Thursday, December 1, 2011

Running on Empty: An Ultamarathoner’s Story of Love, Loss and a Record-Setting Run Across America (REVIEW)

The continued prayer is, “Lord keep me focused. Keep my mind stayed on You. Help me to bring You praise. I know You believe in me. Please help me in my unbelief. Amen.”

I bought this book because I love reading about other runners’ experiences. It got rave reviews, was reasonably priced and readily available in Kindle format. All pluses in my book.

This story is mostly about Marshall Ulrich’s run across America. He runs from City Hall in San Francisco to City Hall in Manhattan.

I liked this book for several reasons. First of all, getting the first-hand account of how a person could push himself to that extent just boggles my mind. Secondly, he was very “human” about it. The story about how Dean Karnazes ran 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days and gets to the end of that without even the slightest soft tissue damage is not inspiring to me. He’s Superman, for sure. But I can’t relate to Superman. I can relate to everyday Human Man.

Sure, Mr. Ulrich is an amazing character but he was very open about the fact that the joint pain started on Day 1. Heat exhaustion met him on Day 2. Muscle cramps and Tendonitis came on Day 3 and so on. He was seriously uncomfortable by Day 5… But he kept moving forward. He moved forward through some serious medical issues and mind-numbing pain.

He was open about the days the he woke up in tears because he didn’t want to keep going. There were days when he was very tempted to throw in the towel as his partner in this venture did. Their friendship was ruined forever over this run.

He was also very open about the fact that all running does is make you a runner. It doesn’t make you a better person. He confesses that his life is littered with broken relationships and he is largely at fault for it. To come to terms with those kinds of shortcomings and put it out there for the whole world to see is a ballsy thing to do.

Finally, he ends the book with several Appendices with information of his route and running schedule, what he ate, his sponsorship, what he wore, who he visited, what the RV crew were doing, medications, injuries and treatments and his recovery. He also told of injuries that, as of this writing, were still unresolved.

This run aged him in ways that cannot be reversed. It injured him in ways in which he may never recover. Still he’s a hero to many. Having done the quadruple Badwater Ultra and many 24-hour and 100-mile runs, he is definitely not your average Joe but his book made him seem very accessible to me.

I can’t say that this book made me want to get out and run like ”Born to Run” by Chris McDougall did, but it did inspire me and reminded me that everyday people can do extraordinary things. It also showed me that there is a limit. There is the proverbial “Line” where I can and should say “Enough!” And I respect him for admitting that while he was proud to have finished this amazing feat, he’d overdone it and would likely not do anymore like it.

Still, his “taking it easy” running schedule is amazing me. I think he said something like 100 miles a week. AMAZING!!!!

That’s all I can say.


  1. I sometimes think I should try something silly like that... but then I think about life and the fact that I have to work for a living! but watch this space, I'm planing on winning the LOTTO, or retiring. Then we plan something and head out... It's easy, if you can do one day, why not 2... it's only ever one day at a time.

    Maybe we should aim at smaller things.
    Maybe you should aim at running every day for a week... Maybe I'll run 200km between Christmas and New Year...

  2. Hey Coach! I think about these kinds of things too. Well, not running across the country but for my 40th birthday, I am seriously considering doing a marathon a month for 12 months. That would be HUGE for me... And very expensive.

    It's likely that that goal will have to wait for my 45th or even 50th birthday. My 40th brithday is next year and my children are so young. I was raised by a woman who put her own ambition before her marriage and kids so I am hyper sensitive about it. In fact I was supposed to run last night but ended up taking the kids to see a display if cool Nativites. *sigh*

    My time will come. Soon they won't want anything to do with me. I look forward to that time, but for now, I will put my kids first and get the run in whenever I can.

    If I don't get a run in tonight, someone's gonne get hurt though!