts of Oman to the Rocky Mountains, Finn offers a fascinating account of people testing the boundaries of human endeavor.
I’ve talked on this blog a lot about how I hate running with a passion that is only equal to how much I love reading about running. This book was perfect for me.
The author decides to learn about ultrarunning by getting a press pass to run the UTMB, a ultramarathon in the mountains in France. In order to use his pass, he has to qualify by getting enough points in other ultramarathons around the world. His journey to learn to love (and survive) ultrarunning and his interviews with the people he meets along the way are the heart of this book.
He covers the different types of ultrarunning – running 50-100 + miles at once, running a marathon every day for several days in a row, and running a short stretch of trail or on a track for 24 hours. Each has its own challenges.
He meets up with some of the best competitors and realizes that their lifestyles help them with their training. One person lives in a cabin 5 miles up Pike’s Peak. There is no road. You have to run in to get there and to leave. Others travel the world racing the hardest trails and mountains they can find.
He tries to talk top Kenyan marathoners into trying longer distances without a lot of success.
He talks to coaches and health care providers about how to stay fit for this and whether all of this is ultimately healthy or not.
I loved this story. I loved seeing what goes into pushing beyond marathon distance. I would never do it but I liked reading other people’s adventures.