Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Extra Mile - Book Review

Quick running recap for the week! First half of the week is here.

Thursday: 8.13 miles, tempo
Friday: 8.13 miles, hills
Saturday: 2.2 km swim
Sunday: 12.01 miles

I hit 45.67 miles for the week and 2.2 km of swimming.  I was just shy of my goal (4km swimming) because I woke up exhausted on Monday morning and skipped a run.  Because I had flag football in the evening, I couldn't get a swim workout in and I was too tired all week to do a double workout day.  Oh well, I am still very happy to have run 45+ miles two weeks in a row and the swimming is secondary.  There are two weeks left in August, so hopefully I can keep this base going!

Yesterday we had the most awesome and welcome sight in all of Austin, heavy rain!  We didn't get a single drop of rain all of August  2011, so this made for a nice change.  The rain cooled things down here considerably and it carried over to my long run this morning; I had cloud cover the entire time and the temp when I finished was 71, about 10 degrees cooler than usual.  I noticed a huge difference in the way I felt while running (better, obviously) and that gives me hope that a) I will make it through the heat of the summer and b) running will get easier and more enjoyable as the weather cools down.  Don't worry though, my clothes were still sopping wet when I finished.  It might have been low 70s, but it was still 100% humidity.

Today I want to review The Extra Mile by ultrarunner extraordinaire Pam Reed.  You can find her official website for the book here.  Full disclosure, I actually read this book several months ago and hadn't found the time to write up my thoughts until now.

Pam Reed is an elite ultrarunner who lives in Tuscon, AZ.  She was born in 1961 in Michigan.  She is the race director for the Tuscon marathon and has set multiple course and world records in ultra distance events including 24 hour races.  She is probably best known for winning the 135 mile Badwater Ultramarathon in 2002 and again in 2003 (146 miles when she first ran it).  What is most spectacular about these achievements at Badwater is that is marked the first time a woman won the event outright.  This book details her running achievements and lifestyle up to the time it was written/published (2007).

The majority of the book focuses on Pam's running career, and especially the 5-7 years before the book was published.  There are some details about her upbringing, marriage, and family life peppered in for effect, but this plays a minor role in the book.  Pam predominantly discusses her motivation for running, interest in running long distances and then personal accounts of many specific races she participated in.  One problem I had with the book is that it is not entirely chronological and jumps around a bit.  Nonetheless, I did find her account of specific races to be very interesting and good story telling.  However, overall, I would have to give her low marks for her prose, which is choppy and very stream of consciousness.  I would say she is an average writer at best, and although all the details are there, it just doesn't read as well as it should.

The highlight of the book is definitely her accounts the Badwater Ultramarathon.  She is obviously a very talented and amazing endurance runner, which makes her a unique and admirable character in her own story, and is the primary reason I enjoyed reading The Extra Mile.  As a female runner, I am particularly intrigued to learn more about those circumstances under which women are faster than their male counterparts.  Here is an interesting article about it in Runner's World, but basically at long distances, the physical (smaller, carry higher % of fat) and mental attributes of women (better pain tolerance, focus on long term goals) become advantageous.

I would rate this book 3 stars.  As mentioned above, I had problems with the prose and quality of writing.  That being said, it is an easy read and she is an interesting character that is worth learning more about and her experiences definitely interested me.  I'm not raving about it to my friends and bugging them to read it, but I think nearly all running enthusiasts would find it enjoyable and easy to get through.

Let me know if you read it and what your thoughts are!


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