Title: The Extra Mile: One Woman’s Personal Journey to Ultra-Running Greatness
Author: Pam Reed with Mitch Sisskind
Genre/Audience: Memoir, adult
Publication: Rodale Books, 2006
A lot of you know that I am a newbie runner. It’s my newest passion, and when I took it up, I decided to read some memoirs of great runners, for inspiration and information. Pam Reed’s memoir is the first one I’ve picked up and I’m glad to say it both inspired and informed me, the perfect memoir combination.
Most people probably don’t know what ultra running is, and that’s because it’s pretty crazy. Then again, I’ve heard that all runners are crazy, which I just refuse to believe. 😉 If you’re one of those people that think running is crazy, then your mind is about to be blown. Ultra running is running distances further than a marathon which is 26.2 miles. Ultra runners typically run races of 50 miles, 100 miles, or in Pam’s case, even 300 miles! Without stopping! WHAT THE WHAT?! Yeah, talk about making me feel lame when I struggle to run a few miles.
Pam has run so many events and has an overwhelming list of accomplishments and awards. Her biggest accomplishment to date is winning Badwater two years in a row. This race is astounding. Racers run 135 miles in temperatures of about 120 degrees, give or take some degrees. These ultra events are so intense that runners have crews with them who give them food and cool them off, and also typically don’t get any sleep either. Their reward for finishing this race? A belt buckle.
Pam has also run 300 miles nonstop, which took her a few good days. She took this idea upon herself just to show that she could do it. Color me impressed!
Pam’s story is nothing short of astounding. She tackles a lot of issues in this book including Anorexia, being an elite athlete while also being a wife and mother, and the problem of women not receiving due recognition in sports such as ultra running. I enjoyed reading about all of these issues, as well as the casual tone of the book, but enjoyed the racing parts the best. Pam has run all over the world in all kinds of events including 24 hour runs, where racers just run for 24 hours straight to see who can run the most miles in that time frame.
Pam could come off as a bit conceited, maybe a bit crazy at times, but ya know what? I’d take conceited and crazy any day if I had the physical strength, determination and skill that she has. Her story has inspired me to push myself and forgo any limits I’ve placed upon myself, because really? We can do anything we set out to do, even the hardest things, if we want it bad enough. Pam Reed is living proof of that fact.
As for me? I’m going to keep on running my heart out, and I’ll think of Pam when I feel like stopping, and know that I can always, always do more.
My Rating: 4/5
Quotes to keep:
“Placing limits on what I think I can accomplish is something I tend not to do. I’ve heard that people are actually able to cover about twice their imagined limit: If you think you can run only 1 mile, you can really run 2; if you think you can run 2, you can run 4… While initially I never thought I would run the distances I have, or in the times in which I’ve done them, I haven’t really put mental limitations on myself either. And truly, I’ve surprised myself.” (p. 7)
“It’s really funny how your energy level and motivation can fluctuate during a race, and the things that give you a boost are weird.” (p. 49)
“I once talked with a woman who believed she could never be a good runner. She said, ‘I’ve tried it, but the whole time I was running, all I could think was, ‘When will I get to stop?’ And I thought, ‘I feel that way lots of times, and I just keep going.'” (p. 55)
“Running is something you’re ready to do, something you want to do, and perhaps even something you’re born to do.” (p.64)
“… desire and commitment are so important in ultra events. There is a certain amount of technique involved in running, but as the distances get longer, the race depends more on the heart than on the legs.” (p.139-140)
“Before a long run, there’s a sudden realization of how impossibly far you have to go. So you have to step back from the long-range perspective and just focus on letting the first mile happen, or the first quarter mile, or even the first step.” (p. 149)
“If you can mentally convince yourself that you can tackle a task, whether it’s running a marathon or cleaning up a room, you can always accomplish it physically.” (150)
“So here is tip number one for any new distance runner: savor the milestones. In your running career, whether you compete at the top level or just make running an enjoyable part of a long, healthy life, you are only a virgin once. Only once will you run your first 10-K, your first half-marathon, your first full marathon, your first ultra. So when you do experience a first, I think it’s really important to stop for a moment to recognize how great it feels.” (p. 172-173)
“Everything was so exciting when I first started. All I cared about was running as much as I possibly could. I would finish one event and think, ‘Well, when’s the next one?’ Whenever it was, wherever it was, I would try to get there just to be on a course again.” (p. 172)
“Athletes in the third category are interesting. These people don’t have to be especially gifted. Physically they may be only average. But they tend to be resilient, and on a given day, for some mysterious reason, they are able to come up with a performance that’s much better than anything they’ve done in the past. It’s like some extra spirit takes hold for a short time and transforms them into stronger and faster competitors.” (p. 206)
“… the mental and emotional elements of running are by far the most important.” (p. 207)
“I think we tend to underestimate our own abilities at all levels. I think of the speech that Ken Chlouber, the race director, gives at the start of the Leadville Trail 100. He says, ‘You are better than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can.'” (p. 245)