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To the Edge : A Man, Death Valley, and the Mystery of Endurance
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To the Edge : A Man, Death Valley, and the Mystery of Endurance

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  213 ratings  ·  33 reviews
pain-mind-numbing, body-wracking pain. When his beloved older brother commits suicide, Kirk starts running-running to escape, running to understand, running straight into the hell of Badwater, the ultimate test of endurance equal to five consecutive marathons. From the inferno of Death Valley to the freezing summit of Mt. Whitney, alongside a group of dreamers, fanatics, a...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published November 11th 2009 by Warner Books (first published 2001)
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(showing 1-30 of 325)
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Ryan
Not at all what the title promises. The focus is resolutely on the man and his trials outside of the race, how they feed into it. Consider this more an autobiographical story about an emotionally fragile reporter who happens to run Badwater. I really wanted to know more about Death Valley, about the limits of endurance in these conditions, the trials of the competitors. Endurance was left as an unexamined mystery at the end while you hear a great deal about Kirk Johnson's emotional. For example,...more
Marlawanda Briley
Just finished this last night for my bookclub. I love reading and hearing stories about Badwater, so I was excited that this was on our "to read" list. I could have skipped the first two to three chapters, which have more to do with the author and his coming to terms with the dramas of his life than ramping up for the race. I will admit that I'm the type of person who doesn't care about the sob stories told during the televised production of Kona or care to hear the behind-the-scenes look at the...more
Akshata
A novice ultra marathoner and a journalist running the world's hottest 135 mile course in the middle of summer is bound to produce a lyrical narrative of the journey. Add to that a quest to come to terms with his brother's suicide and an attempt to have his siblings crew for him, and the lyrical narrative just gets more packed with more soul searching. The motif in the book is humility (and throwing himself under the bus in many places). From his clumsy coming to terms with his brother's death,...more
E.H.
Apr 27, 2008 E.H. rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: runners
Shelves: theboxmarkeddone
Following his brother's death, NY Times reporter Kirk Johnson decided to become a runner. But he wasn't interested in doing any old race - he had his heart set on running the Badwater Ultramarathon, a 135-mile race across Death Valley, widely regarded as the most difficult footrace in the world. This book chronicles his descent into ultrarunning and (simultaneously) gonzo journalism.

In a normal newspaper story, the reporter remains at a distance from his subject - there is no "I", and so the ton...more
Laurie
Aug 15, 2010 Laurie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2010
This book was really interesting. It is the story of a reporter who signs up for Badwater, a 135 mile ultramarathon from the lowest point in Death Valley to the highest point. Johnson signs up for the race after his brother commits suicide -- Johnson's goal is to explore what makes a person able to endure. Johnson takes another brother and sister with him as crew, and aside from the family stories we also see Johnson's change from an observer of the race (as a reporter) to a whole hearted partic...more
Jeff
The author writes about the year between his brother dying and his running the Badwater ultramarathon. I picked it up on a whim in a used bookstore and it looked interesting. It's a very fast read, it's pretty interesting. But it got two stars because the author is a whiny little girl. (even before he started running the Badwater, in which case a little whining would be excused)
Jackie
Kirk Johnson, a writer for the New York Times, decides to run the Badwater Ultramarathon after the unexpected death of his brother. He chronicles his preparation and training for the most grueling footrace on the planet. At times his lack of confidence and anxiety feels redundant and tiring. The book improves when he writes about some of the Badwater history and introduces other runners in the race. Previously I read "A Few Degrees from Hell: The 2003 Badwater Ultramarathon", which includes race...more
Bryce Thornton
I'm a sucker for books about extreme endurance and this book certainly fits the bill. Though there are some lulls here and there when the author reflects on his brother's death, the book is really a page turner. I stayed up way too late a few nights without even realizing it.

It's truly mind-boggling to me that people can find the will to run a race like Badwater. I've ran one marathon and have another one scheduled this fall and, to me, that's extreme. Add over 100 extra miles, 120+ degree temps...more
Kate Elizabeth
A good read if you run or want to run or think runners are weird. Not necessarily good to read while you are cutting back on mileage to let a hip thing not become an injury thing. And the ending made me cry.
JDK1962
Compelling read, and very well written. Oddly, it was only toward the end that he lost me...I understand that mental deterioration is part of the race, but it's hard to make it interesting for all that long. But part of the point of the book is that things are what they are.

If you're on the fence about reading this, watch the documentary "Running on the Sun" which captured Badwater the year the author ran it.

BTW, found this after Dean Karnazes recommended it during a Marathon Training Academy po...more
Sean
There was a while there when I was training for the New York Marathon where I was reading a lot of books about endurance, and especially about ultra-marathons. This one is a memoir of a New York Times reporter who signs up for Badwater, the toughest of the ultra marathon events*. Its not a great book. Too much handwringing and self-pity, not enough gruesome details of the run. This one is for the endurance memoir completist only.

*he is featured in running on the sun for all you ultras geeks out...more
Baqash
As writing goes To the Edge is not the greatest. With a good edit the book could have been shortened (especially in the first 2 or 3 chapters). My interest was held by the subject matter, endurance running and those who do it, and so pushed through. Johnson's description during the actual race is eye opening and could be frightening to a novice considering such a race as the Badwater. I believe an earlier reviewer very much missed it when they stated Johnson left them hanging on what is enduranc...more
Dara Dalmata
Kirk Johnson was an everyday joe schmo who had never even run a marathon and decided after interviewing a Badwater Ultramarathon runner that he wanted to train for and run the race and write about it. This book is a great read for someone who occasionally questions their sanity when it comes to running. Training for a marathon seems like a walk in the park compared to this 135 mile ultra that takes you through Death Valley.
Dana
This was definitely an interesting look into the most punishing ultra-marathon (135 miles, starting in Death Valley....in July), and I enjoyed reading it, however, it did make me question what drives people to do that. And, I thought it could have been written in half as many pages -- I thought he overemphasized the deep meaning and life lessons in every little thing, including blisters, more than was necessary.


Martha☀
Kirk Johnson decides to sign up for the Badwater 135 mile race across Death Valley on a whim, even though he has little running experience. He writes in a way that emphasizes his inexperience and he uses a journalistic-style that makes him seem saner than all those crazy runners who do this type of thing. I didn't like him, but I toughed it out for the subject manner alone.
Kara
Can't say enough about this book! I started reading it because I wanted to understand more about the Ultra experience and I have never forgotten this book. The author takes you to places as runners we dare not go alone and it is written with humor and such so many great quotes and experience I give it to every person who has had to overcome mind over matter.
Kecia
Jun 04, 2007 Kecia rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: runners
Shelves: running_books
Imagine running 140 miles from the lowest point to the highest point of Death Valley in JULY!!!

I have met two people who actually did it and survived to tell the tale. This book is about the author's quest to run the Badwater ultra. This is one of the most brutal races on earth. Read this book and watch the documentary film "Running on the Sun."
Zach
This is about a NY Times reporter who took a year off to train to run an ultramarathon called Badwater: a 135 mile race across Death Valley in the middle of summer. It really gets you into the mindset of ultramarathoners better than any book I've read and inspires you to run, even if you're only running short distances.
Lara
I read this years ago and really liked it. I didn't know much at all about ultramarathons at the time, and I thought this was a fantastic look at what running one of the toughest is like. It certainly didn't make me want to follow in Johnson's footsteps, but I definitely admire his determination!
Bill
Inspirational and a bit frightening. I enjoyed reading about the training and the race. The author's transformation through the course of the book was truly amazing. For every person there are lines they won't cross. For me, Badwater remains clearly on the other side of that line.
Cherie
A- Really interesting; journey of a NYT reporter's reaction to his brother's death and how he embraces running and even ultrarunning to cope; also, detail-by-detail of his against-the-odds completion of Badwater. Truly inspirational and amazing; recommended for all ultrarunners.
Jen
I really enjoyed this book! It was a great story about a New York Times journalist who decided to run Badwater, and his story about the race. A compelling story about running against the course and the clock and even yourself.
Thebestdogmom Stiner
Great book about Badwater. I loved that this was not the super elite athlete running this. Made it so much more personal. Kirk-thanks for taking us along for the journey.
Katie
I have less desire to actually run Badwater after reading this but infinitely more desire to run some more ultras. Its a fascinating, well-written book.
Mike Dunn
Fascinating account of the 135-mile Badwater Ultra-marathon in Death Valley, CA. Inspired me to visit and run and hike there in December 2007.
Hardeep
Gives a good insight into the holy grail of ultra-marathoning- the Badwater race held in the peak of summer in Death Valley.
Elaine
A great story and a great read--and not only for a runner.
Stephen
Jan 27, 2008 Stephen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Any runner
Shelves: non-fiction
A book ?I have returned to time and time again.
Emily Smoak
Amazing if you are a running freak like me
Jenn
A book about enduring to the end.
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Kirk R. Johnson is vice president and chief curator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. He received his PhD in geology and paleobotany from Yale University in 1989, and did postdoctoral research in the rainforests of northern Australia before coming to Denver in 1991, where he directed the installation of the museum's Prehistoric Journey exhibit. His research focuses on fossil plants, the...more
More about Kirk R. Johnson...
Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway: A Road Trip Through the Best of the Prehistoric American West Ancient Denvers: Scenes from the Past 300 Million Years of the Colorado Front Range Prehistoric Journey: A History of Life on Earth Gas Trees and Car Turds: A Kids' Guide to the Roots of Global Warming Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway Map

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