Now that I’ve started to run, mostly to train to be a better cyclist, I wanted some inspiration in addition to learning how to run better and more efficient.  I remembered an article I had read in Maxim a few years back and then again in Wired magazine called The Perfect Human, both about a guy who runs ultras, running events exceeding 100 miles.  Intrigued by the story of a man who runs all night and gets pizza delivered to intersections to keep fueled, his name, Dean Karnazes, has always stuck with me.  A quick search and I found one of his books, Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner and ordered a copy.

It only took 3 days to read, it was that good.  The book starts off like Heft on Wheels with regards to a half chapter about something that’s happening right now, in this case an entertaining story on Dean getting Pizza and pie delivered to a corner along some some desolate highway that he’s running along near midnight.  The following few chapters explain Deans childhood, as a runner, a brief encounter with a running couch he hated and in turn how one conversation with the coach made him stop running for years, and how hard he worked to get through college and grad school and land a dream job, get married and live a pretty normal, happy life.

Dean’s reality check happens on his 30th birthday, drunk, running 40+ miles in his boxers across town.  This in turn starts a chain of events that, before you know it, you’re listening to his blow-by-blow story of running the Western States Endurance Run, a 100 mile cross country race where less than 30% of entrants finish in 24 hours or less.  Those who do, get a belt buckle.  It’s argued to be one of the toughest, demanding runs in the world.  This takes up the bulk of the middle of the book, it’s very detailed and gives you an idea of what kind of person Dean really is, but I won’t spoil the race results for you.

More goals started to mount and Dean tells about running the Badwater race across Death Valley.  It was so hot his shoes melted in the first hour of the race, he then realized the other runners were sticking to the white line for a reason.  Then off to the South Pole to take part in the first marathon race down there.  After running most of the ultra’s available, he started to run to regular marathons, in some cases 60 or 80 miles, timing them so he’d show up only a few minutes before the gun would go off, and placing really well in the 26.2 mile races.

The start of the book where Dean gets a Pizza delivered starts to come around again towards the end, where he tells of The Relay, a 199 mile race in California that’s split up into 36 legs and 12 members per team.  Each team member runs 5.5 miles, takes a break, gets driven to the next spot where they need to run and the race continues.  Dean did it himself, starting several hours before the teams, and the pizzas from the start of the book get delivered just less than half way through the race, where he picks up the story.  Again, I’m not going to spoil the ending, but this man has heart, lots of it.

Dean covers some of the many questions people ask him throughout the book too, the most common question is why? Which is indirectly answered towards the end of the book.  It was a great read, and while I have no intentions of ever running a marathon (26.2 miles) or anything longer, his outlook on life and the sport of running did serve as some motivation for me to pick the pace up on my 5k times and start to look at stretching those runs out to 5 miles and maybe even a 10k.

Best part is, you can pick-up a used copy of this book for under $3!