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Relentless Forward Progress – A Guide to Running Ultramarathons – Book Review

“There will be trying times in an ultra, but enjoy what you can of it. …Laugh. …Be a kid. …Be happy.” – Bryon Powell in Relentless Forward Progress


Earlier this year Bryon Powell, the talented ultra runner, writer, and Runner-in-Chief of iRunFar, released his informative running book called Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons. Bryon was extra kind and sent me a copy. After a cover to cover read, it was time to share my thoughts on it.

What’s Inside – Ultramarathon 101

Relentless Forward Progress is a book that creates awareness to a wide range of topics for those interested in running beyond 26.2 miles.

These include:

  • Basic definitions
  • Training concepts
  • 24 week training plans for 50 km, 40 mile – 100 km, and 100 mile. (peak mileage of 50 and 70 mile for each distance – mileage based training)
  • Trail running basics
  • Hydration, electrolytes, fueling
  • Body management
  • Gear
  • Racing
  • Extreme conditions

For those new to trail running and running an ultramarathon, Bryon brings to light are wide range of topics that will likely be unfamiliar territory if you are coming from the more traditional road running scene.

Have you heard of B2B runs?

Walking can be a good and smart thing!

How to hike up steep grades using your powerful glutes instead of calves and quads.

Blister prevention and management.

Do you have a pacer? huh?

Aid stations every mile? Forget about it!

My Likes

A few of my favorite sections…

I enjoyed Bryon’s insight on over-reaching and over-training which he labels as FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out. This is an easy running trap to fall into especially with all the amazing races around the country and the nearly 150 adventures in the TALON region alone. Simply a good reminder.

I also dug the happy feet section that include thoughts from John Vonhof with references to his informative site, fixingyourfeet.com. You will find many tips on how to manage what John defines as the three main culprits of those annoying blisters – moisture, friction, and heat.

Bryon also puts some attention on the between-the-ears side of the sport. One of the quotes that caught my attention – “On race day be prepared for a roller coaster of energy and emotions.” This is a great little seed of information. Although an ultra newbie will read this and likely gloss over it. On ultra race day this little seed will hopefully bloom and provide some comfort knowing that their world is not ending.

An Opportunity Area

The one section of the book I would have really liked a more serious and insightful approach is on NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) use during ultra races. As an ultra guide likely to be read by many new people entering the sport, there is an unique opportunity to really inform and emphasize the concerns and dangers of NSAID use during ultra events.

As an Ultra Guide

Radical new approach or concepts to the sport? Not in this book. As a guide, it focuses on the tried-and-true.

Will it answer all your questions? Probably not, but it will provide a huge ultra jump-start and very solid foundation. And that’s huge!

Then you must begin the journey because many of those questions can only be answered by you!

Who Would Most Benefit from Relentless Forward Progress?

Any runner considering or just beginning to explore ultra running will find the largest amount of sweet value in Relentless Forward Progress. As a guide, this book is created for those new to the sport lookin’ to shorten that ultra learning curve.

Then the best part – get outside and do it!

Explore. Play. Have fun!

Bryon’s ultra resource comes in both paper book and digital Kindle versions.

Who else has read the book? What are your thoughts?

Be active – Feel the buzz!

David – EnduranceBuzz.com

[This article contains links that may support Endurance Buzz]

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

4 Responses to “Relentless Forward Progress – A Guide to Running Ultramarathons – Book Review”

  1. on 24 Aug 2011 at 11:51 am Tim T

    Thanks for the insight. I love reading books about running. (Tales from Out there being one of my favorites). I have just started getting in to trail running over the last year and a few shorter ultras (50k). I’m wanting to extend and go beyond (50mi+).

    As I’ve done 20+marathons already both trail and road, I’m not sure this book will help me that much.

  2. on 24 Aug 2011 at 1:10 pm David Hanenburg

    Hey Tim – Tales from Out There definitely looks interesting. I haven’t read it yet, will have to add it to the list. Thanks for sharing. Another book I dig is Running Through the Wall.

    For any guide book, the more experience you have in the area, the amount of personal value in a guide book will likely be reduced or at a minimum highly variable.

    A few main topics that come quickly to mind going beyond 50k is:
    – nutrition
    – pacing
    – the mental aspects (interpret that how you like ;) )
    – gear (lights, clothing, etc)

    All of it isn’t rocket science and can be acquired through a variety of channels. The benefit of a guide book, is that it puts it all in one place for reference. Many of the topics above also require you to find what works for you…so there isn’t always “the answer”. You will need to determine “your answer”.

    As a more experienced runner, it may be best to flip through the book to get an idea of its value before purchasing.

    Happy Running!

  3. on 01 Sep 2011 at 9:16 am olga

    Glad you had a blunt and honest take on it, no ra-ra excitement. As for NSAID – he can’t do it in a book without being a medical professional.
    So, I guess I don’t need to read it? :)

  4. on 01 Sep 2011 at 9:31 am David Hanenburg

    Olga – I would have loved a couple pages of insight from a couple medical professionals familiar with ultra athletes and NSAID use. I think it deserves at least a couple pages of serious awareness expanding information. I am hopeful Bryon will add this is a future edition.

    Are you back running?

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