Read and Run: Get Inspired and Run Your First Ultra

Learn from the masters.

Need a new challenge? Think you can’t run beyond the standard 26.2 mile marathon? Want to run your first ultra marathon, like maybe your first 50 miler? Need some inspiration? Let me share a little story with you.

It was 12 years ago on a Sunday night. I was lying on the sofa in our family room. I was watching 60 Minutes on CBS. Leslie Stahl introduces her story — The Toughest Race.

She begins to talk about ultraunning, Dean Karnazes and Pam Reed. I had never heard of ultrarunning and these two world class elite ultramarathoners.

I was totally engrossed and mesmerized. I did not want the interview to end. Amazing! These two people run distances from 100 miles and beyond! How is that possible? I was intrigued by their training, their diet, and the toll ultramarathons takes on their body in all kinds of terrain and climate.

I Can Run an Ultra!

While watching the interview, I was simultaneously having a little talk with myself and concluded…hmm…this sounds very tempting. I can do it! I can run an ultra! After all I was a veteran of over 6 half-marathons. And what got me to the half-marathon distance was a bunch of 5Ks. What got me to 9 marathons was the half-marathons. So what was holding me back from attempting my first ultra? Nothing! Besides, I was bored and not really tired after 26.2 miles. I still had some gas in my tank. And I really needed a new challenge in my life.

As soon as Leslie’s Stahl’s interview with Dean and Pam was over, I got off the sofa and made myself comfortable on the computer desk chair. I googled ‘ultramarathons’ and voila! Up came the JFK 50 miler. Not long after, I registered. The next week I bought Dean’s Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner. I devoured it. I then bought Pam’s The Extra Mile. Devoured it, too.

From my running books collection. ©Miriam Diaz-Gilbert

Reading and Running Lots of Miles

In this post, I share some running and ultrarunning books by running experts, ordinary runners, and elite world class ultrarunners. The running and ultrarunning books captured in the photo line the bookcase in my writing sanctuary. These books have inspired, and continue to inspire me to keep running ultras. It’s a good thing I love books, reading, and running lots, and lots of miles!

When I first started running ultras, I would take Ultramarathon Man, the book not Dean, with me to each race. On the drive to the race site, I would read over things he wrote and that I underlined in the book that inspired me like “Why run 10 miles when you can run 100? Moderation bores me.” If you subscribe to Pam Reed’s perspective, running a 100 miles doesn’t have to be hard. In The Extra Mile she writes, “In my mind, I’m not really running 100 miles. I’m running 1 mile one hundred times.”

If you crave a challenge or are seeking a new way to cope with life’s difficulties, running your first ultra just might be par for the course. In Running on Empty, Marshall Ulrich writes, “running is a reflection of my upbringing, a work ethic; a personal challenge….” In Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness, Scott Jurek shares that “life, much like an ultramarathon keeps you pushing forward.” Overcoming the challenge of arduous and grueling ultras helps us to cope with the difficulties of life.

Be Transformed

These ultrarunners are great running mentors. These inspiring books have transformed me. They have shaped my ultrarunning life. They have enhanced my mental strength and guided my running legs and feet to progress from the marathon, to the 50 miler, to the 100K, to the 100 miler, and to the 24 hour ultra. I’ve already begun plotting my first 48 hour ultra next spring. My ultrarunning life continues to be a journey of endurance, perseverance, patience, suffering, humility, and joy — universal themes that are common threads in these running books and in life.

So what’s stopping you? Lace up your shoes and spring into action. Grab one of these books, or two or three. Read and be inspired to run your first ultra. Let your ultrarunning journey begin with the turn of a page. Learn from and be inspired by the masters. Be transformed. Never stop reading and never stop running a new challenge!

Originally published at

Thrive Global

More than living. Thriving.

Miriam Diaz-Gilbert

Written by

Ultrarunner|Author|WritingMy Memoir

Thrive Global

More than living. Thriving.

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