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 Book Review: Dean Karnazes' Ultramarathon Man
Submitted by Rickshaw :: Sat Oct 08, 2005 2:00 pm
Dean Karnazes' book Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner offers a fascinating glimpse into the life and motivation of one of the world's best endurance athletes. The book describes Karnazes' own transformation from a directionless yuppie on his 30th birthday to a highly motivated ultramarathon runner. He omits most details about his training program and other technical information, instead focusing on a chronology of race events, and how they changed him as a person. Along the way he also attempts to answer the basic question of why he does it. The result is an entertaining and motivating story that's likely to please any runner looking for a good read.

The book begins with an amusing anecdote about Karnazes' attempt to order a pizza delivery while on an ultra run. While running, he phones up a pizza place in the next town, asks how long it will take to make a pizza, estimates how far he can run in that time, and then instructs the delivery guy to meet him at a particular intersection. When the delivery guy learns that Karnazes will be running through town on foot to get the pizza, he just about faints. Nevertheless, the pizza is delivered successfully, and Karnazes continues on down the road with the pizza box balanced in one hand, a slice in the other, never breaking stide.

The majority of the book is composed of detailed accounts of Karnazes' many ultra races, including the Western States 100, Badwater Ultramarathon, South Pole Marathon, and Calistoga to Santa Cruz Relay (a 200 mile relay race for a 12 person team, which Karnazes did solo). His stories of pain, perseverance, and triumph reveral an entirely human and humble person. In fact, his accounts don't even mention that he won several of those races-- a fact I didn't discover until reading another source.

I was a litle surprised to learn that despite all his success, Karnazes still works a regular full-time job as a business professional in San Francisco. It seems that ultra races are so far out of the mainstream, even the best of the best can't make a living from them.

My only real disappointment about the book was the lack of any details on how Karnazes trains and runs from a technical standpoint. I would have enjoyed learning about his training techniques, and any special tricks he uses during races.

In the end, Karnazes doesn't really answer the question of why he does it, only offering analogies to Mallory's climb of Everest and other similarly extreme feats. Why does he run 226 miles straight? Because it's there.

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