I’ll start by saying that I admire Marshall Ulrich‘s determination to finish his journey to run across the United States in record time (masters, not worldwide.) I can’t imagine the kind of endurance and grit and takes to get through this whole thing.
As someone fascinated by ultra running
and interested in the pre, present and post aspects of a race (even one that is months long), I had no trouble sailing through this book
. The subject matter is easy for me to consume and it was an easy, enjoyable read.
However. I have to throw out a few negative things I thought about along the way. Throughout the book, Marshall talks about how much he sacrificed his family for the sake of running. He seemed to neglect aspects of his three kids’ lives so he could travel for races. While it seems he found the perfect partner in life by the time this experience came around, this is his fourth wife. Sadly, his first wife died but he divorced the next two — much of seemingly related to how he “escaped” life through running and running and running to fulfill an emptiness, a sense of outrageous adventure and more.
While I’m sure Marshall is a nice man,
the entire book screamed one thing: selfish. He just seemed very selfish to me throughout the whole thing. All that mattered was his races — forget your wife and kids. Forget anything besides climbing Mt. Everest and racing Badwater
back to back four times. Amazing feats — yes — but at the expense of so much else.
And while the transcontinental run was amazing — I cannot believe people actually volunteered months of their lives to help him do it. I mean, he required a ton of maintenance — people feeding him, massaging him, babying him all the way. And he seemed like kind of a brat about it, to be honest.
After interviewing Jeff Grabosky
about his book about running across America, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at Marshall’s high maintenance trip. Grabosky made the run entirely on his own. He planned it in advance and ran alone the entire way. It took much longer — and he ran less miles each day — but I feel like I have more respect for that journey.
Marshall was running 60+ miles a day — insane. This wasn’t healthy for his body — and admittedly would do long term damage. He was 57 years old and wanted to do do it in record time — all this for no other reason than personal satisfaction. I have to wonder — is someone like this ever really satisfied?
I loved Grabosky’s story
because the entire thing was a life rebirth for him and he made it into an all out prayer journey. He prayed for others all day everyday, taking requests from around the world, writing them on slips of paper to put in his pocket each and think on when he ran. Talk about making a difference!
This wasn’t originally intended to be a comparison but I couldn’t help myself. Perhaps having interviewed Grabosky personally gives me a bias.
I’m so impressed by Marshall Ulrich’s feats — and they are quite symbolic and inspiring for many people.
However, at the end of the book when he spends a few pages going on and on about what running means and why and how we can accomplish anything we put our minds too — go beyond our mental limits — I wasn’t feeling it. All I could think of was how he kept abandoning his family to get the “rush” and push beyond the limits.
I “get” the ultra thing — I get pushing it and loving and it having it be extremely important to feel sane and happy. But — this book just didn’t hit the spot for me in that way. I’m too much of a wimp to even attach Marshall’s twitter handle when I tweet this because I don’t want him to possibly read this and get a negative vibe from me. Like I said — I’m sure he’s a perfectly nice man and I feel like I sound judgmental but…it’s also my blog space and how I felt about the book.
**I would recommend this book for runners/ultra runners to get a sense of the mental & physical journey it takes to do a transcontinental run. But, for a more realistic view of someone doing it on their own, I’d suggest reading Jeff Grabosky’s “Running With God Across America.”
Lastly, I’ve not read any other reviews of this book so after I post this I’m going to go see if anyone else got the same vibe as I did. I find it’s best not to read other reviews before your own!
Have your read this book? What are your thoughts? Do you think extreme athletes sometimes sacrifice their families too much for the sake of their own fulfillment?