Ultra runners are a rare and endlessly fascinating breed of athletes. Not content with roads, unsatisfied by the constraints of a normal marathon, ultra runners take to the trails to push their bodies beyond the limits most people think they have.
An ultra is a running event with a distance that exceeds the marathon distance of 26.2 miles. A short ultra might be a 50K (31 miles), while an average ultra is 100 miles.
The distance alone is daunting, but when running on trails athletes have to cope with drastic elevation changes. The Hawaii HURT 100 for example includes 24,500 feet of cumulative elevation gain, and 24,500 feet of elevation loss over its five laps.
Other challenges ultra runners face include unpredictable weather, which makes ground even more treacherous, and wildlife, along with focusing on nutrition, staying on the trail, and making checkpoints on time.
A 100-mile race can take as long as 36 hours, so expect to be running those same tricky, root-riddled trails at night with only a headlamp and a hand light as your guide.
Vanessa Runs wrote a book called The Summit Seeker about her journey into the world of ultra running that is inspiring, heartbreaking and life affirming. She tracks her life through her running, digging into her past to find out why she runs, what makes her push so hard, and what her running says about her.
Pulling no punches, Vanessa attacks her story honestly; with the same intensity she uses while trekking up the Grand Canyon. You'll read about her early childhood, and her emotional honesty will have you feeling as close as you've ever felt to a writer. You'll cheer her through her first runs, and the way she writes about how it feels will make you want to put in a bookmark and lace up your shoes.
When she decides to leave all that is safe and familiar to buy an RV and become a running nomad you'll wonder where she gets her strength and courage. You'll struggle up slippery trails alongside her boyfriend and her dog, and you'll confront a mountain lion after hours of hard running.
There is a joy in Vanessa's writing. A pureness of spirit that embodies what the philosophy of a runner should be. When Vanessa writes about those who finish dead last and the respect she has for them, you'll understand what it is to be a true athlete, and how that can and should translate into all facets of life.This is not a book for ultra runners. In Vanessa's words, "It's a book with broader appeal that non-runners, road runners, marathon runners, or 5K finishers can all appreciate. I say it's about ultras, but really it's about life, transformation and renewal."