Book Review: Ultramarathon Man

Ultramarathon Man - by Dean Karnazes

Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner
by Dean Karnazes

Dean Karnazes, or “Karno” as he’s known, is a machine. Seriously, the guy can run for miles upon miles upon miles. And he has an insatiable passion for finding new ways to challenge his body and mind. It’s truly inspirational.

But let’s start over, shall we? Dean Karnazes ran as a youth, but stopped after some rough experiences with other people. Later in life, while he was celebrating his 30th birthday, he decided that he wasn’t happy with his life, something about it felt empty. So he left the bar where he was celebrating with buddies and started to run. And kept running… until he ended up 30 miles away. He called his wife to pick him up and thus begins his journey…

He starts running regularly, often times throughout the night, using the time to sort through his thoughts and relieve stress. As he keeps pursuing his re-discovered running skills, he learns about the ultramarathon scene and starts training for those. Believe me, after reading about his first experience in an ultra I am not sure I would ever want to complete one of those. Well, I’m not sure I would ever want to ENTER one of those. If I did decide to go crazy and enter one, I would definitely want to COMPLETE it!

Karno runs through Death Valley, he runs at the South Pole, he runs a 199 mile relay race on his own… the guy seems unstoppable. But the great thing about this book is that you get a peek inside his mind and you learn that even someone that seems like they are super-human (which he probably is anyway) still battles the proverbial “wall” while distance running. You catch a glimpse of how he overcomes it and the rewards/gratitude he receives for all of this pain he endures.

There is humor to be found in this book as well. I find it incredibly humorous that someone can run all night and make “runs” through fast food drive-thru windows. Or the fact that he calls to order pizza and has it delivered to him while he’s on the run, and then manages to eat it while he’s running. I can barely down a gel packet while I’m moving, much less stomach that kind of solid food.

If anybody reads this book, whether they are a runner or not, and doesn’t find something to inspire them, they must be heartless. The writing style feels very conversational, like you are sitting down to talk with a REAL human being. I’ve read that some people criticize the book for not having a highly polished, professional writing style. But I think the book would suffer if it was approached from that angle. It needs to feel personal in order to have any kind of impact. And because of the voice behind this book, it is a total success in my eyes.

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  1. I love Dean! Are you reading the 50/50 book? It’s filled with a lot of the same things that made the 1st book so good. I often think about Dean when we’re on our long runs. I can’t wait to get him in our store!!

  2. Loved that book. Haven’t read his new one yet, but, Ultramarathon Man is a keeper. Specially when you might be down about something, it’s a read again and again kinda book.

  3. Cool, thanks very much! I am always on the lookout for good new books to get me inspired – I’ve read most of the running books my library already has and have been getting them through ILL from other places whenever I can. I also just read a great book that I have to review on my website – thanks again for this recommendation.

  4. FYI — Not sure if everyone knows this but Dean was featured on the show “Superhuman” because his body actually STOPS PRODUCING LACTIC ACID after 60 minutes of running. Not to take anything away from inspiring others but whereas the rest of our bodies tire and breakdown after a certain mile, his will not. Though he does struggle to run that first 60 minutes, as soon as he pushes through that wall, he can literally run for days without stopping.

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