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Running on Empty: An Ultramarathoner's Story of Love, Loss, and a Record-Setting Run Across Americ a Hardcover – April 14, 2011
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"One of America's greatest living adventurers and an expert without peer in human endurance."
-from the foreword by Christopher McDougal
"Marshall is The Man. Definitively. His run across America at the age of 57 sealed that distinction forever. He's living proof that endurance never sleeps, never gets old, never tires. Nothing can stop him, and that gives us all hope, gives us resolve to keep trying."
-Dean Karnazes, acclaimed endurance athlete and bestselling author of Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner
"Marshall and I go way back to the first Eco-Challenge in 1995. An athlete of astonishing grit both then and now, he never fails to push the limits of his sport, no matter what extreme endurance event he's chosen. Running on Empty tells the story of Marshall's greatest test: reading it, you get a sense of how tough this man is, but there's also a bit of Everyman in Marsh. He's an inspiration to all of us." -Mark Burnett, Emmy-award-winning producer of Survivor, Eco-Challenge, The Apprentice, Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader and others
About the Author
Marshall Ulrich is an extreme-endurance athlete, ultrarunner, mountaineer, and adventure racer. His career has earned him wins, records, and firsts on some of the toughest courses in the world and has taken him to the top of the highest mountains. He lives in Idaho Springs, Colorado.
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Personal tragedy is one common theme. Scott lost his mother and Marshall lost his first wife to crippling, horrible diseases. Rich battled alcoholism and had his first wife leave him during their honeymoon. Marshall had two failed marriages following the death of his first wife. All turned to running partly to cope with, and partly to literally run away from tragedy. (Dean's life, from what I remember, was not as marked by tragedy, though he did lose a sister to an accident at a young age.)
Another common theme is an almost superhuman ability to disown pain. Dean, Scott, and Marshall have all not only completed, but won, the Badwater Ultramarathon, 135 miles from Death Valley at 282 feet below sea level to over 8000 feet at the portals of Mount Whitney - in July. Heat exhaustion, dehydration, blisters, black toenails... all common problems, causing many who enter to drop out. For Marshall? Wasn't good enough to run and win the race, he followed that up running it twice, then four times consecutively. He also ran it once entirely self-supported; no crew. He dealt with toenail problems by actually having his toenails surgically removed.
And yet, all of his record-setting Badwater efforts - not to mention climbing Mount Everest, the rest of the Seven Summits, and numerous other achievements - are merely in the introduction and periphery of this book, Running on Empty, which details his attempt to break the world record for running across America, from San Francisco to New York. Here he battled an increasingly troubling series of injuries, including plantar fasciitis and a torn tendon. His response? He, reluctantly, decreased his daily mileage from 70 to 60 miles, and mentally disowned his foot.
Marshall's personality when it comes to athletic events is almost disturbing in its single-mindedness. He does admit that his devotion caused him to be a poor husband and father. He is fortunate that he found a sympathetic and infinitely patient partner in his fourth wife. (His third wife barely gets a mention in the book.)
Overall, a good read, and a great reminder of the unlimited potential of the human body, yet also a somewhat troubling look into the soul of a truly obsessed man.
Is this book for you? Ever feel frustrated when you realize that your dreams continue to be just far-off fantasies? Ever feel a gnawing emptiness when you recognize that you're alone and have no really deep connection with anyone like a special soul-mate? Ever feel self-alienated by how you compromise your commitments to yourself and others? Marshall addresses each of these major life concerns without ever resorting to a direct self help book teaching style. In this true-life story, Marshall shares compelling examples of how he relentlessly works to actualize his dreams, emotionally moving examples of how he dedicatedly honors and cherishes his soul-mate Heather and situation examples of how he determinedly honors his commitments and respects all other beings.
Have you ever felt you could be more successful "if only..." or do you ever feel about life like the old fast food commercial, where the elderly lady challenges, where's the beef?" Again, in his gentle and humble style, Marshall shares his personal secrets for overcoming the temptations of letting his mind use excuses to distract him (or excuse him) from achieving his resolve and also examples of how he finds positive energy in simply acknowledging the best in other people and appreciating the simple beauty of everyday nature.
Though Running on Empty is presented in the context of accomplishing amazing athletic feats, Marshall's message applies equally well in our frenetic business worlds. Marshall's fundamental secret is unrelenting personal resolve...his insatiable need for achieving his goals, overcoming all barriers, dealing with every setback, and doggedly persevering until the end--where giving up is simply never an option. Isn't this an enviable description of the reputation all of us would want in our business worlds?
While Running on Empty seems a simple read and an interesting story...there's both a disquieting and also a motivating inner voice that leaves us asking ourselves, "why aren't I also stepping up to living more of my dreams, sharing more of my passions and living with more personal integrity in my life?"
Marshall, thanks for sharing your story.
My problem with this book is that it didn't really go beyond what we already know: running across the USA is hard on the body, the mind and the family. What's new? I would have preferred more anecdotes about people he met, terrain he traversed, weather, etc. Inspire us, don't just scare us!
In too many places it seems like we are just getting a defensive argument about why Running America turned out as such a mediocre movie.
But mostly, I want to know more about Marshall's other accomplishments. He has written extensively in other publications but why not here? He has done so many inspirational runs. It's a shame we only get to hear about this one, although awesome accomplishment.And I know it must have pained him to not write more about his personal charity.
Mayb my hopes were too high after waiting several years for this. It is enjoyable, but we want to hear more, Marshall!
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