Thursday, 05 October, 2006

Ultramarathon Man

I just finished reading Dean Karnazes' book Ultramarathon Man, in which he describes how he became an ultramarathoner and attempts to answer the question that everybody asks: Why?  What makes a person want to abuse his body by running for two days straight, eating on the go, suffering the wild mood swings from euphoria to deep depression and back again, and enduring the aches, cramps, blisters, exhaustion, and everything else that goes along with ultraendurnace events?

Karnazes comes closer to an answer than most, I guess, but he freely admits that even he hasn't quite figured out why he does it.  I could sum up his reasons here, but they wouldn't make much sense unless you've read the 275 pages that make up the context of the answer.

When I'm asked why I ride 100 miles or more on my bicycle, I'm tempted to give the glib responses, such as George Mallory's, "Because it's there" response to why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, or my own favorite, "Because I can."  But in truth I don't have any better answer than Karnazes, even though I've thought about it quite a bit.  The best answer I've seen is more of a challenge: "Go out and run 26 miles and then you'll have your own answer."  Not surprisingly, most people don't react well to that.

Karnazes writes with an engaging conversational style and inserts a lot of the somewhat offbeat humor that I find common among endurance athletes.  He does a very good job of pulling the reader into the story--trying to explain the ups and downs, pain and enjoyment of competing in an hours-long event.  I might be better equipped than most to appreciate it, having done some endurance events myself, but I think anybody who enjoys reading about great adventures will enjoy the book.

Highly recommended.  As of today, you can still get the bargain price of $4.99 from amazon.com.  It's a delightful read and well worth the price.