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The Rise of the Ultra Runners: A Journey to the Edge of Human Endurance

4.41  ·  Rating details ·  2,878 ratings  ·  245 reviews
An electrifying look inside the wild world of extreme distance running.

Once the reserve of only the most hardcore enthusiasts, ultra running is now a thriving global industry, with hundreds of thousands of competitors each year. But is the rise of this most brutal and challenging sport―with races that extend into hundreds of miles, often in extreme environments―an antidote
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published May 7th 2019 by Pegasus Books
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Average rating 4.41  · 
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Jun 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: running
Actually, more like ⭐⭐⭐½ ...

Adharanand Finn chose the best possible way to learn about Ultras: by getting neck-deep in it. You'll be glad to know that, as a writer, he made the best of the opportunity.

The book strikes an almost perfect balance of: ultrarunning history and lore, accurate account of the vibrant culture surrounding it, interviews with legendary ultrarunners, and great stories, all tastefully peppered with his own personal experiences during his journey to qualify for the Ultra Trai
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, nonfiction
I can’t get enough of books like this. Ultramarathoners, thru-hikers, ordinary people on personal quests....I love all of them! They’re my rock stars.
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars, just to get that out of the way.

Breaking into the world of ultra running (there's a good mix of road, trail, track, and sand here), Finn relays a pretty incredible account of his experience: A globe-trotting effort to make and conquer the UTMB in France. Like most, he's wont to commit some costly logistical (and logical) mistakes on the front end, but the hard-earned lessons stick, and you get to live vicariously through him as he muscles through the myriad issues that can pop up in a
May 26, 2021 rated it it was ok
I am tempted to rate this book lower because even as a running enthusiast I found this mostly insufferable (somehow boring accounts of races and author isn’t very likable), but the last chapters were moving. And the explanation of the appeal of ultra running resonated with me and my running (but not tempted to run ultras). The chapter on him “introducing Kenya to ultra running” was absurd and ignorant and reeked of white savior BS.
Abbey Gates
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
I enjoyed many of the stories of other ultra runners that Finn describes in the book, particularly the women, who seem to be incredibly underrepresented in the media about ultrarunning. I really liked hearing about the community aspects of running ultras, particularly in South Africa and the "bus." I did not enjoy: Finn's ego and competitiveness in how he described the races and his drive for racing came across as toxic masculinity, rather than bravery and honor. His lack of humility and deeper ...more
May 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
How is anyone able to run 100 miles? Let alone through mountains? Author Finn describes his training for ultra-marathoning, discussing its growing popularity as more people want to go beyond simple marathons. He writes of the 'pain cave' ultra runners endure, and how successful ones are able to transcend the pain. This is one of the better books on ultra sports, up there with McDougal's 'Born to Run.' ...more
Letitia Moffitt
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I run ultras, but not even close to the way Finn and the people in this book run them. What I've done seems like an easy stroll by comparison! I hugely enjoyed this book. Finn is a terrific writer, and there's enough of interest here for any reader, whether you run or not. ...more
Aug 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It's one of those books that I should not have read a year before, but it really fits well in my more laid-back and experimental approach to sports in 2020. As the author himself has a competitive background in the middle and conventionally-long distances, I could very much relate with his journey of discovery. Half of the book is him talking us through his races, so if you're not interested in what a 100k or 24hr footrace entails, don't bother picking the book up. However, if you do, you defini ...more
Feb 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book takes a look at the niche yet growing world of ultra-running.

An ultra-marathon is technically anything longer than 26.2 miles, but the author sets out his ultimate goal as the UTMB which is a 100+ mile mountain race in the Alps. The book details his journey to get there and the harsh realities of ultra running.

I enjoyed the fact that Finn did not pull any punches. He paints a pretty grim picture of the pain cave including hallucinations & extreme sleep deprivation. However this is con
Apr 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mike Mason
Feb 26, 2021 rated it really liked it
Very enjoyable. My daughter bought for my birthday. Similar story to my own. Getting sucked into ultra running and eventually focussing on completing the UTMB. The author brings out the ups and downs of a very solitary life of training and competing. The pain and the recovery. The statement during and after a race - never again. Only to sign up for another race as the quad pain eased. Unlike the author I spent a great deal of time researching the science before racing. I often think I should hav ...more
Louise Peterson
Jun 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Maybe I only liked this book because I’ve recently gotten into Ultra running, but I thought this book was excellent. My favorite running book to date. Similar structure to Born to Run in that it layered history of the sport with stories from stars all while the author pursues personal endeavors. 10/10 recommend.
Emma Houchell
May 02, 2020 rated it liked it
More like ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
I liked it, I indentified with it from a runners perspective (the feeling that longer just doesn’t make it better)
And to be honest he has nearly brought me round to ultra running, which I thought would be an impossible feat
Aug 24, 2020 rated it liked it
Middle of the road on how I feel about this one. It was good. I read this mostly to quell my curiosity about ultra-running. I think it has been satisfied. The author is a good writer — lots of UK slang and geography thrown in to confuse this US citizen (km and m are okay, though!).
C.L. Clark
Nov 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Good to run to. Funny hearing the author's grandiose ideas get knocked down when faced with the reality of ultra running. Nice triumphant finish. Solid overview of ultra running, though it doesn't get too deep into any one aspect. ...more
May 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book on the world of ultrarunning, with key facts and stories from various elite athletes, while Finn records his own journey to pursuing the world of ultrarunning. It's really inspiring and makes me want to lace up and run far! ...more
Jun 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
The perfect blend of firsthand experience and historical overview. There’s no better way to learn about ultra runners than to become one, and that’s exactly what the author did.
Ron S
After books looking at the phenomenon of Kenyan marathoners and Japan's running culture, Guardian journo Finn takes a somewhat Plimptonesque journey into ultra-running events. The extreme nature of the sport and the characters engaged in it makes for a cracking, fast paced read, and Finn is certainly one of the best sports chroniclers writing today. ...more
Jason Lilly
Sep 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is an engaging and informative look at the world of ultra-running, but it is also a very personal story about the author testing his own limits by not just researching the ultra-running world but joining it. I was entertained and just a little bit envious.
Aaron S
Jul 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Captivatingly constructed and executed.
Dmitry Khvatov
Aug 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sport
I can’t recommend this. I can’t recommend this enough.
Jesse Sumrak
Jul 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic read that makes me want to signup for an ultra and go deep into the pain cave once again. Love the mix of personal, modern, and historical stories, balanced with a bit of science of injury prevention and healing, too. Great read for anyone who dabbles in the world of running.
Raghavendra Selvan
Aug 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly enjoyable book that captures the author's journey into ultra running, while at the same time gives a definitive peek into the world of ultra running. Some interesting questions are touched upon but not fully explored (like why ultra runners are predominantly white). Still a great motivator of you are on the fence about going ultra. ...more
David Lopez Valero
Oct 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
Great reading! Felt identified in some feelings and the way to see it! Discoverd nice races through Finn
Amar Pai
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this. Can’t believe he went from marathons to UTMB in a year!!
Mark Nother
Apr 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great insight into Ultra Running and the utterly bizarre and unique characters within the community. Accessible to anyone whether they run or not. Would recommend reading Running with the Kenyans and Way of the Runner first.
Morgan Barnard
Aug 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Maybe I should start by saying this book was not what I expected. I loved a lot of things about it, but there were other parts I didn't love. I almost gave it 4 stars, but I finally settled on 5 after talking to my mom about the book during a run.
I loved how crazy the book was; the author signed up for a variety of equally insane races in amazing places, which made it really fun to read. It sparked that adventurous side of me and made me want to go new places and run. It made me feel humble. I'
Emmy Hermina Nathasia
Jul 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The third book by Finn and I absolutely love it!!! Makes me feel like joining one, one day. I recommend reading all his three books on running as the writing is relatable and engaging even to non-runners.
Aug 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I ended up feeling torn by Finn's "The Rise of the Ultra Runners." On one hand I devoured the book in only a few settings, as I believe anyone with an interest in ultras and trail running will do. Although "The Rise" feels a bit disjointed initially, jumping from topic to topic, Finn finds his voice and structure when he begins running ultras himself with a two-year goal of accumulating points for the UTMB and ultimately competing in it. And the author is no slouch or novice as a runner but rath ...more
Dec 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very easy and enjoyable read

He moves through the history, top figures and actual experience of ultra-running with great ease. You get just enough background on a person or key race and then just as smoothly, he moves to another top runner and another ultra race. I found this book very informative and inspirational. He manages to capture the dwellings in the “pain cave” well, without belabouring the issue and losing pace in the storytelling. I found this infinitely more enjoyable than his previou
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Adharanand Finn is the author of Running with the Kenyans, which was the Sunday Times Sports Book of the Year, won Best New Writer at the British Sports Book Awards, and shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book Award. He is an editor at the Guardian and a freelance journalist. He is also a former junior cross-country runner and now competes for Torbay AC in Devon, where he and his family usual ...more

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