Saturday, December 29, 2012

Book Review: Dean Karnazes' Ultra Marathon Man

Let me start off by saying that I know this book is a little old (2005) and I'm a little late to the bandwagon. 
But, I thought I would give it a read and see where it went.

I found this book at Bookman's (a semi-local used bookstore) a year or so ago. So, don't worry, I didn't pay top dollar for it. I'm not sure what took me so long to read it. I'm betting it got in the way of reading textbooks during college. 

Anyway, I now know what people think about Dean Karnazes. However, I went into this book not knowing a thing about him. It may or may not have given me a different perspective. Bear with me. 
After reading it, I talked to a few people about him. Some love him, some hate him. Some think he's a phony, and others think he's the greatest thing since sliced bread. 
I, on the other hand, hold a view somewhere in the middle. 

Ultra Marathon Man is all about Dean from the beginning of his running career to the end of a 199 mile relay race he ran solo. 
He takes us through his high school days on the cross country team (and sometimes the track team) where he found his love for running. And then, tragically, his sister Pary was killed in car crash. His running takes a time out until he gets into the corporate world and realizes it's not for him. 
His running adventures then span from his first Western States to Badwater over to Antarctica and then along the California Coast

I loved reading this book before I went for a run. My short runs always seemed so minuscule compared to his 100 mile conquests. Definitely a great way to motivate before a run or workout. 

I also really enjoyed the Western States race. I loved the detail that went into it. It really felt as if I was there and experiencing it. I was a little disappointed with the other accounts however. They got a little repetitive. As I read farther and farther into the book, I realized why people think this guy is a phony: he is full of himself! Yes, I understand this is a memoir and it should sound good on his part. I got that. But overall, I got the feeling that this wasn't a book about ultra-running; it was a book about Dean Karnazes and what he can do next. 

I love the idea of pushing the human body to unbelievable limits. But in Dean's case, it didn't completely feel that way. I understand that he wants to keep pushing himself to go farther and get stronger, but it came off differently. I feel as if he is advertising himself in this book, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. 

However, I can't completely critique him; I haven't met him yet! (Dean, let me know when you are coming to Tucson! lol). I can only critique him by what I read in Ultra Marathon Man. He could be a completely different person. 
Maybe being his first book, he got a little excited about his accomplishments and thus they came off a little pompous. He does have 2 other books out (50/50 and RUN!) so I may have to give those a try as well...okay...after I read about all the other ultrarunners out there. :)

So, there's my 2 cents on Ultra Marathon Man. Let me know in the comments if you agree or disagree. I want to know what my blogosphere buddies think of this book and especially what you think about Dean Karnazes. Remember, I am not endorsing him in anyway. I just read and critiqued his book. 


  1. Interesting feedback. I haven't read this book yet,but I did read the 50/50. It started of by talking about himself but then moved more towards giving advice to runners. I think it was also a little self centered but not so bad, that I would stop reading. Thanks for your review!

    1. Thanks! I eventually want to read 50/50 but like I said, I want to check out some other runners too. :)

  2. I just finished my first book about running today, so I know what it means to be behind (my own review to follow in the coming days). I feel as though most books written autobiographically are going to come across quite biased. I think that is why I loved Born To Run so much because the author is not the main event. Now I need to figure out what I am going to read next; any recommendations for books directly about marathon running?

    1. I loved Born to Run! That's probably why I liked it so much too. Not self centered at all. I don't have any recommendations for marathon running because I didn't read any. :/ I wish I had! I definitely will for my next one. :)

  3. Yeah, I tried to watch his movie, where he runs 26 marathons in 26 days or whatever it was, and came to pretty much the same conclusion. There are a couple of decent running movies: Running the Sahara & Running America. And I also loved Born to Run!

    1. I didn't know there were movies! I will have to check them out.

  4. I haven’t read any of those books you’ve mentioned. But you’ve got me curious about it (I will surely read these books soon). And I agree with what you said that we cannot completely judge him by just reading his books.


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