And Then the Vulture Eats You

John L. Parker Jr.

Book cover

My dad sent me this book since I am planning on running my first ultramarathon in September (the Berkeley Trail Adventure 50k). My dad is also a distance runner, but has only attempted one ultra, which he dropped because of weather conditions.

Like my dad, I enjoy reading running-related books during my training, to keep my enthusiasm up. As it turned out, this book was especially important for me because I had it with me on a business trip to Boston where, on my very first day running, something weird happened that strained something in my back. The result was that I didn’t run for the rest of the trip, or the day I got back. This is a surprisingly bad feeling (the not running, aside from the back pain), and it was great for me to have the book to still have a link to running (other than looking wistfully at all the unused gear I had packed) while I was recovering.

I wasn’t sure what to make of this one when I looked it over. It is from a different era. Originally published in 1990 or so, it consists of several independent essays, most of which were previously published in magazines, that together give a sort of picture of ultrarunning in the late 1970s and 1980s. It’s a totally different world from today’s ultra world, where the top athletes are all sponsored by equipment companies, and races like the Western States 100 (which just happened yesterday) draw a relatively large amount of attention. Most of all, I think the difference is that today, if you are interested in ultrarunning it is easy to find a ton of information on the internet. Back then, that wasn’t the case, and people who were interested had to search for like-minded individuals, and scour the backs of magazines for advertisements for the odd ultra event.

The essays in this book were all pretty enjoyable. They are about a wide variety of events, from the WS100, to a 6-day race, a couple of single- or multi-day race series, a run organized by the author with a few of his friends, and a run undertaken by the author just on his own. Some of these events had almost no appeal to me, while others were very compelling. But I thought all of the authors had interesting things to say about the mental, emotional, and social challenges of distance running, as well as of course the physical challenges. The most appealing essay to me was about a (non-race) run across Indiana organized by the author with some of his friends. I really like the idea of organizing a grassroots running event based on some oddball idea.

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars