I rarely re-read a book. And I hardly ever read books about forms of exercise. Even more rare is the day that I pick up anything even vaguely autobiographical. This is an autobiography of one man’s passion for running — and I’ve read it three times. It’s a fun book, an easy read, and one that I find inspiring. Don’t expect powerful prose or poignant philosophy. It’s just a book about a man who loves to run — about how running has changed him and his family. The tone isn’t condescending, unlike some super-athlete autobiographies I’ve read. It’s more a chronicle of self-discovery, offering glimpses into the mind of a person who runs hundreds of miles at a time. It’s interesting.
Dean Karnazes paints a brief picture of himself as a youth. He belongs to a working-class family with a good life in California. He is unremarkable except perhaps in his somewhat overdeveloped sense of adventure and exploration. He finds an outlet by running at school events until one very negative experience drives him away from the sport completely.
Several years later Karnazes rediscovers his running spirit and begins ever-increasing training regimens that finally qualify him for major events like the Western States 100 (a 100-mile race straight across the high Sierra Nevada mountains). He runs through Death Valley under the shoe-melting mid-summer sun. He embarks to Antarctica to run a marathon to the South Pole. Every challenge simply trains and prepares him for the next test of physical and mental endurance.
In spite of the seemingly superhuman efforts he describes, somehow the author remains accessible. He’s a normal guy with a day job, a spouse and two kids. In fact, he takes his family in tow to many of his major events. His feats are amazing and are presented in a way that is fun and exciting. He shares brief insights, provides tidbits of inspiration, and then just keeps on running.
Rated: Mild for language. You’ll run across a few cuss words, but there is no sex or violence. A couple of semi-crass parts are meant to be humorous; they are brief and not explicit in any way.