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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Diaz-Gilbert

Review of Janet Patkow's The Impossible Long Run: My Journey to Becoming Ultra

Updated: Jan 18

In her self-published book, The Impossible Long Run: My Journey to Becoming Ultra (2019), first time ultra runner Janet Patkowa writes a chronological account of how she trained for the 2016 American River 50 mile ultra.

A runner as a youth and in high school, she gains weight as an adult. She has a scare at work when she finds herself winded and experiencing palpitations. She’s warned by her doctor that she might have adult onset diabetes.

She works on losing weight by getting a Fitbit and running. Always in search of a new challenge, Janet even applies for a spot on Survivor but it doesn’t pan out.

She finds another challenge when she comes across the podcast Becoming Ultra where first time aspiring ultra runners are encouraged to apply to be matched with a running coach to train for their first ultra.

Janet gets selected and is matched with Ian Sharman, whom she pays to train her by email for the American River 50 miler. Having interviewed Ian about ultrarunning for my website blog, she was in good hands. He is a sensible elite ultrarunner and coach.

Janet writes about her training runs, races, and the Carlsbad Marathon in preparation for her first ultra.

In The Impossible Long Run Janet weaves in excerpts from her interviews with Becoming Ultra host Scott Jones, alongside Ian.

In these interviews Janet shares her training progress. She's frank about her knee problems, hip pain, heel pain, anxiety, and the ups and downs of training. Janet shares the doubt and reluctance she experiences about her long training miles and finishing her first ultra.

Ian offers tips, advice, support, encouragement, a training schedule of lots of miles, and races for Janet to enter before tackling American River 50.

Because the short forty-three chapters in The Impossible Long Run are written in methodical chronological detail, the book reads more like a collection of journal entries, and training and race reports than a memoir. Nonetheless, readers will want to cheer on Janet on her journey to her first ultra.

Janet ends The Impossible Long Run: My Journey to Becoming Ultra with race day at American River 50. She writes, “I wanted the race to hurt as little as possible.”

Avoiding pain and suffering in ultras is not possible, and Janet endures both at American River. What is not evident is if or how ultrarunning transforms Janet. One is left wondering if Janet, the reluctant ultrarunner, ever runs another ultra.

If you are a newbie to the ultrarunning world and enjoy and reading detailed training and race reports, The Impossible Long Run is the book for you. Add it to your collection of running books.

And the book might even inspire you to apply to Becoming Ultra to get you motivated to run your first ultra with the help of a professional coach.

Copyright 2020

I am the author of Come What May, I Want to Run: A Memoir of the Saving Grace of Ultrarunning in Overwhelming Times. You can order the book here from from the publisher, Amazon, Bookshop, or Barnes & Noble.

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