Saturday, 25 May 2019

That Ultra Running Book - A Review

The Rise of the Ultra Runners: A Journey to the Edge of Human Endurance by [Finn, Adharanand]

I bought it the day it released, more or less. And finished reading it almost in one shot. It was worth the excitement, for sure! If you are a runner (and who isn't?), you have to read this book. Anyhow I have loved all the books by Adharanand, so I was really really eager. 

The strange thing about social media is that you feel like you are so connected, somehow. I saw Camille Herron post a photo of the book copy she received and I remembered reading somewhere that she was in the book herself. I mean, I didn't know the details, but still. I knew Finn ran a number of ultra races - including the Comrades one. I also knew about the experiment with the Kenyan runner and the ultra race, again, not the details but the bones of it. So in some ways, there weren't as many surprises in the book. I regret that a little bit, I admit.

What I like about Finn's books as compared to the numerous other books about running/runners that I have read is that he provides what I can term a sort of gentle analysis of the situation, basing a lot but not all of it, on his own personal experiences. I like how he weaves in his own experiences and story along side that of the members of the ultrarunning community in this book. Compared to the previous books, I get the feeling that this was physically really demanding, and required a lot of out-of-comfort zone activity. I appreciate an author who takes the craft seriously enough to be willing to do that. Of course we runners are a crazy lot, everyone knows that.

My favourite part of the book was the two-three times Finn describes getting some sort of second wind late in a race and then going nuts and getting to the finish line propelled by that. I am not looking at an ultra race, I don't think I can not do it, but I feel it doesn't align with my goals or life right now. However, I do understand that feeling, having run my share of kilometers for the past 35 years. It is hard to describe, and Finn struggles to identify the cause (it would be great to figure it out and distill the essence into a bottle, wouldn't it?), but we all know that each race is completely different! A salt tablet in one, a kind word in the other, a song sometimes, a bit of rain perhaps - any of these can be a positive X factor on a given day! I know it is looking at it from a "glass half full" perspective (I know the line between this and a DNF is a very fine one, definitely been there), but don't knock me for being positive!  

It's a book with lot of rich description, plenty of food for thought, and a good number of personal experiences to inspire you on your running journey. I give it two thumbs up, and am glad to have a complete set now in my (e) bookshelf, and my brain. I also want to use this opportunity to express gratitude to Adharanand for granting me an interview - for our magazine The Rundown a few years ago (2017). Here, have a peak at my article. This was based on "Running with the Kenyans".