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Showing 1-10 of 14 reviews(4 star). See all 107 reviews
on August 21, 2011
This is decent read about ultra-runner Marshall Ulrich's attempt to run across America. It says something about his character that he was willing to discuss what started his running obsession in the first place: the death of his first wife Jean, and it takes a lot of guts to talk about how this obsession affected his family and relationships. There are a few spots where the book drags a little bit. The best parts are the little stories he tells of the people he met as he crossed the country. For me, it seemed as if the book itself is just slightly disjointed in that it could have been written in several parts and published in a magazine. It's still definitely worth a read, especially if what motivates you to run is something similar to what inspired Marshall Ulrich.
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on April 22, 2011
Marshall is one of America's finest, yet least known, extreme endurance athletes. If you Google him, you'll find a list of accomplishments so long and varied that it will be hard to believe. But Marshall hasn't been one for self-promotion, so until recently he may be best known for having all his toenails permanently removed, rather than for anything else he's done.

Marshall's cross country run was the subject of a movie, "Running America",that I thought was a superficial look at what I knew must have been an amazing, intense effort. When I sat down to read his book, I found "Running on Empty" to be just about everything I wanted the movie to be.

Marshall goes into great detail about the challenges he faced during the run and how he overcame them. I got a much better picture of who he was, why he'd try such a thing, what he went through, and how everyone involved felt about the whole thing. Marshall shares the special moments during the trip and the exhilaration he felt when he finished, but he's not shy about discussing the downside of his dedication to complete his goal and the toll it takes on those around him. (Along the way, he also discusses some issues that help explain why the movie came out the way it did.)

He's definitely a runner who writes, not a writer who runs (unlike Christopher McDougall, who's "Born to Run" has broken out to find an audience among non-runners), but his honest and matter-of-fact writing style goes over well. Marshall doesn't make himself out to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. If anything, his straightforward writing style tends to downplay the nature of his accomplishments.

I raced through Marshall's book in two days.
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on May 11, 2011
First off, I love Marshall. He's always been my running hero. It pains me to write anything that shows his book less than stellar. In fact, I held off for a while just to make sure plenty of good reviews were posted first.

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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on December 1, 2011
I bought this book because I love reading about other runners' experiences. This book got rave reviews, was reasonably priced and readily available in e-format. All pluses in my book.

This story is mostly about Marshall Ulrich's run across America. He runs from City Hall in San Francisco to City Hall in Manhattan.

I liked this book for several reasons. First of all, getting the first-hand account of how a person could push himself to that extent just boggles my mind. Secondly, he was very "human" about it. The story about how Dean Karnaze ran 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days and gets to the end of that without even the slightest soft tissue damage is not inspiring to me. He's Superman, for sure. But I can't relate to Superman. I can relate to everyday Human Man.

Sure, Mr. Ulrich is an amazing character but he was very open about the fact that the joint pain started on Day 1. Heat exhaustion met him on Day 2. Muscle cramps and Tendonitis came on Day 3 and so on. He was seriously uncomfortable by Day 5... But he kept moving forward. He moved forward through some serious medical issues and mind-numbing pain.

He was open about the days the he woke up in tears because he didn't want to keep going. There were days when he was very tempted to throw in the towel as his partner in this venture did. Their friendship was ruined forever over this run.

He was also very open about the fact that all running does is make you a runner. It doesn't make you a better person. He confesses that his life is littered with broken relationships and he is largely at fault for it. To come to terms with those kinds of shortcomings and put it out there for the whole world to see is a ballsy thing to do.

Finally, he ends the book with several Appendices with information of his route and running schedule, what he ate, his sponsorship, what he wore, who he visited, what the RV crew were doing, medications, injuries and treatments and his recovery. He also told of injuries that, as of this writing, were still unresolved.

This run aged him in ways that cannot be reversed. It injured him in ways in which he may never recover. Still he's a hero to many. Having done the quadruple Badwater Ultra and many 24-hour and 100-mile runs, he is definitely not your average Joe but his book made him seem very accessible to me.

I can't say that this book made me want to get out and run like "Born to Run" by Chris McDougall did, but it did inspire me and reminded me that everyday people can do extraordinary things. It also showed me that there is a limit. There is the proverbial "Line" where I can and should say "Enough!" And I respect him for admitting that while he was proud to have finished this amazing feat, he'd overdone it and would likely not do anymore like it.

Still, his "taking it easy" running schedule is amazing me. I think he said something like 100 miles a week. AMAZING!!!!

That's all I can say.
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on June 1, 2011
This was one of those books that you don't want to put down. Great for inspiration and informative about what we are capable of if we just go for it and never give up.
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on May 17, 2013
This is written by somebody who has actually experienced the extremes of running. A real insight into the psychology and hardship of an extreme run.
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on October 30, 2011
I really liked Marshall's personal story. Since I ran across America myself this year I probably read this book differently than most others. I don't agree with all the 2 star reviews which didn't like Marshall's personal life which lead to his run across America. Yes he is not a professional writer but I thought it was a lot better written than mentioned by some reviewers.

Running across the country is though, so that is no surprise that his story is about his injuries and struggles with the logistics. I expected a bit more about his findings along the road but on the other hand that was a record attempt not a sightseeing tour.

I recommend this book to people who want to read about Marshall's well written personal story. I had a hard time to put the book down before I was finished. So I guess this is a good read.
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on June 6, 2013
Marshall is an extreme sport junkie. He briefly discusses travelling the word and doing extreme sports but ultimately focuses on his ultra running and his run across America. It's always a great read when the author discovers more about himself and life in general when he's out there pounding the pavement. He's humble, full of humor, and dedicated at the core to finishing what he starts. If you have any interest in running or have ever thought about running a marathon or an ultra, read this book!
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on July 1, 2014
Still reading it. But its a good book.
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on July 10, 2012
I've been reading a lot of books by and about ultrarunners over the last year or so. Ultramarathon Man and 50/50 by Dean Karnazes, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, Finding Ultra by Rich Roll, Eat and Run by Scott Jurek, and now Running on Empty by Marshall Ulrich. I've noticed some similarities in the backstories and motivations of these ultrarunners.

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.
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