Thursday, May 16, 2019

Rise of the Ultra Runners by Adharanand Finn

Rise of the Ultra Runners by Adharanand Finn is the 3rd book by the author and easily his best work.

Spoiler Alert!

If you don't want to know some key details of the book, skip the rest of this post, read the book and come back to finish reading this post.

If you are still here, I must thank you for indulging me.

As I tweeted giddily after the initial few chapters, it has everything from fantastic anecdotes, sibling rivalry, the wonderful Thomas Payn and expectedly some of the legends of ultrarunning.

For one, the book is quite unlike anything Finn has written before. It has none of the meticulous, slow nature of his two earlier books on Kenyan and Japanese running. It also betrays a certain impatience (perhaps driven by the publishing contract) for someone entering the world of ultrarunning. But it is a bloody colourful book and never has a dull moment. Amongst many reasons to read it, is the author's visceral honesty and willingness to share his vulnerability with his readers although one would love to know how one even has the cognitive coherence to remember such detail for someone subject to hallucinations during an ultramarathon!

As the reader follows Finn on his journey, one wonders what happened to the Finn from Kenya and Japan? Wasn't he much nicer? You wouldn't expect him to mock his generous hosts, would you? And he does get quite hard on himself, more than once about his racing. The one time one sees a clear sign that this is the same author who wrote with such fondness about Kenyans and quite some amusement about the Japanese, is when he observes the rather "white" universe of ultrarunning. And to his credit he does make an attempt to remedy that (which would be familiar to some of his followers on Twitter). But this book is mostly about Finn and his experience while meeting practically every legend in the ultrarunning scene globally. The one gap if any, is that there's almost no mention of some of the accomplished Japanese runners, esp in the 24 hr races.

If you weren't already a fan of Finn, when you see his adulation for Damian Hall, the journalist runner who does spectacular stuff at the UTMB, followed by a desire to emulate him, you know you are that guy!

The book also has more of his family and friends than in his previous books, since this book has a lot of self-reflection on Finn's part and it hasn't escaped this writer than Finn spent more time in the Alps doing his first UTMB than I spent in acquiring this book, reading and then writing this review!
But it was worth every moment and I hope you get to savour it too.

It has enough drama for even a non-runner to appreciate a good read on an adventure. You could read the book if you a runner, maybe even an ultrarunner, an adventure seeker, a navel gazer, a nature lover or someone who just loves a good story or two.
Don't blame the author if you get inspired to sign up for an ultra!

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