Friday, November 8, 2019

Book Review: The Pursuit of Endurance: Harnessing the Record-Breaking Power of Strength and Resilience

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"Endurance isn't the ability to overcome pain, it is the ability to embrace it with no end in sight."
"Endurance is about trusting the invisible voice you believe in, even if nobody else does. Because there's just as good a chance as not that something's really there.
"But endurance is the ability to continue despite past results and with disregard for future outcomes." 
Jennifer Pharr Davis, author, National Geographic Adventurer of the year, and record holder of the fastest-known time on the Appalachian Trail for four years --her record was broken by Scott Jurek, whose book North details his Appalachian Trail run-- shares stories of feats of endurance as well as her own story in the very engaging The Pursuit of Endurance. Like Jurek's book, I expected The Pursuit of Endurance to be Pharr Davis' story, but instead, she shares her story along with the stories of many others who have inspired her. Interspersed throughout the book are tips and advice to guide the reader to developing endurance as well as mental toughness. She believes and espouses that anyone who really wants to do can push themselves farther than they think.


"What was my capacity for endurance? Was it good enough to set a fastest known time? And could I outperform all the men who had come before me?"
Timing is everything and as I finished this book, I learned of Maggie Guterl's first place win at Big's Backyard Ultra. Guterl won the looped event after running 230 miles. Endurance events are one arena where the playing field is level and women can compete alongside men and even beat them. While men have the advantage of lean muscle mass, heart size, and VO2 max, women have improved movement economy and central drive, which levels the playing field in long-distance races. Female endurance athletes use body fat for fuel, which also gives them an advantage over their lower fat male counterparts. I found this information fascinating!

Yet Pharr Davis is mentored by mostly male endurance athletes and her book reads like a who's who of ultradistance athletes. Warren Doyle, David Horton, Scott Jurek, and Andrew Thompson are some of the ultradistance athletes that she mentions in The Pursuit of Endurance. Some of these men mentored her--others were influential in her journey. I've heard how tight-knit the ultra community is and by all accounts, these runners support each other and celebrate victories, even when records of their own are broken.

I found The Pursuit of Endurance to be immensely readable and interesting. Pharr Davis is a prolific writer and at times I lost myself in the adventures shared on the pages. I'm not an ultrarunner nor do I desire to be one, but I do find inspiration in the stories of runners, particularly women, who push themselves to attempt endeavors that the average person wouldn't dream of. As an aside, Pharr Davis was pregnant when she finished her FKT attempt. It seems the sky is the limit for women and it will be exciting to see what the next generation of young women do in the world of endurance events.

Pharr Davis ends the book with thoughts on the future of endurance and the pursuit of the FKT in the era of more athletes pursuing records, the use of GPS, and the honesty of athletes. She shares what she's learned from her fellow trail runners. She reminds her readers to continue to move forward.
"Don't be afraid of failure. Endurance is failure, after failure, after failure."
Can women outlast men? On the trails, that is... /via @oldrunningmom @JenPharrDavis @penguinrandom #running #runchat #endurance #FKT

Have you read "The Pursuit of Endurance"? It's a bargain for the Kindle on Amazon right now! Would you ever try to run or hike an ultradistance? Do you draw inspiration from stories like Pharr Davis'?

I'm linking up with Fridays with Fairytales and Fitness.





30 comments :

  1. I have not read this book, but it's getting added to my Christmas wish list! I think this would be a perfect read for me as I'm trying to decide what I want my 2020 goals to be. Since I don't think I'm doing any more marathons, I need to figure out what's next in terms of races, etc.

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    1. I'd love to do trail races--but not ultra distance races! I really enjoyed this book--it's fascinating to read aboout what goes on in the mind of these runners.

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  2. I don't think I really draw inspiration from that sort of story -- I wonder a lot more about what sort of demons are driving people who run ultras, and yet of course I do have friends (or at least acquaintances) that do.

    I am fascinated by endurance, and what it takes, OTOH. And yes, I believe most of us can do far more than we think we can. And that failure goes hand in hand with success.

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    1. While I have no desire to run an ultra, I do feel inspired but the runners who push themselves beyond their limits. Talk about mental toughness! I could use some of that.

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  3. This sounds like a good read! Crewing for the Leadville 50m and 100m are as close to ultra running as I've gotten (and care to get). The runners (and their crew) we met along the way were truly fascinating. It really is a community and culture unto itself.

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    1. It's so interesting! While I have no aspirations to run that far, I love the inspiration!

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  4. This sounds like a book that both my husband and myself would love. I also have no desire to run an ultra but I have several friends who do and I admire them for their toughness.

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    1. I'm always amazed at the tenacity of ultra distance athletes!

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  5. Thank you for that review! I will definitely be reading that book. I have run ultras in the past (100k) and draw huge inspiration from books like this. Interesting detail on the fat for fuel thing ;-)
    I am still waiting for my "Sherman" book, I am on the waiting list at the library.

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  6. I have not read this book, but I haven't read a good running book for a while and I need to find a good one. Some inspiration would be very welcome right about now.I don't think I could talk Bill into another ultra and I don't want to train for one by myself, so that is probably not going to happen.

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    1. Isn't there someone else you could train with? You should do it!

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  7. This sounds like a really inspirational read! I totally agree that there is a huge mental component to sports and some people are able to tap into that better than others. Looks like a good one for holiday read!

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    1. I know that most of my issues with running are mental. I sure enjoyed reading about people pushing through barriers!

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  8. I have put this on my wishlist - it's not even available for Kindle here but it sounds like a great one to pick up. I have no desire to push myself that hard, but I will admit that I found doing my ultra less taxing than I expected (the training though, argh, and I didn't even train that hard for it!!), so there's something in that.

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    1. I like the idea of not pushing to run fast...just being able to run far.

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  9. Sounds like a great book! I love the idea of doing an ultra but I am not at a point right now where i have enough of a desire to go for it. Maybe one day though!

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  10. Sounds like a great read. I have aspirations to ((someday)) do Rim2Rim2Rim. I love the challenge of pushing the distance.

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  11. Oh, I thought all athletes (male or female) used body fat for fuel IF they were in a state where they had no more carbs to burn (i.e. first thing in the morning, with nothing but water), and that it wasn't tied to gender. Or is it just that women burn MORE fat for fuel because we have more of it? (All I know is what I've read or heard in podcasts though... I'm no expert!)

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    1. Women do burn more fat for fuel, which is what makes them better at endurance.

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  12. I'm with you, I have no desire to run an ultra but I do like to read about their experiences. I like some of the youtube videos as well. I will have add this book to my list. Thanks!

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    1. I'll watch some of the YouTube videos when I'm running on the treadmill. Their suffering seems to make mine trivial!

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  13. I too have no desire to run an Ultra ( my marathons were the limit...haha), but Kudos to people who do. I do like the thought of being out on the trails where most Ultras are ran. I wouldn't mind being out there for ours on a hike! -M

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    1. 100% agree! I totally get the appeal of an ultra on a trail.

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  14. I love inspiring reads like this. I too have no desire to run an ultra and wonder why anyone would but I guess many people would say the same about marathoners. Have you seen the movie/documentary The Barkley Marathons? Crazy what people will attempt.
    Thanks for the book review!

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    1. I did see that documentary, as well as Gary Robbins' story, Where Dreams Go to Die.

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  15. I read this book right before my fall marathon this year and loved it! I so appreciate that you love to read and do book reviews on your blog. I found your blog after I stumbled upon your post grumbling about the Runner's World paywall. I felt the same way, and have been enjoying reading your blog ever since!

    Christy

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