This book review is unlike others I’ve done recently, mainly because I know the author personally, and I happen to be a big fan.
I’ve had opportunities to spend time with Bryon Powell both on and off the trail, and can attest that his dedication to the sport of ultrarunning is absolutely remarkable. He’s probably the first-ever beat reporter that our sport has ever seen; Bryon’s been known to drive back and forth across the country and even travel overseas in order to provide front-line coverage of major events for his iRunFar website. And while he has very impressive talent of his own – sub-20 hours and age group winner at Western States, top 10 at Leadville – he has spent the better part of two years publicizing the exploits of countless other top ultrarunners all over the world.
He also has a mission to strengthen and support the ultrarunning community through various avenues. His website is an outstanding interactive resource with contributions from elites and midpack runners alike. He offers coaching services for runners of all abilities, and is a contributor to several major publications such as Outside, Running Times, and Trail Runner magazines.
It’s that same spirit of helping others that is the premise of Relentless Forward Progress, an ultrarunning instruction manual that was released this spring. The book contains excerpts from previous articles, extensive original content, and contributions from many elite runners – and it’s definitely the most comprehensive overview of trail running and ultrarunning that I’ve ever seen.
Bryon essentially starts from square one – what is an ultramarathon, basics of trail running, and so on – and touches on pretty much every conceivable angle that ultrarunners consider in training and racing. Although it’s generally targeted towards novices, it’s a great resource for experienced ultrarunners as well, if for no other reason than to compare notes with people who have achieved a great deal of success in the sport. I’ve been an ultrarunner for almost 10 years now, and I quickly found a few tips that I started implementing into my own training and racing this spring.
One of the things I really appreciate about the book is that while it’s chock full of specific instructions like day to day training schedules, hydration strategies, and trail etiquette, Bryon also recognizes that there’s no magic formula that works for everybody. For example, I was especially interested to read Bryon’s take on barefoot and minimalist running, because it’s a topic he and I have discussed at length in the past. In Relentless Forward Progress he essentially lays out the rationale for minimalism without specifically endorsing or dismissing it; he then includes an appendix by noted barefoot experts Michael Sandler and Jessica Lee from RunBare.com. Similarly, with topics such as speed work, cross training, weekly mileage, and selecting an ideal race, he presents all the pertinent information and lets you decide for yourself.
Considering how much the popularity of ultrarunning has exploded in recent years, a book like this was long overdue, and Bryon was probably the perfect person to write it. And luckily for one of my readers, Bryon thought that I was the perfect person to give one away. I have a signed copy of Relentless Forward Progress that I’ll give away to one reader; leave a comment below this post, and I’ll announce a winner this weekend. If you’d rather not wait, the book is available for $11 from Amazon.com, and for $10 in Kindle format.
Very big thanks to my friend Bryon Powell for providing this book for review, and good luck to everyone who enters!
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