Sunday, May 15, 2005

Ultramarathon Man

Dean Karnazes is an amazing athlete. He is a winner of the 2004 Badwater 135 Ultramarathon (The World's Toughest Footrace, 135 miles through Death Valley), and has completed the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run as well as running the first South Pole Marathon. He has also run a 199 mile Relay event without having a relay team. On his thirtieth birthday, having not run for fifteen years and feeling a bit of a mid-life crisis and dissatisfaction with his life, Dean went out for a run. Most people, going out for their first run in more than a decade might go for a mile or two and get the old feeling back. Dean ran thirty miles. "Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All Night Runner" is Dean's autobiography.

My interest in this book stems from an article I read about Dean Karnazes in Runner's World Magazine regarding his quest to run 300 miles in one incredibly long run. At the time the article was written he had "only" run 262 consecutive miles. He has since surpassed 300. But that article peaked my interest in Karnazes. His capacity for pain and endurance is incredible and at the time I knew next to nothing about the world of ultramarathons (any distance longer than a marathon) or ultra running. I am interested in all things distance running and that interest served me well because this isn't an exceptionally well written book. The sentences have a choppy flow to them and the writing is a little simplistic. It is more like Karnazes is writing how he would talk, which works on one level but that doesn't always translate to good writing.

But that didn't really matter to me because I was so interested in his running career and his accomplishments and the events that he has participated in. To say that this book is short sighted and only focuses on Karnazes and not touching upon the history of the sport or other athletes kind of misses the point. This is a book about, and written by, Dean Karnazes and his experience as an ultra runner. Karnazes reveals how he has something of an obsessive compulsive personality and his outlet is running. He just takes it to an extreme that most people wouldn't understand. I certainly don't, though I'm impressed by it.

This is a good book for those interested what Karnazes has done and in long distance running in general. It is not well written enough that it would draw in somebody who didn't already have the interest.

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