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The Rise of the Ultra Runners By Adharanand Finn

Release date: 16th May, 2019
Publisher: Faber

List Price: £11.99
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For far too many people nowadays, ‘ultra-running’ constitutes no more than a dash for the bus, but as Adharanand Finn discovers in The Rise of the Ultra Runners, you’re likely to happen upon the sport’s single-minded cohort practicing somewhere in the Arabian desert or atop a snow-capped mountain range rather than on the high street.

Finn sets himself an ultra-running target: to complete the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB), a 105-mile race around Mont Blanc, the route of which ascends 34,000ft (10,300m) and passes through three different countries.

Qualifying for the UTMB is an epic feat in itself. In order to enter the ballot for a place, you must compete in three qualifying races, all of which must be completed within specific cut-off times.

Finn has history in this sphere having written of his time training with Kenya’s elite marathoners and with Japan’s marathon-running monks. Ultra-running, however, is a step up.

Though the sport justifiably attracts an ‘extreme’ label, it is one of the world’s fastest-growing pursuits, but why is this? Is it an activity which can inject balance into our increasingly ‘stressful’ lives, or is it merely a fad, the ultimate minority sport undertaken by people who wish to remain in a minority?

Readers are left with the sense that there is something spiritual about ultra-running, a deeper meaning underpinning the sport’s competitive nature which accounts for its burgeoning appeal. When considered in this light, ultra-running could be deemed an antidote to modern life, offering a combination of the brutal and the ultimate sense of satisfaction.

As his narrative progresses, so the author finds himself running farther and faster and higher, prompting often profound insights into what can be found at the boundaries of human endeavour.

On one level, this is a book about a decent amateur road runner discovering the hardship and satisfaction of running much farther than he thought possible. On a much deeper level, it shows how we can harness drive to overcome the apparently insurmountable. It may not turn you into an ultra-runner, but it’ll certainly make you think.

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