Book Review: The Rise of the Ultra Runners

You wait ages for someone to use the title “The Rise of….” and then two come along at once.

Last week I went to see Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. I did not realise until I got to the cinema that it was an autism friendly screening.  

The interior of the cinema screening was pitch dark and the room was silent. I assumed this was to provide a calming atmosphere.

I sat in darkness for a few minutes. Nothing happened but I could hear other people talking.  

Then, without warning, the Star Wars theme tune came blasting out of the cinema speakers. The room stayed dark. Then there was loud explosions and laser noises but still darkness.

This to me seemed like the least autistic friendly screening imaginable.

I waited a few minutes whilst the cacophony of noise went on but then suddenly all the lights came on. An usher came out and explained that the cinema screen was broken. They explained that if we waited a few minutes, they would fix it. Now that I have seen the film, I wish they had not bothered.

The Star Wars trilogy is similar to an ulrarun. There’s good bits, there’s bad bits and the finish is rubbish. An ultra is about the experience not the ending.  

In Rise of the Ultra Runners ( the author Adharanand Finn travels the world investigating why people feel the need to run long distances in challenging environments.

He places himself very much into the narrative as the book follows his quest to collect enough points to get into the Ultra Tour de Mont Blanc and then actually run and finish the race.

He is an experienced (mostly road) runner who was mainly interested in speed and times. It was interesting to see how his mind-set changed when faced with challenges where the journey is more important than the destination and time.

He covers the history, personalities and his experience of ultra-running. It felt like it was a good informal history of the sport as much as his personal narrative.

There is a very interesting section on why Kenyans don’t do ultra’s even though they should be amazing at them.

I would have liked to have heard more about the training. You don’t get as good as he is at racing without hours and hours of training. Did his wife mind him training all the time? Did his kids appreciate him being away?

There is a number of interviews with ultra-runners but he never asks the question I want to know the answer to.

“What are you running from?”

Because spending that much time doing anything is usually an indication you are avoiding something!

For example I spent time writing this blog at work because I was running away from doing some proper work!

Overall – It was a good easy read. After reading his section on 24 hour track running I’m intrigued to try it myself. So give the book a go, it might inspire you to try something new too.