Revelations of Running an Ultramarathon

date March 06, 2022 location Sonoita, AZ

This past weekend I ran my first ultramarathon, completing the 50 mile Old Pueblo Trail Ultra in Sonoita, AZ. The race was a challenging one to say the least, not only is 50 miles the longest I've ever run, nearly double my previous distance record of a full marathon, but the course featured over 6,800' of elevation gain on rocky terrain. There were many memorable moments from this race, including: arriving to the very remote start of the race and witnessing some the brightest stars I have ever seen, nearly wrecking my car trying to park on the rocky backcountry roads leading to the race start, and watching a runner trip and nearly roll off of a steep cliff during the race. But rather than reflecting on the memories of this race, I thought it would be more interesting to put together a list of the top 10 revelations of running an ultramarathon that I learned during the experience.

10. Fig Newtons are the best ultramarathon food. During the race I ate cookies, candy, fruit, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and more running gels than should be legally allowed. Hands down the best food was the Fig Newtons.

9. Aid station volunteers are the real MVPs. These remarkable humans that sacrifice their day to provide food, water and comfort to suffering runners are the light of the earth. Speaking of aid stations...

8. Stumbling into the last aid stations is a feeling I will never forget. My favorite moment of the race was the final aid station at the 41 mile mark. Dehydrated, overheated, undernourished, and a shell of my normal self, I stumbled into the final aid station and was greeted by several kind volunteers. They fed me cookies, gave me ice cold coke, dumped multiple sponges of freezing water over my head and resupplied me for the final stretch of the race. I left that aid station slightly less dehydrated, overheated and undernourished than I entered.

7. Ultramarathons help fill the void of accomplishment after plateauing in speed at Road Races. "When you can't run faster, run longer" is a phrase i've often heard when describing ultramarathoners and while I don't agree with the belittling notion that ultramarathoners aren't fast so they opt for longer distances, as someone that has barely made 1 minute of progress on my marathon PR in the last couple of years, it was refreshing to feel the sense of accomplishment from running such a bold distance.

6. Whether you're in contention for first place, a podium spot, or just in the middle of the pack, passing another runner will always bring a boost of triumph, while getting passed will come with a feeling of defeat. No matter how many times we tell ourselves to "run our own race", the competitive spirit is something that exists strongly in almost anyone capable of running such a long distance and I am no different. While I told myself my goal was simply just to finish I'm not gonna lie that I was checking over my shoulder every so often during the final miles to make sure I wasn't getting passed.

5. Runners are the kindest people. Every interaction I had with a runner was positive and encouraging and I even got several words of encouragement from runners as I was passing them. One moment in particular, I had just crossed the halfway point and a runner was coming from the opposite direction headed towards the finish line for the 25 mile event. The trail was narrow at this point, and the runner kindly moved off trail to let me through and in the process she stepped into a thorn bush. She was clearly in pain and partially stuck by a thorn branch. I stopped to help her get untangled and she would not let me help her and insisted that I keep running.

4. Trail running is a different sport than road running. Obviously they have more in common than, say, football and basketball, but I was humbled during this race as I came to find that I am a novice trail runner. This became most apparent during rocky downhills as I was "applying the brakes" with caution and I got passed by many runners flying downhill with confidence. Road runners will always talk about the metaphorical duo of a runner's engine and chassis representing the endurance and physical strength as the key elements that define a runner's ability. The sport of trail running brings additional dimensions to the table, like the ability to traverse rocky terrain, the ability to power uphill and let gravity do the work on descents. Not to mention the importance of maintaining focus and mindset after hours and hours of running. Speaking of mindset...

3. Mindset is everything. Ultramarathons aren't for everyone and maybe the most critical component of running an ultramarathon is the ability to maintain a positive mindset. Near the 18 mile mark I started to experience some of the worst knee pain I have had since Patellofemeral Pain Syndrome (Runner's Knee) sidelined me for several months in 2018. I came into the race knowing that it would be difficult, and I set my sights on getting to the halfway point, then mile 30, mile 40 and finally the home stretch. About pain...

2. You only feel the pain of the ailment that is hurting you the most. At the 39 mile mark I inadvertently brushed my hand against a spiky cactus and could feel a thorn enter my hand and watched the blood trickle along my palm. The sensation didn't even register on the pain scale because of all the other afflictions I was experiencing in the moment.

1. It may get pretty painful during the final miles, but it doesn't feel much better when you stop so you might as well keep going.

Finally, some notes for myself should I ever try to run an ultramarathon again:

- Practice more trail running on difficult terrain and put more of an emphasis on the downhill sections
- Look into buying trail shoes with a bit more cushioning
- Wear gaiters or at least longer socks
- Figure out the optimal hydration carrying strategy before the race (It's probably soft flasks on the chest and hyrdration pack with more pockets)
- Just pack gels in the aid station drop bags, there's plenty of food at the aid station

Rock N Roll Arizona

date January 17, 2022 location Tempe, AZ

I consider 2021 a successful running year, setting an annual volume PR of 3,525 miles, along with PRs in the 5K, 10K, and half marathon. The marathon, my favorite event, was a different story. My first attempt at the 26.2 mile distance during a humid, hot day in May was a disaster, and the Chicago Marathon in October was a similar story. With the belief that those disappointing races were due to a combination of weather and an ambitious goal of breaking the 2:45 barrier, I was eager to sign up for a redemption race in early 2022.

After just a 12 week training block, the shortest I've ever done for a marathon, I felt pretty good going into race day at the Rock n Roll Arizona Marathon. Almost equally as important as my training regiment, the weather forecast was promising, with a 50 degree start, a mild breeze, and temperatures remaining below 60 for the duration of the run. After back to back blow-ups in the marathon, I set a conservative goal of breaking my PR from November 2019 of 2:48:40. An important lesson learned from 2021 is that going out too fast in a marathon will result in some of the toughest physical and mental pain during the final miles of the race.

The race was a great success. There really isn't much to say other than I felt comfortable most of the race despite some cramping which came and went. While I didn't negative split, I never got passed in the second half of the race, maintained a fairly consistent pace, and didn't really hurt until the final few miles when I was dealing with a headwind and warmer temperatures. I finished the race in 2:47:54, extremely pleased with a PR, and 11th place overall.

What went poorly:

• Side stitches during the race, starting at mile 6, maybe too many carbs before and during the race?

What went well:

• Hill training: the race was mostly flat but when others suffered during the rolling hills late in the race, I stepped it up
• 12 week training programs, it felt like enough time to get in shape and not a complete grind
• No injuries during training

What to try for next time:

• Hiring a coach? I'm kind of at a loss for where I should focus my training? Volume, speed, MP runs?

A Year in Sport, A Lifetime in States

date December 19, 2021 location

As 2021 comes to a close, and Strava's "Year in Sport" screenshots have started making rounds on social media feeds, I was thinking about the most significant stats from my own year in running. What I have found most interesting is the number of different states that I have run in this past year. Like many other newly christened remote workers, 2021 had me travelling across the country looking for a new home. The year also marked the return of major road races, and that meant year-round marathon training including days spent on the road. I ran in a total of 9 different states this year: Arizona, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. I thought it would be fun then to consider how many total states I have run in throughout my lifetime of running (according to Strava) and keep an updated list of these jurisdictions, including the most interesting Strava link from each:

New Hampshire-
New Jersey-
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina-
North Dakota-
Rhode Island-
South Carolina
South Dakota-
West Virginia-

Chicago Marathon Race Report

date October 11, 2021 location Chicago, IL

Last fall, with news of vaccines and the possible return of racing, I signed up for the Chicago Marathon with that hope that it would serve a dual purpose: provide a stage to achieve my goal time of 2:45, and host a farewell tour of the city where I’ve lived my entire adult life up until earlier this year. With respect to the latter, the race came through in a big way, and with many friends, family, and co-workers cheering me on along the course, it was a proper send off to say the least. Unfortunately, the combination of heat, humidity, and a couple of legs that just didn’t have their best day, I fell short of my goal time substantially, clocking in at 2:51:47, though good enough for #356 overall. This marks a third miss at breaking the 2:45 barrier, with prior misses at the Veterans Marathon in November 2020 (2:48:40), and at the Chicago Spring Marathon in May 2021 (2:52:11).

Despite a disappointing performance at the race, I can say with confidence that this was the best training block of my running career as I completed Jack Daniels’ 2Q training program, peaking at 85 miles per week, without missing a single workout, and setting PRs at the 5K, 10K, and half marathon at tune-up races leading up to the Chicago Marathon.

As I like to do with all of my race reports, here are some notes for next time:

What went poorly:
• Once again, I felt undertrained for the grueling grind that is 26.2 miles. This could be due in part to a few poor training sessions at marathon pace due to tired legs from earlier speed workouts
•18 weeks is such a grind. With such a short break between my most recent two marathons, it took a toll on me mentally and physically

What went well:
•I did nearly all my speed workouts at the track enabling fast paces with reduced risk of injury, particularly to my ankle joints
•I hit massive PRs in my 5K, 10K, and Half Marathon times
•I didn’t miss a single training session due to injury
•I was extremely loyal to a rigorous strength training routine

What to try for next time:
•I would be interested in trying a 12 week training plan, either switching back to a Pfitzinger plan, or trying a final 12 week Daniels plan
•More emphasis on showing up for the Marathon Pace runs. I may have prioritized the sexier speed and tempo workouts with faster times while the MP runs suffered
•Move my Q2 workout to Wednesday instead of Thursday, giving me 3 days of rest before my Q1 workout instead of my Q2 workout
•Reducing my loyalty to my strength routine - while this helped me stay injury free, I feel I could have had similar results with less time spent in this routine, or replacing strength workouts with doubles
•Fueling for workouts - I had a few low quality workouts during my training block, particularly a couple of Marathon Pace days where I couldn’t seem to get my heart rate up into the required zone, I would like to try to prepare myself better for these runs including more emphasis on fueling

Chicagoland Spring Marathon Race Report

date May 23, 2021 location Schaumburg, IL

After a lot of success with Pete Pfitzinger's marathon training plans, most recently nabbing a PR at the Veterans Marathon with his 18/85 plan, I decided to try something new for the training plan leading up to the Chicagoland Spring Marathon and opted for the Jack Daniels (the famous running coach, not whiskey distiller) 2Q 18 week training plan, peaking at 85 miles per week. The major differences between the plans are that the Daniels' plan simply schedules two very tough workouts every week, with the rest of the miles run at an "easy" pace, while the Pfitzinger plans have fewer, and less difficult workouts, but also prescribe a specific pace and mileage for every run during the week.

On top of the more challenging training plan, I had to schedule my runs around a few road trips and selling my house downtown and moving to Barrington. While there is no shortage of running routes in the suburbs, I ran most of my long runs through Barrington Hills, and on top of the tougher workouts, those hills lead to a couple of lower body injuries which kept me sidelined for a cumulative total of about two or three weeks. With these setbacks I wasn't sure what to expect on race day. Before training started I had my sights on a 2:45 target, but given the injuries I set a more reasonable goal of beating November's PR of 2:48:40.

The headline is that I missed that goal by a pretty big margin, running a 2:52:11 for 5th place overall. The weather was overcast but warm, between 68 and 73 degrees, though there was a welcomed light mist of rain during the first 10 or so miles of the race. My pacing was solid, running about 6:23 splits fairly consistently until the wheels started to come off at mile 17. I was dealing with some bad stomach cramps most of the race and despite the heat I think it may have been due to over hydrating and/or over carb-loading the night before the race. Finishing the last 10 or so miles was some of the hardest physical pain I’ve ever experienced but I'm proud to have braved it through to the finish line.

I’ve been fortunate to PR every marathon I’ve run over the last few years and that streak ended today. This game I've been playing of moving the goal posts after each major race(qualify for Boston, break 3 hours, break 2:50, 2:45?) is what keeps me motivated and adds meaning to the weekly miles. Though I failed to hit my goal today, at least for the next 24 hours I’m gonna step back and take pride in the fact that these 37 year old legs just ran 26.2 miles at a 6:34 mi/min pace!

Tomorrow, I will start planning my training for the Chicago Marathon in October.

As I like to do with all of my race reports, here are some notes for next time:

What went wrong:
• My stomach felt very full during the race which I think was a combination of a heavy carb load the day before the race, and preemptively drinking too much water before the race start.
• I brought 6 gels with me and only ended up eating 3. The race had several gatorade stops and on top of the stomach cramps they were just extra weight.
• Ultimately, I just didn't have the endurance for 26 miles this race. Though my speed felt good, having set a 5K PR record two weeks before the race. This makes sense given the new training plan's emphasis on speed and me missing several of the scheduled long workouts due to injury.
• Many of my tempo runs were run on very hilly terrain. While I think hills are a nice training tool, my body was just not used to the elevation change due to the pancake-flat nature of the city where I've been running for several years. This lead to an Achilles injury, and some Peroneal Tendonitis which each kept me sidelined for several days and key workouts leading up to the race.

What went well:
• New shoes felt fast
• Good early pacing, though a little fast

What to try for next time:
• Run more workouts on the track when possible
• Add doubles to the schedule to give my legs a better chance to recover, even at the expense of prehab/strengthening workouts if necessary
• Add more plyometrics to strengthen joints, even at the expense of prehab/strengthening workouts if necessary
• Add some cycling workouts at least during the recovery and base building phases of training to keep up my fitness while my legs recover from this race

Sandra and Chris Wedding

date January 13, 2021 location Chicago, IL

On New Year's Eve I received a text message from my co-worker Chris, who was stressing out after his wedding photographer cancelled on him and his fiancee just two days before their wedding. On short notice, Chris asked me to fill in, and I was sold as soon as he mentioned that he had booked an hour at the Rookery, one of Chicago's most photogenic buildings, and a bucket list photo location of mine. In addition to the Rookery, the 3 of us managed to stop at Cloudgate, the Chicago Theatre, and the Chicago Board of Trade. The day was a major success and we had a blast covering the four 4 photo locations in 3 hours with 2 wardrobes, and 1 minor traffic violation, all while practicing safe social distancing!

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Veterans Marathon Race Report

date November 16, 2020 location Columbia City, IN

In 2009 I ran the Green Bay Marathon with an unrealistic goal of achieving a Boston qualifying time under 3:10 (7:17/mi). I ran the first 5 miles at a 7:21/mi pace, slowing down to a pace of 7:26/mi after the first 10. By halfway, the wheels were beginning to fall off, and my 13.1 split was 1:38:28 (7:31/mi). After a hellish 1:56:49 (8:54/mi) second half of the race, I crossed the finish line in 3:35:17 with a net pace of 8:17/mi, nowhere near the 3:10 I as hoping for, and a full minute per mile slower than I needed to hit my ridiculous goal. I wouldn't run a competitive race for the next 9 years.

Having learned my lesson from the dreadful 2009 Green Bay Marathon, when I finally re-gained my running passion many years later, I approached the sport with an emphasis on setting realistic goals. In the spring of 2018, I finally tried my hand at another marathon, setting a new PR of 3:14:24, and just 6 months later I reached my unicorn goal, running the Richmond Marathon in a Boston qualifying time of 3:01:10. By 2019 I mastered the art of incremental progress and goal-setting, running the Grand Rapids BQ.2 marathon in 2:51:12.

Due to the cancellation of the 2020 Boston Marathon, I had several extra months to train for what would be my next race, the Veterans Marathon in Columbia City, Indiana. I knew it would be tricky to set a goal for this race, having to balance the benefit of some added training time with the now distant painful memory of the overly ambitious goal setting fiasco that was the 2009 Green Bay Marathon. Having bested my marathon PR time by nearly ten minutes in Grand Rapids, and running a sub 1:20 tune-up half marathon this March, I settled on a goal of 2:45 (6:18/mi) - a nice round number that also happens to represent the qualifying standard for two of the World's Majors: Tokyo and Berlin. The race did not go as planned. I managed to stay on pace for the first half, with a split of 1:22:38 (6:18) and while not at the same level as 2009, I experienced the pain, both physical and mental, of grinding out the final miles of the marathon with absolutely nothing left in the tank. At about mile 20, the devastation of missing my goal set in, and knowing that I would still have to fight through the toughest 10 km of my life, I felt pain, frustration, and disappointment.

Having adopted several running best-practices during the cerebral rebirth of my running career, I find it helpful to retrospect on my races, documenting the factors that led to my successes and failures.

What Went Wrong:
- It's most important to reflect on the things in my control, but both the race conditions and weather proved challenging. The frigid temps and blowing winds, at 23 degrees and 10mph respectively at the start of the race, on top of unprotected rolling farmland hills, made for some difficult miles.
- My legs weren't prepared for hills. Training on Chicago's pancake-flat terrain did not prepare me for this race. While I've had success on hilly half-marathon courses, the relentless ups and downs during 26.2 took their toll on me.
- I showed some signs of overtraining. I started training for the 2020 Boston Marathon in November 2019. After a race-postponement to Spring, rehabbing through an achilles injury, a hip injury, the eventual race cancellation, and finally setting my sights on the Veterans Marathon, nearly a year had elapsed since the beginning of my training and while there was some time off in that period, I was both physically and mentally exhausted in the final weeks of my training. While I didn't take a single day off during the 18 weeks leading up to the race, and my workout paces were consistently hitting record efforts, there were several days, particularly in the latter stages of my training, where I just didn't have it in me to hit the desired paces of some of my long and aerobic runs. This has me wondering if...
- I focused too much on volume and not enough on quality. While usually the opposite is true of amateur runners, I wonder if an emphasis on more quality runs (tempos, repeats, etc) with just a tad less volume would better prepare me for a marathon.

What Went Well:
- Pre-race preparation went without a hitch. I was able to get get a good meal both morning of and the night before, got a good night's sleep and felt ready to go at the start line.
- Strength training FTW. I've welcomed my new work from home life, which has enabled me to sneak in a few Bulgarian Split Squats, box jumps, and some resistance band exercises between zoom calls.
- Track Intervals. Unlike previous training cycles, I did all of my interval workouts on the track which provided the dual benefit of 1)enabling me to push faster and 2)reducing the soreness that usually comes with running at high speeds on even terrain.

Unlike 2009, I will not let this race kill my passion for running. I believe that I'm capable of a 2:45 on a flat course in good conditions. This knowledge, combined with some things to try for next time, already has me pondering my next race, though I am looking forward to a mental and physical break from training for at least a few weeks.

The Prairie State Half Marathon

date October 05, 2020 location

This Saturday I completed my first post pandemic in-person race, finishing the Prairie State Half Marathon in 1:20:42 (6:09/mi), 50 seconds slower than my PR, a 1:19:52 (6:05) that I ran back in March. With a goal of besting my PR time in March, my race performance was disappointing but did not overshadow a safe and well run event, proving that in-person racing in the post-covid/pre-vaccine era is possible. While most races this summer and fall have opted for virtual versions of their races, my hat goes off to the Prairie State Half Marathon race organizers who implemented several safety measures, notably: Staggering all runners into 5 minute start intervals, releasing each runner every 10 seconds, requiring masks in the start area, replacing traditional hydration stations with tables of bottled water and gatorade, and providing a virtual option for participants that still didn't feel safe.

The race served as a tune-up race for the Veterans Marathon, a race that I hope to run in Indiana in mid-November. Furthermore, the race has significance beyond just this training cycle for me, as it was this same point in my last training cycle, when 13 weeks into my training for the 2020 Boston Marathon, it's cancellation and a series of overuse injuries had me questioning why I run in the first place. Having overcome the aforementioned injuries, and matching last cycle's mileage with the added emphasis of injury prevention exercises, I went into this race hoping to come back with an exclamation point that I fell a bit short of achieving. At 40 degrees, no wind or precipitation, the weather was perfect and pre-race preparation went perfectly. Finding my ideal pace is always most challenging during the first mile, when I looked at my watch and saw a 6:19 first split after what felt like a moderate effort I was a little worried. The early miles that followed were similar stories, despite what felt like solid effort just didn't reflect as such on the watch. Tempted to throw my hands up and say I just didn't have it today, I know an objective reflection on the race and training leading up to it would serve me better. The leading factors that I consider are:

- Weight: I'm about 5 lbs heavier than I was in March, still not quite down to ideal racing weight following putting on a healthy "Covid 15"
- My PR race was a win: Leading the entire field during most of the Columbia Half Marathon gave me a huge mental boost, not to mention the police escort car which served as a pacer throughout most of the race
- Junk Miles: While most of workouts this cycle show improved performance at VO2 max, Lactate Threshold, and Marathon pace, I have slowed down in many of my other paces due to tired legs from prior runs or weight training

The next few weeks of training will be critical in pursuit of a PR in my 'A' race, the upcoming marathon in November. My training schedule includes some of the toughest weeks I've ever run, and if I am able to stay healthy and perform well during these workouts I think my marathon goal is still possible.

The Best Running Books

date May 26, 2020 location Chicago, IL

Over the last couple of years, I've accumulated quite the list of books about the topic of running. Many of these books were consumed in audiobook format, during my long runs, while others were enjoyed on my kindle. As my reading has picked up during quarantine time, I thought it would be interesting to put together a list of my favorite running books. Most of these books are primarily about running, while others simply pertain to running tangentially (looking at you, Shoe Dog). I ultimately decided to keep a more wide-ranging criteria, making the list more diverse and interesting.

Running books can be classified into these three categories:
Memoirs - biographies and autobiographies about runners and other running related accounts.
Science - science based and instructional books about training, usually including studies on running or running related science.
Fiction - fictional books about running.

My rankings are based on the following criteria:
Accessibility - Does this apply to a broad audience or a smaller niche like elites or ultra marathoners?
Entertainment - Is this a page turner?
Lasting Impression - Did this leave an impact?

Without further ado, I present to you my favorite books about running:

Honorable Mention (in no particular order)

Running the Rift (Naomi Benaron - 2010) Fiction - "Running the Rift" is the fictional story of Jean Patrick, a once in a generation Rwandan runner, whose life and olympic dream is threatened by political tensions between the Tutsi and Hutu populations. The book follows Jean Patrick's life from his early childhood through his adult life as Rwanda's internal conflict threatens not only his athletic aspirations, but also his family and loved ones alike.

The Perfect Mile (Neil Bascomb - 2005) Memoir - "The Perfect Mile" chronicles the pursuit of a sub 4 minute mile by England's Roger Bannister, Australia's John Landy, and American Wes Santee. Following disappointment in the 1952 Summer Olympics, each of the three athletes dedicated their training to pursue becoming the first runner to break the 4 minute barrier in the mile. The book details the unique challenges faced by the runners: Bannister, who would have to balance his training with his studies to become a physician, Landy, who's home country lacked interest in the sport and therefore found himself unable to find other runners to train with, and Santee, whose military obligations and feuds with amateur sports governing bodies interfered with his quest to become the first under four minutes. While this story is a captivating one on its own, it's particularly interesting today, in comparison with Eluid Kipchoge's recent attempt at the sub 2 hour marathon only without the shoe controversy.

Iron War (Matt Fitzgerald - 2011) Memoir - The story of what Fitzgerald calls "The Greatest Race Ever Run", the 1989 Ironman World Championship. The book details the personal lives and athletic careers of two of the greatest triathletes of all time, Dave Scott and Mark Allen, whose professional running career pinnacles' would align at the sport's greatest competition. Fitzgerald accounts in detail the contrasting upbringings and personalities of these two legends and the buildup and nuance of the race itself, closing out with the careers and lives of the athletes following the race. While I myself am not a triathlete, I found myself captivated by Fitzgerald's storytelling and anxiously waiting for the race outcome, not knowing who would win before reading the book.

The Runner (Markus Torgeby - 2018) Memoir - The autobiography of Markus Torgeby, a Swedish runner that decided to live in a remote Swedish forest at the age of 20 and dedicate his life to running. The book serves as a real-life account of someone who opted for "the simple life", opting for a life outdoors over the more traditional 9 to 5. The story includes the ups and downs of his youth running career, his mother's battle with Multiple Sclerosis, a side trip to Africa, and the author's subsequent battle with a borderline eating disorder. While I found moments of this book liberating, I found that Torgeby's writing lacked engaging detail, focusing too much on the less interesting background of the author's upbringing, and not enough of the liberating anecdotes from his runs in the remote Swedish wilderness.

The Running Dream (Wendelin Van Draanen - 2011) Fiction - The fictional story of Jessica, a high school track star whose life comes crashing before her after suffering the loss of her right leg in a tragic bus accident after a track meet. The novel details Jessica's grief in the loss of her leg and her battle with the idea that she may never run again, let alone compete in another running competition. While the book has overwhelmingly positive reviews on goodreads, I found the story and writing a bit better suited for the young adult audience it was written for.

The Long Walk - (Richard Bachman (Pseudonym), Stephen King - 1999) Fiction - Perhaps the only thriller book ever written related to running, "The Long Walk" is the story of an annual event where 100 boys are selected from across the country to compete in a last man standing race. Each time a competitor drops below the speed of 4 MPH, he earns a warning, and upon the third warning, the runner is euthanized by one of many soldiers enforcing the race bylaws. No, this is not another creation from "The Barkley Marathons" race director Lazurus Lake, this story was penned under Stephen King's pseudonym, Richard Bachman.

How Bad Do You Want It (Matt Fitzgerald - 2015) Science - An interesting read about the psychology of endurance sports. Blending scientific studies with anecdotes as a coach and endurance athlete himself, Fitzgerald explains that our limits are merely a figment of our imagination and there is always room to push a little harder.

Eat and Run (Scott Jurek - 2012) Memoir Science - The amazing, candid story of an unlikely Midwestern kid becoming one of the all-time ultrarunning greats, juxtaposed with anecdotal, often unscientific attribution of those successes to a vegan diet. Without getting into the polarizing debate about the vegan diet, the story of his rise to running success is bookworthy enough. I personally finished feeling like the book would have held up just as well without the soapboxy narrative related to the merits of the vegan diet.

Running with the Buffaloes (Chris Lear - 2000) Memoir - An inside look at the University of Colorado cross country team's quest for a national title during the 1998 season. In my research on the best books about running, this book came up as frequently as any other, but to be honest, I personally found it to be a little underwhelming. While the magnitude of the team's challenge was great and Lear's access unprecedented, I found it to be repetitive and boring. Perhaps because I have never run cross country or participated on any sort of formal running team, I could not relate to the triumphs and tribulations of team-running and found myself quickly growing tired of the training session recaps.

80/20 Running (Matt Fitzgerald - 2015) Science - A training book centered on the idea that the perfect balance of any runner's training regimen consists of 80 percent of runs at low intensity and 20 percent at high intensity. While the book makes many good points about recovery, injury prevention, and physiology, I finished the book feeling like I could have gotten the same value out of a shorter piece.

The Incomplete Book of Running (Peter Sagal - 2018) Memoir - NPR host and Runner's World columnist Peter Sagal's running memoir. Sagal's writing style is humorous and engaging, and his story includes his youth battle with obesity, running the 2013 Boston Marathon (the year of the bombing), guiding multiple blind runners in marathons, his own race PRs, as well as his divorce and dealing with depression. The book also includes some beginner-oriented tips on getting into running, targeting those that have tried but failed to stick with the sport. As a Chicago runner, also in the later stages of my running career, I could relate to Sagal's lighthearted reflections on his running career and personal life.

Tier 5 - Just Making the Cut

25. Daniels' Running Formula (Jack Daniels - 1998) Science - Daniels' Running Fomula is a comprehensive guide to competitive running that includes specific running workouts including their relative intensities and physiological purposes, training plans for a variety of race distances, and various tables and formulas for calculating paces across races and training runs. Daniels methods are all backed by extensive science and research, as well as his many years of experience as a coach. The book covers nearly every topic of running including training plans, scientific studies, altitude training, footwear, nutrition, sleep, and much more.

24. My Year of Running Dangerously (Tom Foreman - 2015) Memoir - CNN correspondent Tom Foreman's memoir about running. As far as memoirs go, this is perhaps the most relatable to us weekend warriors managing our 9 to 5s without skipping a workout. Foreman tells the story of taking a 30 year hiatus from the sport before getting the running bug, running several races, then finding himself training with every minute of free time that he can find for an ultra marathon race.

23. Advanced Marathoning (Pete Pfitzinger, Scott Douglas - 2001) Science - Though very specific to running marathons and not meant for the average runner, I personally gained so much from this book in terms of understanding the concepts and purposes of the various types of runs that I felt compelled to include it, if only in the honorable mention section. If you've got a couple of marathons under your belt, and you want to step up your training beyond the typical marathon training plan you can download online, I highly recommend this book as long as you are willing to run at least 55 miles per week.

22. Running with Sherman (Christopher McDougall - 2019) Memoir - Born to Run author Christopher McDougall's unusual story about training a rescue donkey to run a burro race in Colorado. While this book was a departure from the prominent characters and themes of Born to Run, McDougall's storytelling abilities make it nearly as engaging.

21. Finding Ultra (Rich Roll - 2012) Memoir - The comeback story of functioning-alcoholic Rich Roll's transformation into an elite triathlete. While very inspiring, I found that Roll's physical transformation story would have been better received without the snake-oil like pushing of his diet. Nonetheless, Roll's story is an amazing one and definitely worth a read.

Tier 4 - Solid Reads

20. Anatomy for Runners (Jay Dicharry - 2012) Science - While not a page turner by any means, Dicharry's "Anatomy for Runners" is the holy grail source for understanding the complex running machine that is the human body. Furthermore, this book explains the physiology of certain running injuries, followed by exercises to treat and prevent those injuries from occurring in the future. Read this book and you can impress your friends by explaining to them what proprioception means and why they can skip their morning static stretch routines.

19. North (Scott Jurek - 2018) Memoir - World renowned ultrarunner and Eat and Run author Scott Jurek's recount of his attempt to set the FKT (fastest known time) thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail. After decades of ultrarunning, Jurek sets his sights on a new type of adventure that requires him to run nearly 50 miles a day for more than a month and a half on tough terrain. Documenting his experience throughout the journey, Jurek offers a unique account of the record setting event as it unfolds.

18. Run the World (Becky Wade - 2016) Memoir - "Run the World" is the memoir of NCAA All-American, Becky Wade, who earned a Watson fellowship following her 2012 graduation, allowing her to visit nine different countries and explore their cultural approaches to running. Uncertain about pursuing a professional career in running, Wade explores what running means to various cultures, allowing her to identify what running means to her and help reinforce her instinct to dedicate her career to the sport. In researching books about running, "Run the World" was absent from lists put together by others, but filled with history, training practices, and first hand accounts of elite level runs with athletes, this book is an absolute hidden gem.

17. Can't Hurt Me (David Goggins - 2018) Memoir - The amazing autobiographical transformation story of David Goggins. Describing the challenges that come with growing up poor, overweight, and black, Goggins makes drastic changes to his life, making his way through the military ranks before ultimately becoming a Navy Seal and ultra marathon running elite. Reading this book is nearly as inspirational as it gets, made even better by listening to Goggins speak about these adventures in long-form podcast/audiobook format.

16. The Way of the Runner (Adharanand Finn - 2016) Memoir - A follow up to "Running with the Kenyans," "The Way of the Runner" is author Adharanand Finn's recollection of uprooting his family and moving to Japan in hopes of understanding the culture of arguably the most running obsessed country on the planet. "The Way of the Runner" details Japan's infatuation with the Ekiden event - a team based relay race usually of a very long distance. In this book, you'll discover the Hakone Ekiden, Japan's biggest Ekiden race, rivaling the Super Bowl in terms of per-capita viewership, and how the race may actually be holding back Japan's elite runners from global accolades.

Tier 3 - Cracking the Top 15

15. Ultramarathon Man (Dean Karnazes - 2006) Memoir - Icon and ultrarunning pioneer Dean Karnazes describes what it's like to truly be addicted to the sport of running in "Ultramarathon Man." Featuring tales of middle of the night runs, eating whole pizzas without breaking stride, and winning races, "Ultramarathon Man" is responsible, in part, for the recent rise in popularity of the sport.

14. Life is a Marathon (Matt Fitzgerald - 2019) Memoir - Matt Fitzgerald is my favorite running author and "Life is a Marathon" is the running-centric, unflinchingly revealing, roller-coaster story of his life. The memoir toggles between stories of his biggest running moments and those of most significance in his personal life, including his personal struggle with low self-confidence and his wife's battle with mental illness. Though Fitzgerald is by no means a professional runner, nor his life story particularly unique, "Life is a Marathon" serves as a motivational source for us middle-of-the-packers trying to express what running means to us.

13. The Rise of the Ultra Runners (Adharanand Finn - 2019) Memoir - "The Rise of the Ultra Runners" is a piece that captures the current state of the ultra running phenonmenon. The book features profiles and quotes from some of the world's best ultra runners, including internet famous Sage Canaday, and legends Jim Walmsley and Kilian Jornet. It also discusses the complicated question of why the world's best ultra runners don't come from the powerhouse countries of all other running competitions, Kenya and Ethiopia. Finally, the book discusses the author's own experience in the sport of ultra running, giving a first-hand account of what it really takes to race at a distance more than 26.2 miles.

12. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (Haruki Murakami - 2008) Memoir - One of running's most famous books, "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" is the story of Japanese author Haruki Murakami's life experiences and their relation to his running career. After selling his small business to devote his life to writing, in 1982, Murakami begins running to fill the void left after leaving his busy entrepreneurial career. Running begins to feed his passion for writing, and vice versa, inspiring running adventure stories in Greece, Japan, Hawaii and New York. "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" is a relatable, yet captivating tale of one man's life and his passion to run.

11. Let Your Mind Run - (Deena Kastor - 2018) Memoir - Olympic medalist Deena Kastor's memoir, "Let Your Mind Run" details the complete and chronological running career of the American legend. Kastor's autobiography teaches us that being born with talent is only a piece of what is required to achieve greatness. Taking us through her youth running career and collegiate struggles before ultimately reaching her professional breakthrough, Kastor explains how she unlocked greatness by paying attention to her thoughts, and shifting her psychology towards positive outcomes. While Kastor is one of the greatest runners in American history, her stories and insight prove inspiring and beneficial for even the most amateur enthusiasts.

Tier 2 - The Best of Science and other Greats

10. Running the Dream (Matt Fitzgerald - 2020) Memoir - The brand new work by running writing legend, Matt Fitzgerald, who, inspired by author George Plimpton's attendance at the Detriot Lions 1963 preseason training camp and subsequent book, "Paper Lion," joins the NAZ elite professional running team for 3 months in an attempt to achieve his marathon PR as a 46 year old runner.

9. Racing Weight / The New Rules of Marathon and Half Marathon Nutrition (Matt Fitzgerald 2009/2013) Science - I've combined these two books into a single entry on my list (I make the rules around here). With so many diets being pushed in the running world (veganism, keto, carnivore, etc.), these books provide clarity with scienctific studies and how to apply them in all facets of a running cycle. Racing Weight was published in 2009, and in the ten years since, it has held up tremendously well.

8. Running with the Kenyans (Adharanand Finn - 2012) Memoir - The quest to answer the question: What makes Kenyan runners so much better than everyone else? Spoiler alert: it's a combination of factors. "Running with the Kenyans" is the story of running author Adharanand Finn's journey to Africa in an attempt to understand what makes the Kenyans so damn fast.

7. Fast Girl: A Life Spent Running from Madness (Suzy Favor Hamilton - 2015) Memoir - The unbelievable autobiography of Olympian turned Las Vegas escort Suzy Hamilton and her battle with mental health. While there are many stories of destructive behavior in endurance sport literature, this is perhaps the most unique and unexpected.

6. Endure (Alex Hutchinson - 2018) Science - The ultimate scientific overview of human limits in endurance sports, "Endure" is an interesting read that blends scientific studies with real life anecdotes about running. Hutchinson is a legend in the sports writing world and this is his Mona Lisa, earning my top spot for pure running science book.

Tier 1 - The Classics

5. Shoe Dog (Phil Knight - 2016) Memoir - The origin story of Phil Knight, founder and CEO of Nike. An amazing book that I considered for the top spot, but ultimately, it fell short because, while running is a theme of the story, the book centers more on business and other topics.

4. Once a Runner / Again to Carthage / Racing the Rain (John L. Parker Jr. - 1999/2005/2015) Fiction - The fictional trilogy of Quenton Cassidy, a Floridian youth runner whose running and life chronicles are intertwined with Vietnam era politics and struggles. Rather than ranking these three novels individually, I grouped them together, with "Once a Runner" being my favorite and earning the top spot for running fiction book.

3. Running Man (Charlie Engle - 2016) Memoir - The autobiography of one-time crack cocaine addicted, alcoholic ultramarathoner Charlie Engle. This amazing story highlights detailed accounts of addiction, incarceration, recovery, and the flourishing of an ultra running career filled with running feats and firsts that earns the top spot for running autobiography.

2. Born to Run (Christopher McDougall - 2009) Memoir Science - Perhaps no book in the history of literature has been more influential on runners than "Born to Run." "Born to Run" tells the story of the author's struggle to stay healthy running, intertwined with the story of elite American ultramarathoners competing against native Mexican runners of the Tarahumara tribe. The book poses a simple question that remains unanswered more than 10 years after its publication: do modern shoes make us better runners or more injury prone?

1. Unbroken - (Laura Hillenbrand - 2010) Memoir - The amazing survival story of American Olympian Louis Zamperini, whose pursuit of a gold medal at the Olympic games was put on hold as he joined the Army Air Forces during World War II.

Admittedly, I haven't read every running book in existence - no one has. Here are a handful of other running-related books on my to-read backlog. I plan on updating my list as I finish these. If you have other suggestions, hit me up on goodreads.

Easy Portobello Sandwiches

date April 30, 2020 location The Kitchen

As the warm weather is starting to tease us with its presence in the Midwest, I decided to take my first crack at the grill of this season, and what better way to do that than a grilled portobello sandwich. This recipe is super simple, quick, and best of all, requires little cleanup. My only complaint is, as a runner, the macros aren't great and the protein content from the mushrooms and cheese aren't high enough to offset the added carbs from the bread.

Ingredients (makes 2 sandwiches):

4 Bread Slices
2 Portobello Mushrooms
1 Bell Pepper
1 Garlic Clove (minced)
1 Green Onion (chopped)
1 bunch Parsley (minced)
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
2 slices of Soft Cheese (Mozzarella, Provolone, etc)
(optional side of asparagus)

Slice the bell pepper in half and remove the seeds.
In a small bowl, combine the bell pepper, portobello mushrooms, garlic clove, and olive oil.

Apply olive oil on both sides of the bread. Grill the mushrooms, bell pepper, and bread until cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side.

Top two of the bread slices with cheese and melt in the grill or under the oven broiler.

Slice the bell pepper into thin slices.
Assemble the sandwiches by topping one of the cheese-less halves with the mushroom, pepper slices, and herbs.

Goes great with a side of roasted asparagus!