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Book Review - Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes

Category Book Reviews
Many of the personal improvement blogs I follow have had rave reviews about the book Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner by Dean Karnazes.  I started it last night, and read it cover to cover, finishing slightly before midnight.  This is an excellent example of how the mind can break through barriers thought insurmountable.

Dean Karnazes had always enjoyed running and pushing himself to the limit as a kid.  This love of running "from the heart" led him to a successful high school career as a cross-country runner, battling others who had more age and experience.  But he hung up his running shoes after an unfortunate encounter with the high school track coach (different than the cross-country coach), and that was the last competitive running he did for the next 16 years.  While being a party animal in college, his life changed forever when his sister died in a car accident.  The family was devastated, but he cleaned up his act and went on to a successful sales career.  But on his 30th birthday, he hit his crisis point.  He was empty inside, controlled by his job, and had no joy in what he was doing.  After getting drunk at a party that night, he wandered home, saw his running shoes (now used for gardening), stripped down to his underwear and a t-shirt, and started off on a run.  30 miles later, worn out, in great pain, he called his wife to come pick him up.  But that was the turning point for him.  He had pushed past physical and mental barriers and rediscovered a goal and motivation he hadn't had in a long time.  His running became an obsession, and it led him to start seeking out opportunities to test himself.  Ultramarathons became his passion, and thus began a series of incredible feats that show just what a person is capable of.

Karnazes is an inspiration to those who think they "can't".  His blow-by-blow account of his first Western States 100 event sucked me in and kept me turning the pages to see how it all turned out.  After that, you have the Badwaters event (through Death Valley in the summer), a 197 mile relay event run solo, and the first Antarctic marathon.  In all those cases (and many others), he suffered incredible physical and mental torture along the way but always kept moving forward, sometimes even crawling forward, towards his goal.  I have no doubt he'll end up meeting his demise on one of these runs, but he'll have lived his life on his terms and will have accomplished more than 100 people combined.

While I don't advocate everyone running out (no pun intended) and training for an ultramarathon, I *do* believe that everyone should have goals and passions that they pursue wholeheartedly.  If you want some serious inspiration to see what can be done with mental and physical focus, this is the perfect book.


Gravatar Image1 - You're welcome, Alan... On one hand, it's tempting to read the book and just say "why?" It's the same thing I think when I hear of people climbing mountains and nearly dying just to get to the top for five minutes. But the underlying message of what he does and why he does it is one that isn't easily forgotten.

Gravatar Image2 - Thanks for the reminder on this Tom. He is an amazing perosn. I read a great Scientific America story on him a while ago, but I can't find it online. I did my engineering thesis on the body's Max VO2 capacity. Looking at Dean's results from both the phyicial and mental standpoint, he is an amazing person. I'll add the book to my "to-do" list. (I'm about 100 books behind, I read MUCH slower than you!)

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Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

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