Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ultramarathon by James E. Shapiro

How many of us who do extreme things like ultrarunning, long distance hiking or ultracycling have had people tell us .. "you should write a book"? After my manic attempt in my youth to crawl on my hands and knees to Patagonia, which ended up taking more bus rides and hitch-hikes than any real crawling (other than a few drunken episodes in guatemala), or my through hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, or the Furnace Creek 508, more than a few people have mentioned I should "write a book". Not being a real writer, or having a clue how to do it does not matter to these kind folks. Somehow, they figure that just by being certifiably insane to try things that no normal person would ever do qualifies one to write a book.

Sadly enough, in my zeal to collect every single book written by ultra runners, hikers, cyclers, walkers and a few crawlers, I can tell you that most people who wrote a book were unable to convey their experiences in a compelling way. Most are utter failures.
I plan to blog on these tedious examples in the future.

Luckily, a real writer shows up now and again. James E. Shapiro author of Ultramarathon
beautifully describes the experience and motivation of the Long Distance runner with a prose rarely experienced in the ultra writing. He describes the history of the sport from the wobblers of the CC Pyle Races Across America, the history of Comrades, and great description of his own attempt at an American record in the 24 hour during an event at Crystal Palace in London.

Why We Run the Ultras

Why do we do it?
The idea always comes first. It begins as it must, as a perverse whim that offends the ordinary commonsense. Bit it is a bit of inspiration, a diamond grain in the shoe that demands an itch.


Shapiro goes onto interview Peter Gavuzzi who ran in CC Pyles 1928/29 races across america who describes the joy of running 45-50 miles a day for 70 straight days in the Bunion Derbies. More than a simple history of Ultrarunning, Shapiro digs deep into the mind and motivation of those driven to the Ultra sport coming closer than anybody I have read in making sense out of those who need to push beyond the normal limits of physical effort.

The book is long out of print and quite expensive, but you can get a copy. You will not find a better book on Ultrarunning.

5/5

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