James Stewart, ultrarunner

Book review: The Rise of the Ultra Runners, by Adharanand Finn


Hyperbole. I am not guilty of it often. But I am going to start this book with some. This is the best book on ultra running I have read. I mean that it in the sense of capturing the wide gamut of the sport and from the dual perspective of internal and external narrator, but also the mid-pack to front of field view. Adharanand has absolutely nailed it here.

This isn’t a book proclaiming to be some sort of ultra bible, instead it is a ride along as Finn makes the journey into this quirky sport of ours literally feet first. From his naivety in Oman to his journey to UTMB, his story intertwines with vignettes on some of the sport’s biggest stars and personalities whilst he doesn’t shirk many of the taboos and stereotypes that persist in ultra running.

The thing is, it never feels anything bar genuine. Finn learns early that trying to blag his way to UTMB is not on. It takes work. When his brother, Govinda, hands him his ass on a plate in the Scottish mountains you can tell Adharanand quickly learns respect for terrain, distance and the sheer variety that sets MUT running apart from it’s less faceted tarmac cousin.

Familiar names pop up throughout. Some I know. Some I look up to. Some I get to know thanks to this book. Races I can relate to bring back a flood of memories. It inspires and delights in equal measure. I remember seeing him at Tooting in 2016 as he chatted to my crew. Little did I know how that event shaped his journey.

Ultra running is possibly the fastest growing sport in the world right now. Publications like this will help. Professionalism is happening and whilst this is much to chagrin of many, all of ultra running cannot be turned into a professional pursuit just as it can’t be kept as some sort of underground pursuit. There are so many niches in this sport than it can still be 10x removed from the UTMBs, the WSERs and so on. When you get to things like JOGLE, the Sri Chimnoy 3100 mile race and the FKT underworld that is like a D.I.Y. sport in its own right there is almost no end to how it is defined.

I was lucky enough to be in Finn’s company during the time he spent at the GB 24 hour camp for our training week. He was a sponge. Asking questions, sharing stories and generally just fitting in. I reckoned them that with his Bohemian outlook on life he’d embrace the endeavour. This book is Exhibit A in that case.

If you have any modicum of interest in ultra running, get this book. If you have any interest in running, get this book. If you just want to read a true to life story of one man finding and stretching the boundaries of his own body and mind in pursuit of understanding something unfathomable, get this book.

10/10

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One reply to “Book review: The Rise of the Ultra Runners, by Adharanand Finn

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