Book Review: Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes

After I graduated high school, I was pretty sure I’d never write another book report again. “Who needs a BOOK REPORT? What am I even learning from this stupid homework?!” was probably uttered more than once.

But here I am. Writing a book report. We’ll call it a “review” just to be fancy.


A friend recently gave me a copy of Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes and swore up and down that I would love it. I’m typically not a big fan of autobiographies, even less so when they’re about ridiculously talented athletes. I can’t relate. I assume I have nothing in common with them; that they’re just drowning in talent (or have the money for a world-renowned coach) and don’t have to work too hard. (Yes, I’m aware that sounds idiotic. I know they work extremely hard.) So, I heard about ultramarathoner Dean and dismissed his book. I never want to run an ultramarathon and I surely don’t care to run a 200-mile relay all by myself (yes, he did that). So what could this book possibly do for me?

Turns out, a lot. (SHOCKER. I was proven wrong yet again.)

Along with the highlights of Dean’s life and details on how he first started completing ultra-endurance events, the book recaps a few of his seemingly insane endeavors; most notably, his first Western States 100.

Before I read this book., I just assumed the Western States 100 was your regular ol’ run-of-the-mill 100-miler. Furthermore, I thought an Ironman was at the top of the list when it came to endurance events. BOY WAS I WRONG. My Ironman looks like a cake walk compared to this. (Did anyone else ever have cake walks at their school fairs? I never won a cake. Such a ripoff.) There are so, so many more intense events out there. I’m flabbergasted.

As Dean describes it, the Western States 100 is a “continuous nonstop wilderness trek through the mountains and canyons of the Sierra Nevada range in California, where the peaks tower into the sky. Participants attempt to cover a 1oo-mile trail in under twenty-four hours, on foot.” That doesn’t even begin to explain it though. I’m pretty sure my mouth was wide open, my eyes never blinking while I reading about Dean’s experience.

Just a little visual for you. (source)

Just a little visual for you. (source)


AND THEN, he started talking about his experience running the Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley, also called “The World’s Toughest Footrace”, which takes place in 120 degree temps and covers 135 miles. He WON it in 2004 in 27 hours and 22 minutes. WHAT?! He goes on to talk about additional events, overcoming challenges, and his hunger for adventure. The things he’s done are absolutely mind-boggling. MIND BOGGLING, I TELL YOU! I can’t believe it. But I do.

Overall, a great read.

A few inspiring and relatable quotes I want to share:

  • “Every devout runner has an awakening. We know the place, the time, and the reason we accepted running into our life.” (Do you? When was it?)
  • “I wasn’t born with any innate talent. I’ve never been naturally gifted at anything; I always had to work at it. The only way I knew to succeed was to try harder than anyone else. Dogged persistence is what got me through life…my strongest quality is that I never give up.”
  • “My newfound love of running seemed to awaken a sense of hope. There was something in our future to look forward to; something, perhaps, grand and monumental. Attempting to run 100 miles was a spectacular aspiration, and the pursuit of this dream seemed to transcend career goals and other ambitions…a flame had been ignited.”
  • “Running has taught me that the pursuit of a passion matters more than the passion itself. Immerse yourself in something deeply and with heartfelt intensity – continually improve, never give up – this is fulfillment, this is success…most people never get there. They’re afraid or unwilling to demand enough of themselves and take the easy road, the path of least resistance.”
  • When describing the finish line of the Western States 100, Dean writes: “The many supporters (on the course) who’d provided encouragement and strength along the way didn’t really care about me per se – hell, they didn’t even know who I was. What they cared about was that a person had taken the time the train, and sacrifice, and dedicate himself wholeheartedly to the pursuit of a dream.”

I think that’s why I liked this book so much. (So much that I’m already reading another of his books, 50/50.It wasn’t about learning how I personally could complete something like the Western States 100. It was about inspiration. It was about overcoming challenges faced in pursuit of a goal. It taught me about pushing through those challenges. About success. Most importantly, about showing other people they can and should follow their dreams, no matter what those dreams are.

Because who are we if we don’t have dreams?

I’m a writer currently living in New Jersey and blogging about running, fitness, wellness, and motivation. I want every reader to laugh and feel empowered, balanced, and motivated! Subscribe by email to get 1-2 newsletters a month with post updates, my favorite articles, running playlists and more!


  1. December 4, 2013 / 3:25 pm

    Love reading sporty books like this — looks good!

    • December 10, 2013 / 10:52 am

      I never used to, but recently started getting into them. A+ for this one!

  2. December 6, 2013 / 11:14 am

    Look at your new layout!! Fancy!! :)
    I loved this book! Totally motivational! I can’t really relate to ultrarunning because running is my weakness. I like triathlon books instead.
    You are an Ironman and Becoming at Ironman are my two faves! You should definitely check those out!

    • December 10, 2013 / 10:54 am

      Thanks! Still trying to work on it, it’s a work in progress :)

      I LOVED “You Are An Ironman”…I read it twice! It’s right up my alley because it’s about “real” people. I also enjoyed “Becoming an Ironman”. (I think I’ve read every Ironman book out there, haha)

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