Books Running and Stuff

Published on May 29, 2014

Running and Stuff

For many taking up running is a means of getting fitter or a bid to lose some weight, for others it’s the challenge of taking on a big city half marathon or even a full marathon. Often these challenges come and go and people tick them off their list of achievements and move onto the next thing. But what happens if you stick at one thing and keep reaching all your goals? Where is there to keep going to? These are the questions answered in James Adams’ Running and Stuff.

After starting running to tackle the London Marathon as a joke to amuse friends in 2000, Adams’ running career didn’t really take off until he moved to London in 2005 and joined a running club. As is often the way his running began to take on new focus and with new found friends to enjoy it with he increased his training and raced more. At first marathons seemed the ultimate running challenge, and one which he was getting pretty good at, that was until an email dropped into his inbox that would change everything. It detailed the Badwater Ultra-marathon, a 135mile run through Death Valley, California – the hottest place on Earth – at the peak of summer. His curiosity at such an extreme event was instantly piqued and before he knew it he had set himself a five-year goal of getting to Badwater.

This book follows not only his journey to California but what happened beyond. What could possibly follow a 135mile run through a desert? How about a 70-day, 3220mile run across North America…

Adams’ accomplishments are as great as the miles he covers; both are simply mind-boggling. To say that he undertook a few races along the way is something of an understatement and this book reads like an encyclopaedia of ultramarathons. He reels off anecdotes from races that would be at the top of many runners’ lists – would they have the balls to take them on.

For anybody who has run a handful of ultramarathons this book is massively humbling. By the time you finish it you cannot feel anything other than a complete novice by comparison, but there is never any sense of superiority from Adams, his writing is modest and down to Earth. He constantly downplays his own ability, portraying himself as pretty regular guy who has done some amazing things. Clearly he has running talent and bucket loads of mental determination, but at the heart of it he is somebody who has just pushed himself, further than many people would imagine possible.

Adams’ tales from around the world not only highlight the incredible things you can achieve once you set your mind to them, but also the generosity and kindness of strangers. People who drive hundreds of miles to crew for somebody they have never met; folks who pay for your dinner without telling you; and the solidarity of long-distance runners in ultra events.

But as heart-warming as these stories are, what truly separates this book from many others is that Adams pulls no punches in his descriptions of events. This is no shiny tale of running happiness, the frank honesty of his journey begins from the very start of the book and continues on until the end. At times it is graphic, others funny, sometimes poignant, but what it always is is truthful. If you want to know what running ultra-distances really does to a person, both physically and mentally, Running and Stuff is the place to start.

Running and Stuff by James Adams is published by Matador and available on Kindle at £4.79 from

RunningMonkey review by Ira Rainey

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