I am reviewing two books today from two ultrarunning legends – Marshall Ulrich and Ray Zahab. I have had the great pleasure of meeting Marshall in person and have spoken to Ray on the phone a number of times. Both have been great inspirations to me as I challenge myself in new ventures in every way. Their books both show the men as what they are: humble self-effacing superstars in the sports they dominate.
The only thing faster than Marshall’s run across the country was the speed with which I read his tale set forth in this book. It goes to the greatness of Marshall’s skill that it would take a record breaking trot from San Francisco to NYC for him to finally lay down on paper just a few of his accomplishments. If you have ever had the chance to speak with Marshall you know that he writes like he talks: with no pretentiousness, a down home folksy style and a matter-of-fact story-telling edge.
Obviously the outcome of Marshall’s adventure is known, yet as a reader, you turn each page quickly just to make sure he makes it to NYC. Along the way, Marshall lays bare his soul and allows you insight into his failures in life as well as his successes. It is the type of book that makes you want to sit down with Marshall and ask about some of the minutia that obviously would be a story in itself but had to be left out for brevity’s sake.
Next is Ray’s Running for my Life: On the extreme road with adventure runner Ray Zahab. I enjoyed this book but not as much as Marshall’s and let me tell you why. Unfortunately, Ray is too darn humble. He is an amazing runner, charismatic and charming but I think someone else needs to tell his story. When your first race is a 160-kilometer slog through the tundra of Canada and you win the race by hours, chances are you are not too impressed with yourself. That is Ray. The book suffers just a little bit because unfathomable expeditions are touched on in brief detail when so much more detail is definitely desired.
This sounds like I did not enjoy the book, which is not the case at all. I just found myself astonished at Ray’s feats and wished more depth was available. I was almost hoping the book was clickable and lead me to links on the internet where I could read more about Ray – and then I remembered I was holding a paperback. I know Ray has another book in the works and I hope I can persuade him to have someone else at least help him write it so he can allow us mortals in on some of his fantastic secrets!