Posts Tagged ‘Ultramarathon Man’

The Road To Sparta” (2016©)  —  book review
Today’s book review is for “The Road To Sparta” written by Dean Karnazes.  Karnazes may not be the “Dean” of ultramarathon runners, but he is certainly one of the sports most famous names and faces.  Karnazes lives in the San Francisco Bay Area (where I also was raised and currently live), and, from his writing, appears to have totally adopted the ethos of being from Northern California.  Clean air, physical fitness, sometimes single minded pursuit of one’s goals, etc.
The book is another semi-autobiographical book about Karnazes.  His other book (which is reviewed here) is titled: “Ultramarathon Man“, and deals more with his various runs – particularly the Western States One-Hundred.  This book is about his being descended from Greek immigrants and him getting back in touch with his roots in his native country via participation in an ultra-run called “The Spartathlon.”  This run recreates the run which Pheidippides made from Athens to Sparta to ask the Spartans to help the Athenians resist the Persian invasion of Greece at the beach of Marathon.  Not to spoil the story (as it is ancient history), Pheidippides ran about 150 miles to carry the message (request).  He then ran a similar distance to carry the reply (“Yeah, we’ll come, but not for a few days”).  And then, … wait for it… he ran from the battlefield (Marathon) to Athens (about 26 miles) to carry news of the victory.  And then he died.
The race isn’t so spectacular.  Karnazes “only” has to run the initial portion (Athens to Sparta).  Oh, yeah.  You have to run the race in a “similar” time span to that of Pheidippides – 36 hours.
If you are a serious distance runner, much of the book will seem self-affirming as you will probably relate to the action and feelings of a ultra-distance runner.  If you are not a “serious” runner (or athlete), you may still relate, but you’ll probably also find Karnazes’ descriptions of the Greek countryside a bit flowery.  Make that extremely flowery.  Almost (but not quite) off-puttingly so.  Almost…  On the other hand, if you are just an average reader, you may really like all the verbiage.  I was kind of in the middle.  Parts of the book made we want to strap on some shoes and go out for a jog.  Others left me feeling like he had been assigned a set number of words to get the book published and he was going to reach that number with the same determination it takes to run an ultra.
Final recommendation: strong.  I enjoyed the history.  I enjoyed most of the descriptions, particularly when he was talking about the people out in the Greek countryside.  And I enjoyed the re-telling of the actual Spartathlon he ran in.  Ultimately, a good running book should make you want to lace up and hit the pavement.  As mentioned above, this book did that for me.  I picked the book up at Half-Price Books off the $3 rack.  A steal at that price.  I’ve already used a couple of quotes on my blog and I’ve got about another dozen or so hi-lighted for use in the future.
On This Day In:
2017 Today Is Not Lost
Day 8
2016 Paying Attention
2015 An Awful Ordeal
2014 What Are You Doing?
2013 Lives > 1
2012 Strange To All The World
2011 Unnecessary Stagefright

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We took Rebecca to the airport this morning and she’s now safely back at UCLA.  She got an A and two B’s in her first quarter.  Her three weeks here for X-mas seems to have flown by.  She says she may be back in a couple of weeks to give a speech.
Start of the new year back at work tomorrow.  I applied for a detail back in Baltimore which starts on 15 Jan and runs thru 15 May.  I don’t think I’ll get it, but you never know…  It would be a nice break and a great experience.  If I get it, I should hear about it this week.
Today I finished reading Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner by Dean Karnazes.  It’s an autobiography about his life as a runner of extreme races.  I heard about him in Wired magazine and started looking into the Western States 100 Endurance Run.  The run is becoming my not so secret “Visionquest”.  I would like to try to do it by the time I’m 60.  That gives me 5 years to get ready and finish it (if I can).  To tell the truth, it sounds terrifying.  After reading Karnazes’ account it seems impossible for me.  …But I’m still planning on trying.  We’ll see how far I get.  Tonight I jogged for two hours.  The 100 takes 30 hours (max) to complete for a bronze buckle.  If you can do it in under 24 you get a silver buckle.  I will be happy just to finish – but a bronze would be really excellent!

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