My 2019 Running Goals

2018 was a memorable year for me. The ups and downs of last year have inevitably influenced my 2019 running goals.

My focus this year is achieving consistent, progressive, endurance-based and injury-free running. 

Although I will still compete in a few races, I want 2019 to be the year of developing the strongest aerobic fitness of my life. 

Run my First Ultramarathon

 
For many years I have wanted to test myself over a distance longer than the marathon. 

Initially, my inspirations were the books and audiobooks of incredible ultrarunners such as Scott Jurek, Pam Reed and Dean Karnazes
 
Later, my experience as a 8-time marathoner got me wondering, too frequently, how I could cope with the extra mileage. 
 
In 2017, I set myself the goal, before I turned 30, to explore this relatively new running phenomenon. 
 
Fortunately, there is an ultramarathon race close to my home
 
Held in early October, it is the ideal challenge that offers me plenty of time to experiment in my training.
 

Improve my Marathon Personal Best

 

Since completing my first marathon in 2013, I have achieved relative success at this iconic running distance. 

However, my dream to qualify for the London Marathon as a good-for-age entry remains a long-term goal. 

My aim for 2019 is simply to improve my personal best, accomplished in October 2017 at the Chelmsford Marathon.

Although only two weeks after the ultramarathon race, I feel confident my endurance training, recovery and race tactics will aid my success.

Run Injury-Free

 
After a disappointing end to my 2018 season, I want to return to building a strong foundation without the pressure of short-term racing. 
 
 
By returning to an appropriate and progressive stretching and strengthening routine I believe I will enjoy pain-free running again. 
 

My hope and expectation is that I will become a more resilient and fitter athlete.

Outlasting Ultra Pain for Great Causes

Book Review of RUN! 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss (2011) by Dean Karnazes


Humble Philosophy

 

Karnazes has built his life around a pursuit of adventure. His vivacious appetite for pushing his limits, attempting new, and often inconceivable challenges, has no boundaries.

He views running as both a cause of, and cure for, pain, but also a means of giving back to the community that has so dearly supported him.

Due to his natural introversion, he uses “Karno” as his alter ego, never accepting he has any special skills or talent, simply an indomitable will to keep moving when there is every reason not to.

He does the basics right though, preparing for every race meticulously, conditioning his mind to embrace the unexpected, and appreciating family time and a non-materialistic lifestyle.

Extreme Adventures

 

Influenced by his Greek father’s stubborn, but always supportive, demeanor, Karnazes tells the stories of races and runs that require nothing less than his total dedication and sacrifice.

After almost dying during his first attempt at the Badwater 135 he manages to finish the following year after being on the verge of a coma. He then overcomes almost being run over, escapes flash flooding, lightning and snowstorms to complete the brutal race seven more times.

He attempts to break the world record for running the most miles on a treadmill in 48 hours live on TV. Despite the constant onlookers, sleep deprivation and extreme chafing he lasts longer than the belt he runs on, which becomes slack halfway through the challenge. Although he fails to break the world record, his 212 miles is a remarkable achievement.

He becomes the 2008 champion of the 4 Deserts Championship after completing four multi-day, self-supported races crossing 155 miles of the most savage wilderness. He wins one of the races and places well in all the others to become the first of two men to complete every race in a calendar year.

Other highlights include:

  • Failing to finish the Leadville Trail 100 miler twice before overcoming a mental burden and vomiting to complete the high altitude race.
  • Running 354 miles from Australia’s highest summit to its largest city in six days.
  • Running across the United States of America on TV, accumulating 75 days of 12-hour, 40-50 mile runs, wearing out 53 pairs of shoes on the pain-filled route from California to New York.
  • Running the Hood to Coast, 197-mile 12-person relay race, all by himself, to celebrate his 40th birthday, equivalent to 45 hours of running non-stop.
  • Running ‘on water’ in a Hydro Bronc, and almost coming to blows with a sea beast.

Inspirational Mentor

 

Throughout the book Karno explores the journey of his best friend Topher, from being a non-runner to quickly becoming an obsessive ultrarunner like Karno. Skipping the marathon distance altogether Topher races 50km and 50 mile races until he beats Karno at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB), a 103-mile circumnavigation of Europe’s highest peak.

Karno’s athletic feats are awe-inspiring, and yet it isn’t his seemingly unending tolerance for pain for which he should be admired most. Instead of fame and money, Karno has used his amazing ability to help others.

Whether raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity or placing his own money under random car’s windscreens as he runs by, he is a community-minded man, who continues to look for the truth within himself and the people who are crazy enough to join him.

Solutions to the Uphill Battle of Ultramarathons

Running up that Hill: The Highs and Lows of Going that Bit Further (2018) by Vassos Alexander


The famous BBC sports radio presenter and journalist Vassos Alexander built on the success of his first book by taking readers through his adventures as an ultramarathoner.

After his first race at the 2010 Great North Run he became addicted to running marathons with the aim of running under 3 hours. However, his pursuit of this road racing dream led him to realise that athletic obsession can quickly become stressful and draining, a contrast to the reasons he entered the sport initially.

Although he achieved his time goal at the 2016 London Marathon, he favoured ultramarathons as his main challenge.

Alexander ran his first 100 mile trail race, the South Downs Way, in June 2016, before volunteering the following year because of the wonderful atmosphere. He followed this up with an attempt at the Dragon’s Back Race, the toughest 5-day foot race in the world, through Welsh foggy wilderness and mountains. But with a lot of ‘technical terrain’ (stretches of land that must be walked) and a high ankle sprain he was forced to stop after two days of racing. He learnt that a lack of specific training on rocky terrain and a persistent injury can’t be ignored.

Other highlights included his joint 7th finish at the 2017 Mendip Marauder 50 miler and a training run alone that covered the entire 67-mile perimeter of the Isle of Wight.

His crowning glory was completion of the 2017 Spartathlon, a 153-mile race from Athens to Sparta, which recreates Pheidippides’ epic journey 2,500 years ago to preserve Greek freedom, democracy and civilisation. He had no crew and realised he had started the race too quickly.

But the many villages, schools and aid stations he passed helped him overcome the 4,000 ft mountain he had to ascend and descend. Even the severe pain he encountered in his ankle was enough to stop him making progress. He squatted, took magnesium supplements and even had a massage in order to keep his legs moving.

His astonishing feat of endurance was summed up 40 hours later when he still couldn’t move his legs, requiring a Zimmer frame.

Running Up That Hill book cover

Naturally friendly and approachable, Alexander also retold many stories and advice from ultramarathon race directors and some of the very best ultrarunners on the planet, such as Scott Jurek and Mimi Anderson.

  • Charlie Engle (the Running Man) believed ultrarunning is a great method of self-discovery, which fundamentally improves one’s mental health.
  • Ben Smith (the British man who ran 401 marathons in 401 days for an anti-bullying charity) shared that it took 50 consecutive marathons before his body adjusted to the physical stress of the challenge, but his serotonin levels were severely depleted.
  • Jasmin Paris (elite fell runner and record holder) valued her impressive ultrarunning less than her work researching cures for cancer.
  • Nicky Spinks (elite fell runner and record holder) acknowledged that her experience with breast cancer inspired her to be a positive role model, and that running helped her better overcome life’s discomfort.
  • Dean Karnazes (the Ultramarathon Man) revealed his most memorable running moment as his 10-year-old daughter running hard during the last kilometre of her first 10k race despite the pain.

The book even had the foreword from former elite triathlete Chrissie Wellington, who emphasised trying in spite of low confidence (which for most runners is an inevitability at some point in their life).

Alexander ultimately discovered that ultramarathons will always cause problems that runners have to solve. His advice was that if one’s thoughts remain positive then not only will solutions appear but the journey to the finish line will be more than worth the effort.


3 Training Principles from Ultramarathoner Lee Grantham

Lee Grantham’s recent stardom on social media and being a genuine contender at top ultramarathon races is testament to his strength of staying true to himself.

But what stands out about the Mancunian’s training approach?

1. Cross-Trains to Build Mileage

Grantham may be a full-time athlete, but he doesn’t spend all his time running. He instead complements his 60 miles per week (an achievable target for some recreational runners) with substantially more cycling.1

At around 150 miles per week, Grantham is improving and maintaining his aerobic capabilities while reducing his injury risks. This strategy gives him the perfect opportunity to keep mixing up his workouts, whilst maximising his most important energy system.

2. Replicates Tough Running Conditions

Grantham is known to run up mountains for hours in hot conditions, only to have to hitch-hike back home.1 This allows his body to adapt to conditions he will inevitably face in competition.

Mentally, he is further challenging himself to cope with the multitude of ups and downs when running for many hours at a time. Although he may have a relaxed character he continually tests his survival skills by relying on factors outside of his control (namely motorists) to return him to the safety of home.

3. Stays Himself

At 35 years old, Grantham has never been more ambitious, looking to win some of the longest races in the world. Grantham trains his way though, admitting he travels to different parts of the world, such as Thailand and mainland Europe, to both train in picturesque and awe-inspiring landscapes as well as experience new cultures.2

Grantham believes that these unique races can also help runners keep determined throughout the winter months when enthusiasm can easily wane.3

Surprisingly, Grantham has only been focusing on running for eight years, beginning in his late 20s.1 Nevertheless, his experience playing football and rugby in particular, where running was emphasised2 has put him in good stead.

His marathon personal best of 2:21:43 reveals that he is certainly no ordinary athlete. Add to this his vegan diet, eco-friendly lifestyle and interest in strength and conditioning at the gym, and no wonder he is popular in an already extraordinary sport.4


1 The Athletics Weekly article is entitled Aiming High. Published on 23rd August 2018.
2 This Steemit article is entitled Interview with Playboy and Elite Runner Lee Grantham. Published on 22 January 2018.
3 The MyProtein article is entitled Racing Overseas: How to make the most of it. Published in 2016.
4 The Athletics Weekly article is entitled Trail-blazing Endurance Athlete’s Winning Social Media Strategy. Published on 23rd August 2018.

Mitigating the Challenges of Ultramarathons

Never Wipe Your Ass with a Squirrel (2013) by Jason Robillard


This guide to ultrarunning is down-to-earth and unique. Robillard offers a fresh perspective on running factors such as distance and cut-off times, terrain and weather, and pacing and strategy. It is the purposeful physical advice and experimental mental training that stands out.

Calorie Consumption

Robillard urges runners not to be reliant on eating food during long runs as this can be a distraction and also dictate a certain pace range. Instead he advises eating as little as possible before and during training runs so runners can better utilise their fat stores to cope with extremely long distances.

However, when deciding to eat he explains that personal cravings should not be ignored, and that chia seeds can be a nutritious option on the go, as is adopted by the famous Tarahumaras.

Practice Every Aspect of Racing

Robillard encourages runners to take a systematic approach to replicating every running situation. For example, he advises runners to fall, on purpose, whilst running slowly in order to practice breaking the impact by rolling with arms out and elbows bent.

Enthusiasm to experiment is essential for runners if they are to understand what aspects help, and hinder, during an endurance event. Enjoyment and performance should both be enhanced as a result of understanding one’s individual responses to training stimuli.

His race strategies for ultramarathons also include walking, advocating that runners should become fast walkers. Walking enables runners to better survive harsh race conditions, by continuing to move forward.

Managing Pain

Robillard also outlines a no-nonsense attitude to pain.

Runners should accept, embrace and learn to enjoy the aches that occur during a race. His positivity originates from his belief that most pain is temporary and can be dealt with before it flares up. Writing a list of the regions that may hurt and a race strategy of fixing problems, long before setting off from the start line, can really help.

An effective technique is to train in every mood, especially when you do not feel like running, either through tiredness or hunger. Another is to speed up when in pain, if for no other reason than to respond differently to natural instincts, this breaks the monotony of running.


Although unconventional Robillard offers invaluable advice on how to view and tackle ultramarathons. Ultimately, he believes endurance challenges are akin to difficult life events; the sharper you react the more empowered you are to succeed.

An Ultra Transformation

Finding Ultra (2012) by Rich Roll


Serious Swimmer

Roll was born in the 1960s and by age six he was swimming, inspired by his grandfather who was a top swimmer, an Olympic hopeful and local legend. He was mentored by excellent older swimmers and his love for the water grew as he began winning local summer school meets before he was ten.

He was bullied throughout his school years so worked hard on his studies rather than his social life. It taught him to accept and thrive despite pain, as he was accustomed to the disconnect with his peers.

His tenacity to develop and realise his swimming potential resulted in him training in the pool as early as 5am and accumulating over eighteen hours of swimming a week. At age sixteen he was travelling all over the United States competing in the 200m butterfly, recognised as eighth in the country for his age group, often finishing in second place. He also single-handedly inspired his school to found a swimming team.

He attended Stanford University due to its superb swimming programme and was made freshman co-captain.

Audacious Alcoholic

Roll’s performance levels would soon fall once he was hooked on drinking alcohol, which was partly a mechanism to overcome his social anxiety. He dropped out of the team and would later become a legal assistant in New York. His raucous social drinking lead him to dodging DUIs, a failed marriage and eventually being arrested in Los Angeles.

Roll continued to relapse until he was forced into rehab after realising he had a problem and would lose his job if he did not change his habits. Over the next one hundred days Roll changed his perception of himself, and rid himself of resentment and fear in order to draw on spirituality and faithfulness to recover.

Lean Vegan Triathlete

Despite staying sober for many years, fathering a family and setting up a successful entertainment law firm, Roll was overweight and addicted to unhealthy foods. As he turned forty he knew he needed to change if he wanted to live longer. So he transformed his diet with support from his yoga and juice enthusiast wife.

Roll quickly adjusted to a vegan diet, similar to Scott Jurek, becoming ripped and losing over forty-five pounds. Inspired by the popular movement of Ironman Triathlons, he entered a long-course hilly half distance in 2007 but did not finish, suffering cramp and succumbing to high muscle lactate. In the same year he had to walk the last eight miles of the Long Beach Marathon.

So in May 2008, Roll experimented more with his food choices, motivated by fuel optimisation rather than for political or ethical reasons, and worked with top coach Chris Hauth.

After lactate tests, months of zone 2 training, periodisations and a whole-foods plant-based diet Roll steadily enhanced his aerobic endurance capacity.

Inspired by David Goggins, he completed the UltraMan World Championships in 2008 (eleventh overall) and 2009 (sixth overall). Not satisfied, Roll embraced an even more extreme test of fitness in 2010 – the EPIC 5 adventure. Alongside Jason Lester, a disabled athlete and friend, he embarked on a series of back-to-back Ironman Triathlons on the islands of Hawaii.

Despite the enormity of the challenge, adverse weather conditions, frequent mechanical faults with bicycles, saddle rashes and the loss of essential gear, they both navigated five separate islands over seven days, accumulating 12 miles of swim, 560 miles of cycling and 131 miles of running (703 miles in total).

Transformation

Roll’s journey from high school swimmer to chronic alcoholic, and overweight lawyer to elite endurance triathlete is remarkable. Along with an unwavering dedication to change his life, Roll took advantage of the advice and presence of national swimming champions, Olympic Trial qualifiers, and even Olympic medalists. He came into contact with some of the best swimmers in the world, including his idols such as Pablo Morales and John Moffet.

His persistence to better himself led him to realise that a healthy and fit lifestyle is within everyone’s grasp. He distilled his vegan diet into easily digestible and compelling advice for his readers. Foods he uses throughout his incredible feats include many slow-releasing carbohydrates:

  • Avocado and veganaise sandwiches
  • Coconut water
  • Kale and spinach
  • Mustard greens and spirulina
  • Rice balls and yams

His openness to explore himself and follow proven principles resulted in him running many miles at a lower intensity to improve his ratio of exertion to relative speed. He is a true inspiration because his positive attitude and quest for finding other people’s motivation (through his own popular podcast) is second-to-none.

Tackling Anorexia with Ultrarunning

The Extra Mile (2006) by Pam Reed with Mitch Sisskind


Battling Anorexia

Brought up in the Midwest of the United States, Pam Reed was a competitive and energetic tomboy, who developed in a culture of self-reliance and physical resilience.

In her adolescence Reed was inspired to become a gymnast, and later would commit to 1,000 sit-ups a day and running to stay fit for playing tennis. But she would train with a reduced caloric intake, wanting to maintain a slight build. She admitted herself to hospital several times, and yet never relied on drugs to improve her relationship with food and her body.

The catalyst for change came when she was told she would not reach her ultrarunning potential if she failed to eat enough to fuel and recover adequately.

Ultramarathon Success

Influenced by her husband’s love of triathlons, she first trained and competed with him at Ironman Canada, where she finished as the ninth woman.

She soon became addicted to pushing her physical and mental limits, running over 100 marathons including Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles and London. She has also conquered more than 100 ultramarathons, including the Elkhorn 100k, Wasatch 100 (mile), Leadville 100 (mile) as well as 24 and 48 hour championships, where she has set numerous American records.

But it is her back-to-back wins at the brutal Badwater 135 mile race in 2002 and 2003 that she explores most in her book and which proved her class as a runner. Her love and natural adaptation to running in the heat gave her the necessary confidence to excel. She also ran 300 miles non-stop (12x 25 mile loops) in 2005, in under 80 hours. Although she ran too fast too soon, it was a highlight of her career because of the deep connection she made with her family and friends.

Her success has come from consistent performances, where external pressure failed to negatively affect her, and where nutritional liquids, energy drinks and soda water always provided a boost. Her mentor and ‘personal physician’ Chuck Giles played an immeasurable part in Reed’s pacing, crewing and fuelling during some of her hardest races. Despite her huge achievements Reed is humble and believes she has over-trained for many years (racing on average 24 times per year), suggesting she could have improved her endurance records.

Her influences include other ultrarunning champions such as Ann Trason, Scott Jurek, Marshal Ulrich and Dean Karnazes. She has also raced with Charlie Engle.

Running Tips for Balancing Life

As a mother of many children, wife, and race director of the Tuscan Marathon, Reed has to juggle many responsibilities.

Reed has defied pre-conceptions throughout her career, including running two marathons in three days, running only days after giving birth (and running a 100 mile race only 10 weeks afterwards), and never becoming seriously injured.

Reed used triathlons as her base fitness for her ultramarathons, and has trained with a jogging stroller, her dog and other ambitious women. Although she feels guilty for not always prioritising her family, she recognises that athletic excellence requires many hours of focused effort.

She further offers essential advice for any ultrarunner.

  • Crews need to laugh, talk a lot and always remain positive. Crews have the power to lose a race for a runner, and so they must be willing to do anything without showing fatigue.
  • Practice breaking long races into manageable distances. For example, a 100 miler can be viewed as one mile repeated 100 times.
  • Never think of how many miles left, look rarely at the sports watch, and think only of the short distance in front.
  • Always have multiple race goals. For example, the first goal is to finish, then to run a new personal best (either over sections or the full distance), and finally to win the race.

Reed is a legend of the sport, not only because of her impressively long list of race results but also her openness about the challenge (and expense) of her lifelong pursuit, and the respect she shows herself by never making excuses.

Embracing the Fear of Ultramarathons

Running and Stuff (2015) by James Adams


Motivation

Using a ‘stream of consciousness‘ writing style, Adams relays the details of how he tackled some of the toughest ultra races in the world.

Uninspired by running marathons, Adams becomes motivated by other runners’ abilities to overcome intense and prolonged pain. After running his first ultramarathons in 2007 (the Tring 2 Town Ultra) and 2008 (the Grand Union Canal Race) he learns his body can cope with high mileage weeks and racing frequently.

He writes a frank and humorous blog to chronicle his journey towards running extreme distances.

Experience

The Briton Adams completes multi-day races as well as the famous Spartathlon 246 km race (twice) and the Badwater 135 mile race with fearless stubbornness. Rather than spending his life attaining material possessions, these incredible feats of endurance are his way of sharpening his mind and collecting stories.

He compares his experiences to giving birth and believes injuries caused by running can be fixed by more running. He enjoys regular banter with other runners and meets many people that assist him, a measure he finds more important than the display of a watch. He finds that over time, training and running for long distances will squash his nerves and desire to quit.

His adventure concludes with a gruelling 3,220-mile run across 13 states of America, which takes him 70 days, in which time he requires hospital treatment for severe dehydration. He also suffers days of post-run depression.

Guidance

Despite his laid-back and daring persona, Adams discovers important lessons on the most effective means to train for ultramarathons.

  1. Run marathon races as training.

  2. Focus on how you feel whilst running, because this determines the outcome of a run.

  3. Always consider how you want to feel the day after a race, as this will ensure you embrace your weaknesses early and spend time overcoming them.

  4. Races require you to become ‘emotional imperfectionists’, willing to risk failure so you can achieve indescribable highs.

Ultimately, Adams proves that to run extreme distances you do not need natural talent or tactical mastery, just a love of running combined with a lack of fear.

Expert Advice from Ultrarunner Lisa Tamati

Philosophy from Experience

Lisa Tamati, born in New Zealand, embodies the spirit of extreme running. She views overcoming challenges as the perfect method of finding her personal strengths and weaknesses. Her journey reveals what is most important in life; the state of happiness.

Seeking New Tests

Tamati reports on the numerous major ultramarathons she has conquered, including the Commonwealth Mountain and Ultra Distance Running Championships, Northburn 100 mile, Northface 100 km, and La Ultra – The High. Throughout these fascinating accounts she offers practical racing advice.

  • Excessive training too soon before a race will inevitably spoil the important performance.
  • The teachings from previous races are useless if the correct pacing strategy on race day is not followed.
  • Regardless of the race length the last 20 km (12.4 miles) is crucial for success, so save 50% of energy reserves for this last stretch.
  • 6-12 months of recovery after ultramarathons is ideal, but if this is not possible focus on non-weight bearing exercises such as swimming.

In the 4 Deserts Sahara race she finds becoming anxious over factors out of her control uses too much energy. She mentally blocks out doubts to improve her chances of achieving the goal. Extreme races require this intense concentration more than any other pursuit.

Tamati learns during the Gobi March that athletes running in extreme conditions must accept that death remains a possibility. She does counter this by advising that there is no humiliation in quitting, because overcoming the fear to try is a proud accomplishment. Finishing times should not be fixated on as they are not a priority.

Finally, she demonstrates her immense determination when she runs the entire length of New Zealand in 2009, proving that ultrarunning is a team sport, where the crew can achieve their dreams too.

Book Review: Marathon Man by Rob Young

Anything can ignite your dream

Rob Young, an ex-soldier and former youth triathlete for Great Britain, undertakes an incredible journey to test his endurance. His quest to break the record for the most marathons in one year is inspired by a ridiculous bet made with his fiancée. His drive comes from his desire to improve the lives of underprivileged children.

Based in London, Young begins running in the early mornings around Richmond Park.

He soon loses weight, suffers knee pain and sleep deprivation as he balances a full-time job and family commitments.

He then broadens his challenge by running official marathon races across the UK, including Halstead, Milton Keynes, Coniston and London. He also runs ultramarathons such as the North Downs Way 100, Equinox 24-hour race and the Race to the Stones.

As he does not have his own car he relies on public transport, friends and strangers to get to and from races. His impulsive personality and lack of preparation in fuelling and accommodation means he often gets lost, on and off the race course.

He ends his adventure by running the Race Across America, a 3,080-mile route starting in California and ending at the Atlantic Ocean in Virginia. Young suffers throughout the race, disagreeing with the organisers and being forced to rest after his left leg swells.

Overall, from April 2014 until June 2015, Young completes an extraordinary 420 marathons/ultramarathons in 420 days.

No challenge is without consequence

Despite his remarkable feat there are some negative repercussions. Young loses valuable family time, which strains the relationship with his fiancée.

He tests his friendships as he requires countless massages and physiotherapy, as well as a place to stay once he loses his job and his flat. The expense of the endeavour is high because of the extra food he needs, often calorie-dense meals and high in fat.

Your past never has to hold you back

As a child he is severely abused by his father, physically and psychologically. Although horrific, Young claims the experience taught him to control the pain with visualisation and to better appreciate his life.

He raises over £200,000 for charities close to his heart, including the NSPCC, Dreams Come True and Great Ormond Street Hospital.


Accomplishing a dream

Young completes his mission (and breaks the record) by following a sensible strategy: race the first half, then taper off in the second half. He has fun and takes a laid back approach to reduce the stress. He also provides valuable running tips such as run downhill with arms at ear height for better steering and reduce pace in order to effectively absorb calories.

Young’s story is an extreme example of how a person can transform from couch potato to relentless endurance athlete.

Book Review: ‘Finding Gobi’ by Dion Leonard

Finding Gobi is the real-life journey of how an Australian ultramarathoner living in Scotland adopted a stray dog called Gobi. As Leonard competes in the 2016 Gobi March, a 155-mile, 7-day stage ultramarathon held in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia and China, he unexpectedly attracts a small canine follower.

Despite fierce sandstorms, scorching heat and deep water Leonard and Gobi stick together. The loveable dog accumulates over 70 miles of running in three stages without eating.

This impressive feat is only the beginning.

In the months following the race Leonard struggles to overcome greater obstacles, once Gobi goes missing. The overwhelming public support and global media attention raises over £20,000 through crowdfunding. Leonard organises a major search party, which takes weeks and sees him witness the unwavering commitment and also rude disinterest of the local people. Gobi is eventually found, but has a damaged hip. Leonard is forced to take risks as he rents rundown accommodation, takes a sabbatical and waits many months for Gobi’s medical checks and travel permits to clear. Even the journey across China and through Europe back home is fraught with delays.

The book offers advice on running ultramarathons, some more obvious than others.

Competitors should never carry food in cans due to the unnecessary weight, and racing strategies should be built around pacing steadily without exhausting the body. There is also an etiquette to racing: any unfair advantage should be rebalanced during the race, as strength and endurance, not cunningness and deceit, are the true measures of success.

This supports the community spirit of the ultrarunning circuit, which is demonstrated through Leonard’s relationship with Tommy Chen, a Taiwanese competitor, and the tale of Cliff Young, a former Australian farmer and ultrarunner.

Ultimately, multi-stage ultramarathons are painful and expensive experiences, but with expert medical staff, the races are life-changing.

Leonard also includes an honest account of his childhood in the Australian outback, where traditional farming values often cement family bonds. However, his father, who Leonard later discovers is his stepfather, dies when Leonard is nine. He grows up an outsider, as his relationship with his mother deteriorates and never fully recovers. Winning extreme running races, after being overweight as an adult, becomes a major motivator to reinvent himself.

The heart-warming story proves that ultramarathons can have a far greater impact not only on the finisher but on the world (and a small dog).