“Run” by Dean Karnazes is the first book on serious running I read. I’m not sure why I chose to start my foray into running literature with an epic about ultramarathoning (around the globe in conditions ranging from artic to desert), when I have never run more than a half marathon in London on a balmy September morning.
To start reading about gruelling 100 mile plus runs was a risk: such tales of adventure, blood, sweat (and about every bodily emission you could imagine!) might have put off a slightly girly runner such as myself, who squeals at the sight of a muddy bog. Strangely though, it’s had the opposite effect. When I am struggling around my 10k Roundhay route on a Saturday morning, somewhat hungover, and wondering whether I’d be better off in Starbucks, I think of Karno, as he is affectionately known. If someone can run for 48 hrs flat, I can make it through my run.
In fact, die-hard fans, when “hitting the wall” halfway through a marathon have been known to chant, “What would Karno do?” The answer being, always, “Keep on running!” I admit that I am fascinated by the man and the extremes to which he subjects his body and his psyche. My partner is more cynical and thinks it has more to do with the imposing (and topless) image of what he describes as “running porn” on the front cover of the book. Ok, so the guy is cute! But there is some depth to my fascination. Although I am a novice in the field of endurance running, tales such as his are good inspiration for the beginner. And whilst some people might find his style a little on the cheesy side at times (he’s a very upbeat American), he’s also very endearing.
When the (suburban) going gets tough, this extract from Dean’s account of the Badwater Ultramarathon (135 miles across Death Valley in 122 degrees Fahrenheit) circles my mind: ‘After running 122 miles, what’s another thirteen? … I began staggering and weaving, my entire universe confined to three feet of road in front of me… I came crashing to the asphalt … Lying on my back looking up at the twinkling stars … it occurred to me that stars don’t twirl … then I realized that it was still daylight. Funny the random thoughts that cross your mind when you’re on the verge of entering a coma.… I looked up … and mouthed, “I love this shit”’. I don’t ever expect to run an ultramarathon (a marathon maybe), but I look forward to such a moment of utter collapse, when I can utter with integrity: “I love this shit!”
Here’s Dean Karnazes’ website, full of fascinating and slightly terrifying information about the man himself.
Katie Fox discovered running in her late 30s after having her second child, realising it was a great way to have some peace and quiet. She is a somewhat solitary and anti-social runner, liking to listen to her ipod very loud, seeing it as an alternative to clubbing. She hasn’t entered many races, but did her first and only half marathon in 1.51. However, she is more likely to be seen cursing her way up a hill in the Dales in a snowstorm!