The Rise of the Ultra Runners

A Journey to the edge of human performance.

Written by Adharanand Finn.

Published by Guardian Faber Publishing; Main edition (16 May 2019)

The Blurb.

An electrifying and inspiring account of one of the toughest sports in the world.

Adharanand Finn is the author of Running with the Kenyans (2012), The Way of the Runner (2015) and The Rise of the Ultra Runners (2019). The first of these was the Sunday Times Sports Book of the Year, won Best New Writer at the British Sports Book Awards and was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book Award. He is a journalist at the Guardian and also writes regularly for the Financial Times, the Independent, Runner’s World, Men’s Health and many others.

What its about?

Adharanand charts his journey from speed focused, club running, competitive, PB focused runner into the world of ultra-running; distances greater than a marathon, with seemingly no upper end; the most popular distances are 50 to 100 miles, however, many races are over several hundred miles. What adds sizzle to the narrative is Adharanand self-confessed previously held disdain for ultra-running, seeing it as a place ‘real’ runners move to as they get older, fatter and slower.

Ultra-marathon running is moving at some pace, if not into the mainstream, then certainly away from its almost secretive, counter-culture, roots. Adharanand, uses the perspective of his own adventures and his emotions through his journey into ultra-running to his participation in one of the sports ‘blue-ribbon’ events, The Ultra Tour du Month Blanc (UTMB), to form the spine of the story.

UTMB — is the ‘main event’ in a week long celebration of mountain and ultra running, held in France each year. The UTMB in fact passes through France, Italy and Spain, on it’s 105 mile journey around Mont Blanc. Attracting several thousand runners and having established itself as the race the elite come to win, it’s a compelling lustre for most ultra-runners. One of the more entertaining aspects, at least for those of us this side of the Atlantic, is the annual Europe versus USA elment that has developed within the elite runners of both genders; pleasingly Eurpope continues to dominate in spite of string challenge from American runners.

Through his first hand experience and perspective, readers enjoy an introduction the sport and its full cast of characters. Most compellingly readers get to enjoy the emotional roller coaster of an accomplished runner exporing the limits of their performance, endurnace and personal resilience.

Is it a good book?

Unquestionably it provides a stimulating introduction to ultra-running and ultra-runners. The author uses two simple devices to add drama and tension and through these creates something of a story to underpin the exporation of the sport. The two devices used are his previous disdain for ultra-running and his journey as he builds from new ultra-runner to attempting the UTMB.

I personally found the retelling of his race highs and lows, in particular his UTMB race rather over done; I am though a somewhat stoic runner.

I suspect the book will appeal more to those who know the races and runners that appear in the book than readers who are new to ultra-running.

It’s certainly well written, entertaining and paints a reasonable picture of the sport, it is perhaps a little to hyperbolic for me.

Is it on the must read shelf at Crawford HQ?

Nope. It’s good but not awesome so doesn’t make the grade.