Running on Empty: An Ultramarathoner’s Story of Love, Loss, and a Record-Setting Run Across America by Marshall Ulrich.
I read it in the bath:
I read it on the pot:
I read it fast because it grabbed hold and didn’t let me go until the final pages of appendices when I learned how much diarrhea Ulrich had (not sure of the exact number of episodes, but it started at day 44 probably due to antibiotics for an infected toe), and how many calories he ate per day (8,000-10,000).
Before the book even begins, you know the ending. The statistics are right there on the front cover: 117 Marathons, 52 Days, 52 Years Old.
There is no question - the task was completed and the author has lived to tell the tale.
What is left to uncover are the gory details of injury, self doubt, unconscionable fatigue and self discovery found within this 295 page memoir. Undoubtedly, no one completes a solo 3,000 plus mile run across the United States and doesn’t have a few stories to tell of craps taken in corn fields, pre-packaged foods eaten on the run and moments when it all could have, but did not, come to a screeching halt.
What sucked me into Ulrich’s story was surprisingly not that he was able to run the distance. As you get to know the character, “Marsh,” throughout the first few chapters of this book, you recognize that he is a force to be reckoned with, someone who would never back down unless he literally ran himself dead into the ground. We also realize early on that Ulrich is running from life in the same moment that he is embracing it. He runs to cope with his grief about his dying wife, he runs to forget that his relationships with his children are failing. He runs sometimes because he does not know what else to do.
Hands down the best part of this book is Ulrich’s no holds bar candidness. As a reader, you go on this transcontinental journey with Ulrich. As a fellow runner you feel his pain as he runs through injury and mentally struggles to merely put one foot in front of the other. He seldom paints the picture of a euphoric runner out on the open road. Conversely, we get to know the Ulrich who grapples with and overcomes the extreme mental challenges that accompany running long distances. His advice and his lessons are universal. One does not have to be running 70 miles per day to benefit from his wisdom. I’m taking this list with me to Boston.
The Marshall Law:
- Expect a journey and a battle.
- Focus on the present and set intermediate goals.
- Don’t dwell on the negative.
- Transcend the physical.
- Accept your fate.
- Have confidence that you will succeed.
- Know that there will be an end.
- Suffering is okay.
- Be kind to yourself.
- Quitting is not an option.
Ulrich is honest. He is real. He does not sugar coat. To me, his story of determination, setbacks and eventual success is analogous to daily life. It is not meant to be easy. You will fail. You will endure incredible hardship. People will let you down. You will let yourself down. These are all inevitable truths. The real living, however, occurs when we learn to move through these challenges with grace and courage. When we fight back against the challenge even when we doubt we have the energy or tenacity to do so.
Ultimately, Ulrich has a good sense of humor. I got this email from him the other day after he somehow found his book listed as one of my “must haves” for the month of March:
I told him I blame the dog more than the kids. But, sometimes if it’s a real juicy one, I just take credit.
Want a copy of this book? I’ve got one to give away courtesy of Marshall and TLC Book Tours.
To enter, simply leave me a comment about why you want to read the book. What intrigues you? Are you looking to be inspired? Ever crapped in a cornfield?
I’ll pick a winner upon my return home from Boston (on or around April 22). This will not be random. I’d like to pick a winner based on why they want to read the book.
- TLC Book Tours provided the giveaway book as well as the book sent to me. I did not pay any thing for them.
- The winner will be chosen by me on or around 4/22