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Ultra Running Books

Flanagan's run by Tom Mcnab
"This is a "lost classic" of the running book genre. Written in 1982, it's about a race across America in the 1930s, and is based on an actual race that occured in 1929. The cast of characters, including the unflappable promoter Flanagan, the veteran Doc Cole, the beautiful Kate Sheridan, the British Lord Thurleigh and more, all of whom have their own reasons for wanting to win, is very well drawn. Each of them is so interesting and likable that you're not sure who to root for. But best of all, the author, Tom McNab, a British Olympic coach, gets the running parts exactly right. I had doubts when I started to read it, but was pleasantly surprised. He captures the pain (physical and mental), the motivation, the commitment, and the satisfaction of running extremely well. Highly recommended."
Ultra Marathon by James E. Shapiro
"Ultramarathon" by James Shapiro was, for a brief moment in the history of literature, THE standard by which other athletic tomes would have to measure. Long out-of-print, and only issued in paperback (as far as I know), Ultramarathon was of such quality, that Sports Illustrated magazine saw fit to publish an excerpt, venturing down from the mountaintop and bringing to the die-hard major sports fanatic, a lyrical treatment of endurance running. Shapiro, the primary subject of concern, authors a true magnum opus of enduring legacy.Excelsior !
Hardrock fever: Running 100 miles through Colorado's San Juan mountains by Robert B Boeder
Beyond the Marathon : The Grand Slam of Trail Ultrarunning Robert B Boeder
"I do not know any one of my friends who are ultramarathroner and I believe I also can speak for 99.9% of them that they also know no one who takes up this sport. So it is rather intriguing to read about the experience of the author. The first part of the book is witty and fun to read. But it gets to be a little bored at the second half as the encounters, the feeling and the races themselves are becoming routine."
Soul, Sweat and Survival on the Pacific Crest Trail by Bob Holtel
And Then the Vulture Eats You by Win-W
The best writers in the sport of running take up a fascinating subject, the last frontier of long-distance events: races longer than a marathon . Who runs these 50-milers, 100-milers, multi-day events, multi-event events? And why do they do it? And (okay, admit you're a little curious) what's it like to do one? James Shapiro, a long time ultra-runner, whose Meditations from the Breakdown Lane is a classic piece of running literature, begins by relating with heart-rending detail his experiences in a 6-Day Race in Swifts on the Wing. In To the Limit and Beyond, Kenny Moore takes you through a gut-wrenching experience in his first-person account of the Great Hawaiian Footrace, a horrendous 6-day ordeal that seemingly changes his life . Don Kardong, one of the wittiest and most personable writers in the sport, in Le Grizz goes the 50-mile distance at the infamous race that gives this piece its name. Along the way this former Olympic marathoner, like so many participants in these events, makes startling discoveries about himself. Ed Ayres, editor of Running Times, takes on the Western States 100 in Wings of Icarus, and the event turns out to be a kind of catharsis in his life. In Road Warriors, Hal Higdon's report on his group's informal attempt to run across the state of Indiana is another kind of ultra tale: a light-hearted, self-imposed challenge that turns, like most ultra events, into a revealing spiritual odyssey. Tom Hart's self-imposed challenge, to run a solo 37-miler on his 37th birthday, is the basis for his ultra story. He finds out, as do the others, that an effort on the magnitude of an ultra is more than a feat of endurance, it is a journey into self . John Parker ends with And Then the Vulture Eats You, an uproarious analysis of today's ultra runners (Mystic Ultras). Your sides will ache from reading his account of the war between the Track Men and the Mystic Ultras in the Jackson, Michigan Ultimate Runner contest, in which the entrants race a 10K, a 440, a mile, a 100-yd dash, a mile, and a marathon, all in the same day . If you are an ultra runner, have ever been even mildly curious about such events, or if you are just a lover of great writing, you will greatly enjoy this book.
A Quest for Adventure:: David Horton's Conquest of the Appalachian Trail and the Trans-America Footrace by David Horton
Running on the Sun: The Badwater 135 (2000) by Mel Stewart
DVD: A film by Mel Stuart "Running on the Sun" is a documentary dealing with the Badwater 135 Ultra-marathon. While an ultra-marathon is defined as any race with a distance longer than a marathon (26.2 miles), Badwater is a grueling 135 mile race beginning in Death Valley (Badwater, California, elevation 282 feet below sea level) and ascending to 8000 feet by the race's end which includes an 18 mile stretch where the elevation rises over 5000 feet. With temperatures reaching 125 degrees in the middle of the day, the Badwater 135 is perhaps the nastiest race in the world. Only forty runners were invited to run Badwater in 1999. This documentary focuses on a cross section of some of the competitors to give an accurate portrait of what Badwater is and what Badwater does to a person. From a Marine to a man with a prosthetic leg to a 68 year old man to the current record holder of Badwater to a woman from England who put herself into debt to make it to Badwater, "Running on the Sun" has an interesting cast of characters. But then anyone actually willing to attempt Badwater probably has to be an interesting person. So many of these runners are just ordinary people with an extraordinary drive, passion, and commitment. Very few runners are actually trying to win the race, or break a record, but rather they are seeking the incredible personal accomplishment of finishing (60 hours or less) and perhaps even chase the goal of finishing in under 48 hours and thus earning the symbol of pride: The Badwater Belt Buckle. Only those few who can finish in under 48 hours can earn that belt buckle (and they do "earn" it). "Running on the Sun" touches upon why someone would run Badwater and what it takes. We see graphic footage of the feet of some of the runners and it isn't pretty. The film shows the joy, the pain, the pride, the disappointment, and the accomplishment of running Badwater. This really is an impressive documentary about an incredible endurance race. I'm impressed all the more because I'm currently training for my first marathon and while 26.2 miles seems like a long way, Badwater is 5 marathons back to back, plus a little bit more. Not to mention the whole Death Valley thing. It's beyond my comprehension as a runner. There is something in "Running on the Sun" to recommend the movie to anyone. Runners will get to see something that is probably beyond their dreams or even desire, but they will surely appreciate the effort. Other endurance athlete can also appreciate what the competitors of Badwater are attempting. Those who are simply curious will see a film about perseverance and accomplishment through adversity. This is an inspiring and awe inspiring film, though I imagine many people won't get why someone would do this. -Joe Sherry
To the Edge by Kirk Johnson
....pain-mind-numbing, body-wracking pain. When his beloved older brother commits suicide, Kirk starts running-running to escape, running to understand, running straight into the hell of Badwater, the ultimate test of endurance equal to five consecutive marathons. From the inferno of Death Valley to the freezing summit of Mt. Whitney, alongside a group of dreamers, fanatics, and virtual running machines, Kirk will stare down his limitations and his fears on a journey inward-a journey that just might offer the redemption of his deepest and most personal loss.
Ultra Marathon Man: Memior of an Extreme Endurance Athlete by Dean Karnazes
There are those of us whose idea of the ultimate physical challenge is the 26.2-mile Boston Marathon. And then there is Dean Karnazes. Karnazes has run 226.2 miles nonstop; he has completed the 135-mile Badwater Ultramara-thon across Death Valley National Park-considered the world's toughest footrace-in 130-degree weather; and he is the only person to complete a marathon to the South Pole in running shoes (and probably the only person to eat an entire pizza and a whole cheesecake while running). Karnazes is an ultramarathoner: a member of a small, elite, hard-core group of extreme athletes who race 50 miles, 100 miles, and longer. They can run forty-eight hours and more without sleep, barely pausing for food or water or even to use the bathroom. They can scale mountains, in brutally hot or cold weather, pushing their bodies, minds, and spirits well past what seems humanly possible. Ultramarathon Man is Dean Karnazes's story: the mind-boggling adventures of his nonstop treks through the hell of Death Valley, the incomprehensible frigidity of the South Pole, and the breathtaking beauty of the mountains and canyons of the Sierra Nevada. Karnazes captures the euphoria and out-of-body highs of these adventures. With an insight and candor rarely seen in sports memoirs, he also reveals how he merges the solitary, manic, self-absorbed life of hard-core ultrarunning with a full-time job, a wife, and two children, and how running has made him who he is today: a man with an überjock's body, a teenager's energy, and a champion's wisdom. .
Feet in the Clouds: A Tale of Fell Running and Obsession by Richard Askworth
The concept of fell running is simple: a long-distance race that includes running up and down several tall mountains. Though rarely making the sports pages, it is a mass-participation sport in areas like the Lake District and Snowdonia - indeed, race organisers turn competitors away so that fragile mountain uplands are not irrevocably damaged by thundering feet. Fixtures like the annual Ben Nevis and Snowdon races, or the Borrowdale and Wasdale fell runs in the Lakeland valleys (20-mile-plus marathons), have remained local events attended by the whole community - the runners back at work the next day shearing sheep. In this volume, Richard Askwith explores the world of fell-running in the only legitimate way: by donning his Ron Hill vest and studded shoes and spending a season running as many of the great fell races as he can, from Borrowdale to Ben Nevis: an arduous schedule that tests the very limits of one's stamina and courage. Along the way he also meets the greats of fell-running - like the remarkable Joss Naylor, who to celebrate his 60th birthday ran the Lakeland fells non-stop for a week, and Kenny Stuart, the wiry Keswick man whose astounding records still stand for many of the top races, and Bill Teasdale, one of the sport's pioneers, still living in the same tiny cottage in the northern Lakes. Ultimately Askwith's obsession drove him to attempt the ultimate challenge: a circuit of the Lake District peaks within 24 hours. This is a portrait of one of the few sports to have remained implacably amateur, and utterly true to its roots - in which the whole point, indeed, is to run the ancient, wild landscape, and stay a hero within one's own valley. A chronicle of a masochistic but admirable sporting obsession, a touching exploration of one of the last genuinely sporting communities, and an insight into one of the oldest extreme sports.

This page last updated: Saturday 20 March 2010

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