Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Ultramarathon Man: A book review

From the Jean's Running Blog Literature Corner... :)

I just finished reading Dean Karnazes' memoir, Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner, so I thought I would write a brief review.

You might think this guy is nuts. While that remains a distinct possibility, Dean Karnazes is still a pretty amazing specimen. How many people do you know who could run 100 miles to the START of a marathon, and then run the marathon in 3 hours and 15 minutes?

Karnazes was a driven, successful young professional in the San Francisco Bay area. Something happened to him on his 30th birthday which caused him to experience a mid-life crisis of sorts. After an evening of boozing and partying, he got home in the middle of the night and put on a pair of old running shoes. Dean, who had not run since high school, ran off into the darkness. He did not stop until he reached Half Moon Bay, which was 30 miles away!

This led to some incredible changes in his life and fueled his quest for adventure. Karnazes began a regular training schedule and started to seek out more challenges. The more difficult, the better. Eventually he started entering himself into the most extreme races he could find. His first Western States 100 (a one-day, 100 mile trail race that is regarded as one of the most grueling tests of endurance in the world) is covered in great detail. Subsequent chapters deal with other unbelievable events, such as a marathon in Antarctica, the truly insane Badwater Ultramarathon (a 135 mile race through Death Valley!), as well as attempts to run 200 miles and beyond. His achievements are simply mind-boggling.

The writing style is pretty straightforward, making for an easy and relatively quick read. Even so, Karnazes still does a good job of capturing his spirit, motivation, and acts of charity, as well as his thoughts and emotions during the races. It is an enjoyable book for runners especially, but also for anyone who is interested in reading about human potential and striving towards seemingly unrealistic and impossible goals.

As a side note, Dean's newest adventure is starting this fall. As a promotion for The North Face, Karnazes is attempting the Endurance 50, an event where he will run 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days! He is scheduled to run the Twin Cities Marathon course on October 23, 2006.
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