One of the books I received for my birthday was Running Through the Wall: Personal Encounters With the Ultramarathon by Neal Jamison. It is a compilation of stories written by people who have run ultramarathons (any distance over 26.2 miles). Most of the stories are in the form of a race report on a particular race. Some are more in the form of “my-life-as-an-ultramarathoner.”
Because the book is written by several authors, the style is not consistent. Also the quality of the stories is not consistent. Some are, without doubt, better stories than others.
I have read about many of the races mentioned in the book, but not all of them. Some were new venues for me and I enjoyed learning about them. Most stories are between 4 and 8 pages long.
This is not a teaching book. You aren’t going to learn how to run a 100 mile race from this book. That said, you can learn a lot from other people’s experiences. You also learn how crazy some people can be.
I really enjoyed the book and think that it will be one of the very rare books that I go back and read from in the future. I probably will never read the whole book again. I will just pick and choose my favorite stories. I marked a few that were particularly enjoyable to make my future reading through the book easier.
One thing I would have loved to see in the book is that the editors had included in the author summary which race they were writing about. There were a couple of stories that were not clear to me as to which race or year was the subject. There were several runners who talked about the exact same race and year, but unless you flipped back through the stories, you would not have known they were talking about a shared experience.
I don’t know how appealing this book would be to new runners. But, it is very enjoyable for those who like reading race reports and for people who have actually considered ultra distances.
Running Through the Wall: Personal Encounters With the Ultramarathon, Neal Jamison, Breakaway Books, 2003, 304 pages.