So when I do sacrifice the time to pour all of my attention into a book, it's got to be good. It has to hold my attention, and shut up the voices inside of me saying "dishes need to be done, fold that laundry, you should really vacuum, don't you have a paper due?" Marshall Ulrich, world renowned extreme endurance athlete, succeeded in not only shutting up those voices, but captivating them as well, with his new book "Running on Empty". I read the book in one day, with a two year old and a four year old simultaneously using me and the couch as a jungle gym. If that right there isn't screaming "POSITIVE REVIEW" I don't know what does, haha.
I've pondered for the last few weeks since I finished the book HOW on earth I was going to review the book without retelling the whole story, because I genuinely loved every bit of this book. I was intrigued during the foreword by Chris McDougall (author of Born to Run, which I still haven't read yet, I've got to be the last runner on earth who hasn't, but anywho) when he spoke of this man, Marshall Ulrich, who at age 50, ran Badwater Ultramarathon 4 times in a row, back to back, that's six hundred miles across Death Valley, completely unassisted. The same man who ran the Leadville 100, jumped in a car, and drove straight to (and ran) the Pikes Peak Marathon. Who in their right mind does that? I mean, I know us runners are a crazy bunch, the ultra-running crowd even more questionable. But this man? I wanted to learn more.
It was in the first chapter, the first few pages, that I was officially sucked into the story. Marshall Ulrich tells the heartbreaking tale of how his first wife was dying of cancer at the young age of 30. A doctor suggested that Marshall take up some form of cardiovascular exercise to help his own stress and increasing blood pressure due to the situation, and so he began running. Very quickly, the running became his emotional coping mechanism. He knew that his increasing absence due to running was driving a wedge between him and his family, but he felt compelled to run anyway. Then in one heart wrenching confession, Marshall describes how his wife, on her deathbed, begged him not to leave at that moment for a run, but the overwhelming feeling of claustrophobia at the situation and NEED to run overcame him, so he regretfully left her, and ran.
As an outsider who doesn't know Marshall Ulrich from John Doe, it tore at my heart to read that confession. Yet at the same time, I totally, completely understood. Guilty myself of running away from things I don't want to deal with, using my training and racing to push out other emotions and situations I'd rather pretend don't exist. I can't be so bold to say I can to even begin to comprehend how it must feel to watch the love of your life wither away, but as I read the beginning of the book, I just....completely understood why Marshall did what he did.
And from that point on, only ten pages in, I wanted to read more.
|photo credit- http://www.facebook.com/pages/Marshall-Ulrich|
But my favorite was always the insight into Marshall's mind throughout the crossing of America, and in some of the other adventures he briefly described (like, summiting Mt. Everest) . What drives runners, especially world class ultra runners such as Mr. Ulrich, to do what they do? If any of us can train physically for this type of event, what sets these people apart mentally? Because if you've ever run a (measly, in comparison) marathon, you know the mental battle is what makes or breaks you as a runner. Absolutely fascinating.