I don’t know how I ever heard about James Adams’ book, “Running and Stuff”. Its release was shrouded in secrecy and James himself was reluctant to mention it on Twitter, as was the ultra running community at large. Despite this, word managed to leak through to me that James had written a book and I quickly downloaded it – at time of writing, it is only available as an e-book – to see what all the (lack of) fuss had been about. 😉
The World's Toughest Ultras (TM), this time randomly generated by James Adams. I think he has a book coming out… http://t.co/ZEETrn552y
— Sam Robson (@stupid_runner) February 22, 2014
In James’ own words, the book is “an honest account of what ultra marathon running does to a person”. In what is essentially a collection of extended race reports (with some context added in between), he takes us from before his first ultra, through several of the toughest ultras in the world to his attempt to cross the USA from Los Angeles to New York, a distance in excess of 3200 miles. But that description alone doesn’t do the book justice.
The book is written with a refreshing honesty and absolutely no pretention. Right from the very first pages, I was laughing (out loud, literally LOLing, on public transport) at the frankness with which James describes what happened to him on one of his runs. I won’t spoil it by going into detail; suffice to say you may not want to read it while eating. This honesty permeates the book and makes it a thoroughly enjoyable read. James doesn’t see himself as a superhero or one of the best ultra runners in the world – although some may take issue with the latter. Instead, you get the impression that he sees himself as an ordinary guy doing extraordinary things, with the corollary that we – the readers – as ordinary people ourselves, can do the same.
This isn’t a how-to guide or an ‘ultra running by numbers’. There are no kit lists, no scientific nutritional analysis and no mileage charts. What there is, however, is a wealth of insight and experience from a prolific ultra runner. I found myself highlighting more passages from this book than any other I’ve read. After most chapters, there is a short “Why?” section where James describes what he gets out of running – often with a particular relevance to the preceding chapter. It is these sections in particular that resonated with me. For someone so much more experienced than me to have the same motivation – as well as some of the same hang-ups – is, in a perverse way, very encouraging. It made it feel OK to have all the doubts that I do and that I might – one day – achieve my goals in spite of them.
I had something in my life that was not work or boredom. … I felt like my life had some structure and direction and all because a few times a week I’d put on some trainers and run around. That was why I ran.
I don’t believe you even have to be a runner to get something from this book. This is a very motivational and life-affirming account of a man who sets out with a goal in mind, works hard towards goal, achieves goal, sets another goal, etc. Simple, yet powerful.
I really like this book – I mean really. It made me laugh (out loud, a lot). It made me think. And, yeh, occasionally it even made me get sun cream in my eyes. But mostly it made me want to run more.
So go out and buy it now. There’s a (non-affiliate) link at the top of the article. Just don’t tell anyone you heard about it from me. 😉(5 / 5)