Book Review: Ultramarathon Man

Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an all night runner is about Dean Karnazes and his attempts at running ultra distances in extreme circumstances. It is also about how running changed his life.

I read the paperback version of the book which is updated and addresses some of the criticism that the original text received. One of the problems with the hardback version was that Karnazes insinuates that you can eat anything you want and be able to accomplish amazing feats. In reality, his updated version really stresses that you cannot, in fact, mistreat your body with food and be able to perform as he does. His diet is so strict (when he is not running 200 miles at a time) that he only eats fish from certain waters of the world! This is not a man that fuels his body with large, over stuffed, pizzas on a regular basis. Though the book starts out with one of the most entertaining stories of him doing so.

The book is very readable and extremely entertaining. It basically consists of race reports. Most runners I know enjoy reading well written race reports. We seem to be able to relate to what others endure. Not that anyone has experienced quite what Karnazes has.

Passion like his has torn many families apart. But, it seems to have bonded the Karnazes family. They were devastated by the tragic loss of his sister. But Dean’s need to have a support network in his running endeavors brought his family together.

I am certain that most extreme athletes would tell you that having immediate family as your support staff is not a good option. When a wife sees her husband falling apart, she would be the first to ask him to throw in the towel. Not in the Karnazes family. No way! His wife got out of the van when he was ready to quit on one such run. She ran beside him and said (in not so many words) “Quit? Are you stupid? You can’t quit! You started this thing and I don’t care if you have to crawl over the finish line again, you are not going to quit!” Needless to say, as questionable as Dean’s mental state may be, I believe he has the family to match. His father is quoted as not being quite as subtle as his wife.

A new runner may read this book and think that he can accomplish what Dean has done, in the way that he has done it. Conventional wisdom says that most people would suffer stress fractures and other injuries.

Unfortunately, because of the language used, I cannot allow my son to read the book. There is no lack of cursing. I find that offensive and unnecessary. What could be a great inspirational book for young people is ruined by this fact.

Criticisms aside, would I recommend the book? Absolutely! If he came out with ten more books full of race reports in this style, I would never tire of reading them. Well written. Very entertaining. Highly recommended.

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