Thursday, August 4, 2011

Running on Empty, by Marshall Ulrich

If you have ever considered running across the country, or if you have ambitions of trying to set the record for running across the country, here's your cure: pick up Marshall Ulrich's Running on Empty: An Ultramarathoner's Story of Love, Loss, and a Record-Setting Run Across America.  I do admire Ulrich.  How can you not?  He has accomplished all of the major ultramarathoning feats, and then some.  For instance, not content with simply winning the "world's toughest footrace," the Badwater Ultramarathon, four times, he decided to do it 4 times in a row!  He ran the course out and back and out and back, a total of 586 miles, non-stop.  His list of jaw-dropping, amazing running accomplishments is pretty long.
Ulrich complete Badwater one year totally self-supported, pulling this cart.
So it makes sense that he would aim to break the cross-country record.  Running on Empty chronicles that effort, with plenty of other stories about his running exploits and his life.  The first few pages surprised me and had me nearly in tears as he recounted his first wife's struggle with cancer and her death at age 30.  Horrible and tragic.  He attributes his running career in large part to his ongoing efforts to cope with his death.

The bulk of the text is, of course, dedicated to a narrative account of the cross-country run, from the steps of city hall in San Francisco to city hall in New York City.  It's a tale of misery, injury, fractured relationships, hardship, and excruciating pain.  Yes, there are highlights, short encounters with others along the way, and a great sense of accomplishment as he does break the masters and grand masters record, the third fastest time overall, 52 and a half days.
It's a long and lonely road from coast to coast.
If you are a runner, especially if you are an ultrarunner, and your friends and family think you're crazy (What?  You ran 50 miles in one day?  You ran in a race that started at midnight?  Your toenails fell off?), just give them a copy of Ulrich's book.  I can almost guarantee you that the craziest running event or accomplishment you have done pales in comparison to Ulrich.

Thanks to Dave at Endurance Buzz for the free book!

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