Where to Go for Information and Inspiration | November 12, 2010
In most parts of the country, the month of January isn’t exactly ideal for long training runs what with all the ice, snow, and northern winds, and race opportunities can be few and far between. For daily workouts you might well find yourself circling an indoor track at the local college until you’re dizzy or maybe knocking out some strength training in your basement with a rusty set of free weights and a lot of dogged determination. But while it may not be the best time of the year to sharpen your fitness, it’s the perfect time to explore ultrarunning in the cyber world and places other than out on the trails.
Twenty years ago, the rare mention of ultrarunning in a book, magazine, or on the web usually began with an explanation of what it was and the de rigueur disclaimer that the people doing it weren’t all crazy. Nowadays ultrarunning is not such a mysterious concept. There are numerous books describing it, DVDs chronicling it, articles in running and health magazines on how to do it better, and more websites devoted to its practice than you can shake a wireless mouse at. With a little diligence on the web, you can answer just about any ultrarunning question you may have…although for any one question you might end up with lots of different answers!
Sampling the bounty on the web is as easy as Googling the word “ultrarunning” and then clicking down the list of offerings. You’ll find many great ultrarunning calendars on the web (see this column in the November issue for details), so finding race opportunities is a breeze. Two great sites for digging out specific ultrarunning information and getting your questions answered are Stan Jensen’s run100s.com and Kevin Sayer’s ultrunr.com. Stan’s site links to all sorts of information including race websites, training and coaching sites, running club sites, race series sites, photos, running blogs, running quotes, bios of hundreds of runners, and other running websites. Kevin’s site offers comment strings from a host of knowledgeable runners on just about every ultrarunning topic you could imagine. Are you looking for training tips? Are you injured? Are you worried about heat, cold, blisters, bugs, poison oak, altitude, gaitors, contact lenses? Looking for ultrarunner humor? Kevin’s site is for you. For training or coaching, you can visit websites run by such luminaries as Scott Jurek, Lisa Smith-Batchen, Chad Ricklefs, Karl Metzler, and Paul DeWitt, or you might try the irrepressible Gill Russell and Francesca Conte at badtothebone.biz.
The list of books covering ultraunning is growing steadily with Christopher McDougall’s splashy bestseller “Born to Run” generating the latest buzz. Along with Dean Karnazas’ “Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All Night Runner,” we now have at least two books that have reached a wide readership outside the ultrarunning community that offer some deep, and quirky, glimpses into our world. Less well known ultrarunning accounts, but very thoughtful and inspiring, are Kirk Johnson’s “To the Edge,” Rebekah Trittipoe’s “Pace Yourself” and “Under an Equatorial Sun,” and Trittipoe’s collaboration with David Horton, “A Quest for Adventure.” Check out Bob Boeder’s book, “Beyond the Marathon: The Grand Slam of Trail Ultrarunning” for a detailed and well written firsthand account of enduring the Grand Slam. And of course no ultrarunning library is complete without a copy of Don Allison’s “A Step Beyond: A Definitive Guide to Ultrarunning.” It’s full of timeless advice on all aspects of our sport and doesn’t ignore the history and philosophy of ultrarunning. The “philosophy” of ultrarunning…who knew?
Reading about ultrarunning seems to lead to thoughtful meditation about the sport; watching ultrarunning videos or DVDs will make you want to leap off the couch and go running out the door in pursuit of some magnificent and gut wrenching goal right here, right now, can’t wait, bring it on. Try watching any of the Western States videos like “A Race for the Soul” from 2001 or “Running Madness” from 2002 and not feel like you’d love to be right there heading up to the Escarpment in Squaw Valley with the sun coming up behind you, or wading through the icy waters at Rucky Chucky river crossing in the dead of night. Talk about inspiring! Other great DVDs include “Dancing the Bear,” Chris Lott’s look at the Bear 100 Mile in Utah; “Running on the Sun,” Adam Bookman’s account of running the Badwater 135 Mile; and David Horton’s “The Runner.” All of these are monumentally rewarding. Even the short video clips on ultrarunning that you can easily track down on the web are enthralling. You can watch one clip of Anton Krupicka, out for a little training run, padding along effortlessly through drop dead gorgeous scenery, and then in the next clip you see him at Leadville padding along with the same effortless stride, but now he’s winning the actual Leadville 100 race! Short of running an ultra, there’s no better way to get a feel for the sport.
So don’t stare out that frosty window at the bleak winter weather and curse your luck. Pop in a DVD or open up a good book. Remind yourself what ultrarunning is all about and get fired up. You’re going to want that stoked up enthusiasm for when the snow melts.