Friday, April 29, 2011

Book Review + Giveaway: Running on Empty

I was contacted awhile back to see if I would be interested in writing a book review of Marshall Ulrich’sRunning on Empty: An Ultramarathoner’s Story of Love, Loss, and a Record-Setting Run Across America.” I gladly accepted. I’m a bit of a running book junkie—I’ve read and enjoyed Born to Run, 50/50 and Ultramarathon Man. I’ve read and enjoyed these stories of extreme distance and challenge even though I personally don’t have any real desire to climb mountains or run for 24 hours +.

Here is a little preview from Marshall’s site about the book:

“Running on Empty is the story of Fall 2008, where MARSHALL ULRICH COMPLETED the mind-bending and body-breaking equivalent of 117 back-to-back marathons as he ran an average of more than 400 miles a week, and climbed 84,430 feet, in temperatures ranging from below freezing to the upper 90s. He crossed 3,063.2 miles and 12 states on foot from California to New York. All at the age of 57.”

This was the first running book I haven’t immediately gotten sucked into from the very beginning. Marshall’s story isn’t all roses and pizza-eating on the run. He was real. He was real about his relationships with his family and friends and about how running and his many adventures took time away from his marriages and children. The first part of the book was actually a bit tough for me to read. I kept thinking why is this guy running away…away from responsibility, love, his kids, etc? As I continued to read, it made me so grateful for all that my parents did for me growing up. My parents were at every softball game, dance recital, water polo tournament I ever participated in. I’m sure they wanted to have more time for themselves, more time for their hobbies but they pushed that aside for me. Throughout the early part of the book, I found myself feeling sorry for Marshall’s kids and sorry for his relationships. At one point, I wasn’t sure I wanted to finish a book about a guy who essentially chose his hobbies over his family—BUT—I’m glad I did!

As Marshall’s journey across the United States began to form, I appreciated his story more and more. As he assembled the team that would help him cross the US on foot, the tone of book changed. I felt that instead of him striving for some future goal, he began to live in the moment. His descriptions changed, instead of always describing the finish or the next “big adventure” he began describing the little things, the peculiar things—for example, a random tree alongside the road that was laden with shoes. He too, tossed a pair up in the branches.

His descriptions of relationships, especially his relationship with his wife, changed too. His words softened. His words made me feel he was truly appreciative of what he had and who he had in his life. As cliché as this may sound, I could feel the love he felt for those supporting him on his journey. Clearly he went through physical changes on his run but I think the emotional changes are what were the most powerful for me to read. As he reflected on his relationships he admitted to missing out on certain aspects of his children’s lives and for not fully participating in his previous marriages.

By the time he gets to New York State, his body and mind have been through the ringer but it was almost as if he’d been healed on the run. I know that sounds cheesy but I went from almost disliking the book to really enjoying the story. I felt that Marshall’s story went from a tale of a cocky, very talented and accomplished athlete to a story about how running and seeing the world from a one step-at-a-time perspective can really grow a person. Marshall is clearly very talented but instead of having the attitude that he has to prove it he can just be. He can be a loving husband, father, family member, friend and very accomplished, talented athlete.

If this has made you want to read the story for yourself, here is where you can get a copy:

Running on Empty: An Ultramarathoner’s Story of Love, Loss, and a Record-Setting Run Across America, now available from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-Million, and local independent bookstores.

OR you can enter my giveaway below where one lucky US or Canadian reader can win a copy. Here is what you have to do to enter. Leave me ONE comment that answers the following questions (4 entries per person if you answer all 4 questions).

Contest will end at midnight (pacific time) on Friday, May 6th—winer announced Monday, May 9th.

1) What is the highest mileage you’ve ever seriously contemplated running?

2) What is something that gets sacrificed during your training?

3) What is something that absolutely does NOT get sacrificed during your training?

4) For those that know how I like to do giveaways…what is your favorite running movie or running scene from a movie?