I finished the last ultra running book too far before my own attempt at an Ultra (Uhwarrie 40 miler — tomorrow!), so I searched around to find another and found this book by Dean Karnazes. Dean ran as a freshman in high school but pretty much gave it up after that until he was 30. While feeling unfulfilled, though successful in terms of career and salary, he decided to go for a run after getting home from his 30th birthday celebration (which included Tequila!). And he didn’t stop running all night — in fact he has been running ever since.
At first it was fairly “normal” running of 5 or 6 miles after work, but then he came across two guys training for the Western States 100. He felt called to attempt that challenge, and eventually moved on to race Badwater (135 miles starting in Death Valley ascending to the top of Mt Whitney), to completing the 1st marathon run to the South Pole, and finally, the book culminates in running a 199 mile relay race solo!
In some ways the stories are like race reports, but they are woven around his metamorphosis into one of the greatest endurance runners ever. Fascinating read, good writing, and just what I needed with my race tomorrow!
Here are a few quotes… I highlighted much more than this, but many are about training or things I wanted to look into further…
- He who suffers remembers. —Fortune cookie
- The cross-country guys hung out in late-night coffee shops and read books by Kafka and Kerouac. [ as compared to the track guys…]
- “Don’t run with your legs. Run with your heart.” On some level, even as a high school freshman, I got his meaning: the human body has limitations; the human spirit is boundless.
- At that moment I realized that my life was being wasted. Disillusioned with the trappings of the corporate scene, the things that really mattered—friendship and exploration, personal expansion and a sense of meaning—had gotten all twisted around making a lot of money and buying stuff. I hungered for a place where I could explore nature and my capabilities, away from a corporate office in a corporate building in a big city with crowded supermalls and people judging me by the car I drove (which, of course, was a new Lexus).
- As I limped around my office, trying to appear natural, I reminded myself that pain and suffering are often the catalysts for life’s most profound lessons. A passion I’d ignored for half my existence had been serendipitously reignited in one all-night thirty-mile hullabaloo.
- You’ve got to bundle up self-doubt and fear and stuff them in your shoe, cutting loose your rational mind as your body is pushed to inconceivable levels of endurance.
- As Lily Tomlin said, “Exercise is for people who can’t handle drugs and alcohol.”
- Long-distance running requires a certain discretion and reserve. It’s easy to let your ego get the better of you early on and run beyond your means.
- Most dreams die a slow death. They’re conceived in a moment of passion, with the prospect of endless possibility, but often languish and are not pursued with the same heartfelt intensity as when first born. Slowly, subtly, a dream becomes elusive and ephemeral. People who’ve let their own dreams die become pessimists and cynics.
- Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go. —T. S. Eliot
- Start slow, then taper off. —Walt Stack, Bay Area running legend
- People think I’m crazy to put myself through such torture, though I would argue otherwise. Somewhere along the line we seem to have confused comfort with happiness. I’ve now come to believe that quite the opposite is the case. Dostoyevsky had it right: “Suffering is the sole origin of consciousness.” Never are my senses more engaged than when the pain sets in. There is magic in misery.
- But life didn’t seem as vibrant without coffee, so I went back to my morning ritual (okay, maybe I am totally addicted after all). [ sounds like me, though I haven’t even tried to give it up! 🙂 ]