The Extra Mile is the autobiography of ultramarathon runner Pam Reed. Reed is a two time winner of the Badwater Ultramarathon (overall winner, not just first female), a 135 mile footrace through Death Valley. She holds a number of national records in Ultramarathon events. The Extra Mile is her story, in her own words, bringing Reed from childhood up through 2005 and she tells us the hows and whys of her life, running career, and the ongoing battle with anorexia.
Pam Reed brings the reader from her childhood in small town northern Michigan and the expectation of hard work to her failed first marriage and how through that marriage and her decision to run brought her to meet her future husband even though both were married at the time. She follows into Ironman Triathlon and into Ultramarathon. We see how she juggles life, kids, and competition at an elite level.
The Extra Mile is not just about her athletic career. Reed focuses a good deal of attention on her struggle with anorexia and how paradoxically it helped her at the ultra distances.
Reed has a very simple, direct writing style. The Extra Mile is not written in a flowery style with extra description. Reed is very to the point. She tells us what happened, what she thought, and what the consequence was of what happened. She does not go into great depth or detail regarding any single race she has run, so readers looking for fifty pages of race report on her Badwater wins will be disappointed. This is Pam Reed's life from Reed’s perspective. She addresses the major topics and events from her life: marriage, divorce, moves, children, ultra running, running as an elite athlete, Badwater, running 300 miles and her future. No subject gets in depth attention, but each subject is covered sufficiently that the reader is given an idea of who Reed is as a woman and an athlete.
Some readers will likely be disappointed by the perceived shallowness of the book. I mean shallow in the sense that The Extra Mile does not plumb the depths of Reed's soul or cover mile by mile every race Pam Reed has run. But, nowhere does Reed claim that she is a researcher or have any intent of covering every aspect of her life. The Extra Mile is an overview of Pam Reed and expectations should be as such.
For Reed's level of craft as a writer, I thought The Extra Mile sufficiently covered Pam Reed's life and career and kept me interested the entire way through. Highlights were, of course, her running career because this was the reason I opened this book in the first place.