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Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner Hardcover – March 17, 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 383 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Ultra-marathoner Dean Karnazes claims "There is magic in misery." While it would be easy to write off his habit of running for 100 miles at a time—or longer—as mere masochism, it's impossible to not admire his tenacity in pushing his body to reach one extreme goal after another. Sure, it's gory to read about how he lost one of his big toenails from shoe friction during the Western States Endurance Run. But what registers more is that here's a guy competing in an event that includes 38,000 feet of elevation change--the equivalent of scaling the Empire State Building 30 times.

Despite his considerable athleticism, "Karno" argues that the first half of any race is run with one's body, and the second half with the mind. Without delving into excessively touchy-feely territory, he explores "the possibilities of self" as he completes an ultra-marathon in 120-degree heat in Death Valley, and later the first-ever marathon at the South Pole. It's an odd combination: a California surfer dude contemplating how, as Socrates said, "Suffering leads to wisdom." But Karnazes's self-motivation is utterly intriguing, and it's impossible to read this memoir without wanting to go out and run a marathon yourself.--Erica Jorgensen

From Publishers Weekly

Many would see running a marathon as the pinnacle of their athletic career; thrill-seeker Karnazes didn't just run a marathon, he ran the first marathon held at the South Pole. The conditions were extreme—"breathing the superchilled air directly [without a mask] could freeze your trachea"—yet he craved more. Also on his résumé: completing the Western States 100-mile endurance run and the Badwater 135-mile ultramarathon through Death Valley (which he won), as well as a 199-mile relay race... with only himself on his team. This running memoir (written without a coauthor) paints the picture of an insanely dedicated—some may say just plain insane—athlete. In high school, Karnazes ran cross-country track, but when his favorite coach retired, he quit the sport. Fifteen years later, on his 30th birthday (in 1992), on the verge of an early midlife crisis, he threw on his old shoes and ran 30 miles on a whim. The invigorating feeling compelled him to pursue the world of ultramarathons (any run longer than 26.2 miles). "Never," Karnazes writes, "are my senses more engaged than when the pain sets in." Yet his masochism is a reader's pleasure, and Karnazes's book is intriguing. Casual runners will find inspiration in Karnazes's determination; nonathletes will have the evidence once and for all that runners are indeed a strange breed.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: TarcherPerigee; FIRST EDITION SECOND PRINTING edition (March 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585422789
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585422784
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (383 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #501,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David C. Burgess on August 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Dean Karnazes is a phenomenon: frequent guest on television and radio shows; subject of numerous articles and magazine cover shots; regular columnist in Men's Health magazine; popular keynote speaker. Karnazes has been acclaimed in various magazines as perhaps "the fittest man in the world," "the ultimate running specimen," "the quintessential ultramarathoner," an "ultrarunning legend," and "the perfect beast." And it all was kicked off by his best-selling book, Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner.

Karnazes refers to himself as an ordinary person with no special talent, who has performed amazing feats simply by dint of high ambition and unwavering determination.

Karnazes' resolve is indisputable. But he underrates his inherent abilities. His book describes various endurance exploits accomplished as a child and youth, as well as the unusually quick progress he made when he seriously took up long distance running as an adult. These are signs of a person who has exceptional natural stamina. Determination (and even diligent training) alone would not be sufficient to produce his results as an endurance athlete.

Karnazes also has rare energy. He writes of frequently running much of the night during the weekends and then spending active days with his family. He says he often gets by on four hours of sleep per night for extended periods. He tells about running for almost 48 hours straight, covering 200 miles, and then devoting several hours to dash about an amusement park with his kids. Most people could not come close to matching his vitality, no matter how resolute they might be.

While Karnazes may consider himself an ordinary person, he asserts that he is accomplishing things that are extraordinary, even unprecedented.
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Format: Hardcover
i read this book in one day after seeing a piece that 60 minutes did on him as well as Dean's female rival. The amazing thing about these two as well as many of the runners who compete in the badwater is that they are not young by any means. I think this is a real inspiration to those of us in our 40's who think that athletics is for the young. if any thing, I think the maturity of Dean and the others is one of their greatest strenghts in running these ultra-marathons. It not only takes enourmous athletic ability, but also incredible discipline to pace yourself and an unbelievable tolerance for pain.

Dean's stories of stopping at the 7-11 store or ordering a pizza while running are hilarious and I did not find him to be sexist in anyway, especially since he was defeated by a woman twice in the badwater run. This is a truly inspiring story not only for athletes, but for people in general as Dean clearly displays that running these races is not all about body it's just as much, if not more, about having a strong mind and will. Something that people can apply in their everyday life.

This really was one of the most inspirational and fulfilling books I've read in quite some time.
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Format: Hardcover
As a marathoner in my mid-40's, I bought this book with great anticipation. Dean takes the reader on a journey through countless miles but somehow the "marathons" stop short. In all honesty, I have survived 186 pages of this extra ordinary mans expose'. What I have been left with is an egotistical, self-serving man on a quest for God knows what. It's one race after another. Never does he tell about his recovery period or a summary of the physical abuse he puts himself through. Dean is rare and God knows he doesn't lack confidence or an ego. Sorry Dean -- I expected so much more!!!!!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had to get the book, since there aren't many books on ultra running. You'd think that somewhere in his book he'd mention the names of some of the greatest ultra runners of all time, such as Ann Trason or Yiannis Kouros. There's not even a hint that there have been others quietly doing what he does and even more. If he had, I would have liked him a little better and would have been more likely to put up with his hyperbole and bravado.

As others have noted, I lost most of my respect for DK when he started trashing the Boston Marathon when comparing it to the Western States 100. After that, I found it difficult to get past his exaggerations without wondering how much truth there was behind his words.
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Format: Hardcover
I have trouble describing how just how bad this book is. Those who have not read it might think that I'm exaggerating. But I owe it to humanity (especially runners) to give it my best shot.

First, to describe the writing as sophomoric would be an act of kindness. Was there no editor? Every character speaks like the same person talking; and they all sound like a Marine from a really bad B movie. Did someone really say, "The name's Rock. At least that's what my friends call me."? Anyway, everyone in the freaking book talks like that. Everyone!

Second, Karnazes makes each of his running endeavors sound like some kind of holy experience in which he turns out to be the god of running. He details his high school running career -- which was really only one season as a freshman cross country runner. He ran one race with the varsity team, but makes it sound like he saved the team (he obviously came in 5th of the runners on his team).

After the cross country season, he was then going to run track, but the track coach laughed at his statement, "I run with my heart." So he quit and "I didn't run again for fifteen years." Huh? One statement from a coach and he didn't run again for 15 years? He didn't even run cross country again the next season?

Third, all credibility is destroyed again and again. For example, the book shows an elevation profile of the Boston Marathon course versus the Western States 100. The problem is that it's not the Boston profile (which is readily accessible from the marathon's website). Later he states that given the "traditional running adage that you need one week of recover for every mile you race", he'd need 14.5 years rest from one summer of racing.
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