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Monday
May162011

Running on Empty - Marshall Ulrich

Marshall Ulrich is a legend even amongst legendary ultra runners, let alone sport induced binge eaters like me. His original foray into endurance sports was borne out of personal loss. His accomplishments were vast, several Badwater wins, double, quadruple Badwaters, climbing the 7 highest mountains of the seven continents, 9 eco-challenges (really hardcore multi-day multi sport endurance events) and various combinations of 100 mile races in quick succession marked him out as someone who knew how to suffer. Though I still don't think anyone can ever be "ready" to run across America Ulrich was probably as close as you can get.

I didn't meet Ulrich in Badwater last year where our paths may have crossed  and wish I had made more of an effort to say hello. I have been reading his blog for a while now and the advice he gives is amongst the best on the internet, or anywhere for that matter. Why buy books when you get get it all here for free. I was really looking forward to reading his account on his crossing of America.

This account is full of drama and results in a really honest and lively book. There was more tragedy before the start of the run and this seemed to galvanise his resolve to make the 3063 mile journey. He set his sights high, attempting to cover 70 miles a day. He was running at the same time as (but not alongside) Charlie Engel who was a friend and fellow serial endurace runner. There was mobile support, a crew and a TV production company following the progress of the runners.

I loved the style of writing here. Marshall gets across beautifully just how hard but ultimately rewarding such a feat is without getting overly poetic about it. It is rich in metaphor for how running is a release from hardship while being a hardship itself but it's refreshing just how much the book is about actually putting one foot in front of the other. It's a book about running a bloody long way. A few years ago I would have read such books and tried to imagine what it must be like to do such a thing. Now I am reading from the view that I AM actually going to be doing this and hoping that it will all be worth it.

It's funny how I read books on this and think some things must be an exaggeration. Surely you don't get run over, or shot at? It seems the recurrance of these in the books would say that this does happen. There are so many things for me to get excited about. I loved the bit where he comments on the location of a prison - if you escaped from there you have a hell of a long way to go to get to anywhere else.

The run ended up straining Ulrichs mind and body and his relationships with some of the cast. His determination to get it done at high speed was amazing. He compares himself to a badger when running, something that I can do quite easily :) "Dig deep and love home". 

It is packed with advice on how to actually run and has appendices of his training, nutrition and injuries. The Doc said he suffered more injuries that an entire field would in a Badwater race. I could almost treat this as a manual of how to repeat his endeavor. I was a little concerned about how little time he had to do nothing, it seems like he was constantly either running, getting ready to run or recovering or trying to sleep. Saying that he was eating breakfast while getting dressed sounds like stressful multi-tasking to me. I am doing less miles per day than him so hope to have a few moments each day just to stare blankly at a wall or take in the surroundings. Maybe sleep outside and watch the stars.

I loved the brutal honesty of what this did to him, and what it might do to me. Really really good book. Well worth reading and I hope he can come along and visit the race sometime this summer.

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Reader Comments (2)

God bless you James on your run across America. We have uploaded your picture with your crew while you were here in Williams, Arizona and have such admiration for your undertaking. Safe journey to you and lots of good memories. Thank you for stopping in at The Singing Pig BBQ Restaurant in Williams, AZ. Such a pleasure to meet you and your crew. See our Facebook entry here http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Singing-Pig-BBQ-Restaurant/137859512947278

June 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathi Calahan

Thanks James for your comment on my book "Running on Empty", I wanted it to about much more than Running, and I'm glad you got it. You may be interested in doing stage racing such as Racing The Planet's four desert series, they are alot of fun and have some downtime involved...a chance to hang out with friends in foreign lands. Once again, thank you for your comments.

March 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarshall Ulrich

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