One of the lessons kids learn growing up is to “always look on the bright side.” It’s usually a lesson that comes at the most annoying of times, but you have to admit it’s true; sometimes you just gotta look on the bright side.

So what’s the up side of a sprained ankle? Being forced to slow down and curl with a good book about running across America.

I’d checked out Running On Empty by Marshall Ulrich from the library a few weeks ago, and finally got around to sitting down and cracking it open.

running on empty marshall ulrich

Running on Empty is “an ultramarathoner’s story of love, loss, and a record-setting run across America.”

The book recounts Marshall’s start in the world of running as an adult struck by overwhelming grief, and goes on to give a detailed account of his run across America at age 57- 3,063 miles in 52 days.

marshall ulrich

By now, Dean Karnazes seems to be a household name, but holy cow does Marshall Ulrich deserve some superhuman credit. Not only is this guy a record setting, seemingly unstoppable ultramarathoner, he’s climbed all Seven Summits, including Mt Everest; he’s completed 9 crazy insane eco-challenge races that put the idea of Survivor to shame; and as if finishing the Leadville Trail 100 and Pikes Peak Marathon isn’t badass enough, he did them in the same weekend.

marshall ulrich with team stray dogs

Sprained ankle or not, I’m starting to feel pretty darn lazy.

Although I was thoroughly impressed with this guy’s stats, the book didn’t draw me in at first. I was put off by the way he pushed away and alienated his family so he could run. I like to think one of the things that makes ultrarunners so admirable is that they find the time to train for races of unimaginable distances while still making time for daily life and their family.

But as I continued to read, the events of his run across America drew me in. His trouble with his emotions and his family made you appreciate the growth he found in himself and his relationships on his epic journey on foot.

marshall ulrich at badwater ultramarathon

The number of injuries he sustained while running more than 2 marathons per day for almost 2 months were almost uncountable. I still can’t decide if it makes me mad he ran through his injuries {a giant running no-no} or impressed that he was able to push through.

My favorite line? “Marshall keeps going forward because there’s no looking back,” said by Christopher McDougall, the author of my favorite running book Born to Run.

All in all, it’s a great book to read just to see what the human body is capable of, and to get just a little bit of insight into what goes through an ultramarathoner’s head as he runs and runs day after day.


If you’ve read Running on Empty, what did you think? What’s your favorite running/sports book?