Thursday, April 28, 2011

Relentless Forward Progress

"If it hurts to walk and it hurts to run, then run!"
-ultrarunning adage

Relentless Forward Progress is riding the cusp of the ultrarunning revolution. Bryon Powell, publisher of the iRunFar website, has distilled the basics of training for an ultra, the recent surge in popularity of trail running, and the desire of people to know the basics before starting, into a useful manual on how to train for and run one's first ultra or improving during subsequent attempts.

Fleshed out by today's better-known ultrarunners, the book goes step by step through the things you need to know to run an ultra. While technically an ultramarathon is anything beyond the 26.2 miles of a "regular" marathon, most people use 50K, or just over 31 miles, to designate the initial ultra distance. Training for your first ultra is not that different than training for a marathon, though the increments beyond (50 miles, 100 miles) require a different mindset and set of skills. Training, the necessity of walking, trail running basics, hydration, nutrition, dealing with injuries, and ultrarunning gear are all covered. There is probably nothing in the book that research on the Internet or reading Ultrarunning Magazine won't unearth, but it's a well-organized introduction and useful how-to reference guide in one fell swoop.

A former food and drug attorney in Washington DC, Bryon chucked the safety net and headed West, landing first outside Yosemite and now in Park City, Utah. Beyond publishing iRunFar, he is involved in freelance copywriting and journalism, trail and ultramarathon race coverage, running gear reviews, running discussion pieces, social media, and coaching, amongst other things.

In a nice nod to our local ultrarunning community, he mentions the Chicago Ultrarunners and also includes a quote by Paige Troelstrup, author of a Serious Case of the Runs: "The mind is a very powerful thing, and it's generally the only thing standing between you and something incredible. You can always do more than you think you can."

The book concludes with two appendices, the first by Meghan Hicks and the second by Michael Sandler and Jessica Lee. Meghan Hicks writes about what she calls beyond-category adventuring, which is really similar to my approach to endurance pursuits these days. Sandler and Lee, of Run Bare, write what I believe is the most thoughtful and incisive introduction to the benefits of barefoot running I have read.

If you have ever considered training for an ultra, but are somewhat confused by the plethora of often conflicting advice that is available from myriad sources, this book is a good primer on how and where to start. Definitely worth picking up. Autograhed copies available through Bryon's website! 


  1. Great review, Kovas. I would love to read this book - got it on my list now.

  2. "If it hurts to walk and it hurts to run, then run!"
    -ultrarunning adage

    That sounds like every ultrarunner I've ever met :D
    Truly a different breed!

  3. I

    and I hate reading.

  4. Yet again, thanks for this review!

  5. I really like the cover photo...

    cool review.

  6. Another one I'd like to (eventually) read - esp the appendix about flat footed barefoot running.

  7. I have this book on my list for my kindle. Nice. I love the quote.

  8. The website rocks... I've been entering their 'give-a-ways' all week :-)

    Haven't won anything from a blog or website yet..... maybe one day!

  9. I seriously don't know what to think about Ultra's. 50K doesn't seem too bad. 50M and beyond is sketchy to me. Sometimes I think I want to do one and then when I'm on a normal LSD run, I think, "No frigging way". It would be fun for you, me, and Patrick to do a trail 50k together. Oh, and Jill too.


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