Monday, April 19, 2010

Hey everybody, the book reviews are in!

I had the opportunity to read a few books while I was vacationing this past week. Amby Burfoot's (long time editor at Runner's World magazine) The Runner's Guide to the Meaning of Life, Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All Night Runner by Dean Karnazes and Great Races, Incredible Places by Kimi Puntillo. Being a "running nerd" now, I thought I'd give a few thoughts on each as well as some thoughts on trail running. Unless you consider yourself somewhat of a "running nerd", too, you may want to bypass this blog post.

I'll start with adventure runner, lecturer, journalist and 2-time Guiness World Record holder, Kimi Puntillo. Great Races, Incredible Places, the title pretty much tells the tale. Puntillo gives you the low down on races from Tanzania to Hong Kong to Antarctica to Kentucky to France to, well, you get the idea. The races range in distance from 5K to Marathon and even a few relay races. The book was an entertaining and a quick read as she broke down each race succinctly and often with short, interesting stories. Some of the runs are themed (like the Rock-n-Roll Marathon and Half Marathon series held throughout the U.S.), others are tributes (like the International Peace Marathon of Kigali held in Kigali, Rwanda, the In Flanders Fields Marathon in Flanders, Belgium and the Tunnel to Towers Run in New York City). The wierd (races in gorilla suits) and the transcendant (Inca Trail to Machu Picchu Marathon or the Everest Marathon, anyone?). Even teams are covered with the Nike Hood to Coast Relay (197 miles) in Oregon, The Klondike Trail of '98 International Road Relay (110 miles) in the Canadian Yukon and the Myomed Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage (187 miles)in Washinton State. I hope to begin travelling to interesting and challenging races like these in the years to come as part of my running journey. Even prior to reading this book, I've already started scoping out races and runs that I want to do in places like Moracco, Peru and New Zealand. It's going to take alot of work and money! This book serves as a great guide (along with "Extreme Running" by Kym McConnell and Dave Horsley, which chronicles the world's toughest and exotic foot races) to the limitless options available to the modern adventure-seeking runner.

Speaking of adventure runners, Dean Karnazes might be the most well-known, if not the most commited. Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner, chronicles the life of Karnazes from his formative years growing up in Santa Cruz, CA and through his amazing career of ultramarathon finishes including 9 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Runs (a mountain trail race with over 33,000' of vertical change), multiple finishes in the Badwater 135 Mile Ultramarathon from Death Valley to the trail head of Mt. Whitney (in the middle of summer) and the inaugural Antarctica Marathon. The latest edition also included a great section where Dean gets into nutrition for ultrarunning (a subject I hope to tackle in future blogs). All-in-all, I found the book an enjoyable read and found Karnazes story fascinating, courageous and heartfelt. The man's limitless energy is an inspiration in and of itself.

Amby Burfoot was the winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon and has been a world class runner for 35 years. He has also been an editor at Runner's World magazine for a couple decades. But what Burfoot discusses in his brilliant The Runner's Guide to the Meaning of Life has nothing to do with the accolades, it has to do with the insight that one can achieve through running. He discusses both the boldness and humility that one can feel from the run and applies those very lessons to life. This book gets my unequivocable runner's nerd thumbs-up. Must read.

Finally, I was just hoping to preserve some thoughts I had on trail running versus road running after spending the last few days running the streets of Tallahassee. I really enjoyed the challenge of running hard there in the warm, humid climate. It was so different from the high and dry air of the North Central Colorado Rockies. What struck me the most when I was driving home today was the the thought of the solace of the trail run. I spent the last four days dodging cars and pedestrians and pounding asphalt and it gave me the deepest appreciation for running quiet mountain trails with only my dog for company. I happily welcome sharing the trails with mountain bikers and hikers and love seeing other people in the woods. But it's the other 99% of the time when I'm cruising up and down over rocks through streams and hurdling trees that I feel most connected to not just the world but also myself. Unseen, I cover mile after mile and I can't help but feel, well, natural. I'm not saying you don't or can't feel this way on a road run, you can and I have. I just want to avoid some traffic and go explore some unknown mountain wilderness.

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