Don’t get me wrong, Karnazes is no Steinbeck and "Ultramarathon Man" is certainly not the great American novel. It is however thoroughly entertaining, utterly inspiring and has even nudged me to eat a little more healthily from time to time.
This is not just a book for runners. The themes in "Ultramarathon Man" can be applied universally - anyone who's ever faced a monumental task will appreciate Karnazes story. That said runners (marathoners in particular) will have a special appreciation for this read. I found myself laughing out loud at things most non-runners would find appalling (e.g. lost toe nails, blisters, and creative use of superglue).
The tale follows Karnazes' life as a runner as boy in the mid seventies to his more recent feats of extraordinary endurance as an adult.
I would like to share a few of my favorite passages from the book. This first takes place as Karnazes is running the Western States 100, a 100 mile foot race through some of the most remote and rugged mountains in the country. This quote comes as Karnezes departs a checkpoint, 55 miles into the race.
"I found myself alone again on the trail. It was just after 5:20PM, and the next checkpoint, at Foresthill, was six short but tough miles away. Just one 10K, I thought to myself. When I reach Foresthill, I’ll have covered 62 miles. From that point, all I have left is a marathon and two back-to-back 10Ks."Breaking the race down into smaller, more manageable chunks is a brilliant strategy but come on! A marathon followed by two back to back 10Ks after having already run 60+ miles... That is insane! I love this guy!
Another quote comes from The Relay – which is a 199 mile team relay from Calistoga to
“The human body is capable of extraordinary feats of endurance, but it has protective mechanisms to prevent total annihilation. Typically the system will shut down before physical destruction occurs. Blacking out is the body’s ultimate act of self-preservation. When you’re teetering on the edge of coherence – which running 185 miles can induce – stepping over the edge becomes a very real threat. One minute you’re running, the next you’re in the back of an ambulance heading for the ER.”Okay, so obviously I am pretty impressed with this guy and his book. It's a great read and I highly recommend reading it. I also recommend you take a look at and support his next feat - The Endurance 50 - 50 marathons in 50 States in 50 consecutive days. All I can say is wow, I am in awe.
I leave you with a few additional links and one final excerpt from “Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All Night Runner." This qoute comes from 185 miles into The Relay.
“Dozens of team runners began catching up and passing me on the narrow road toDean Karnazes website.
. Few had any idea I’d been running for the past two days straight as they grunted encouragement while blowing by me. People of all walks of life passed me – young and old, experienced runners and new recruits. Periodically some hotshot speed demon, bent on turning in his fastest leg ever, would rocket by me without so much a nod. A hundred miles ago, I might have been tempted to chase him. But after running the equivalent of seven consecutive marathons nonstop, my ego had been sufficiently tempered, and being passed wasn’t the least bet demoralizing." Santa Cruz
Interview with Dean Karnazes on NPR.
Interview wiht Dean karnazes on A Trail Runners Blog.