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Behind the Book


Q&A with Marsh


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From the Foreword
by Chris McDougall

From Heather’s Journals
Excerpt 1 | Excerpt 2 | Excerpt 3


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Excerpt 1. “Liar”                                              

Day 9 ... Marshall stayed at the RV from 6:59 until 11:04 p.m., and got some (maybe 3 hours?) of restless sleep. This was a horrible stop for him and for me. I knew he had been struggling physically. His Achilles, his knees, his back—but this was the first time that he broke down emotionally.

He told me that all he can think about is how much his joints hurt. That he’s frustrated that he continues to be so slow; that he can’t get his speed back. What could I say? There was no way that Marshall was going to cover 70 miles a day in 15? 17? hours like he did that first day in San Francisco. And there was no way that I could turn back the clock to make him 40-something again (as Charlie Engle was), the time/age that Marshall was at his peak in ultrarunning.

All he can think about is how much his joints hurt.

I can’t remember what, exactly, I said. I’m sure I reassured him that he was doing amazingly well. Told him how proud I was of him, of how many miles he had already come. That he was doing this all on very little—too little—sleep, and that the best thing he could do now was just rest. That I was here with him. That I would stay with him.

That it would be okay.


It broke my heart. Truly. I know people say that a lot, but it’s true. I absolutely hated to see him suffer. I wanted to yell, “Then STOP!!! It's all in your control. Please, please, stop. *I* can't take this anymore. You’re killing *me*, too. Not to mention [our crew] Roger and Kathleen and (to a lesser extent) Dr. Paul, too. I didn’t want you to do this in the first place. *I* definitely didn't want to do this. I especially never wanted to be your crew chief. What the hell are you doing to me? To yourself? Please ... just stop.”

That was all in my head. And my heart. Out loud, I only said that it would be fine, and held him as he tried to sleep.

In truth, Marshall’s slower pace and less than 70 miles a day (60 and 62 the last two days) had allowed Charlie to start catching up. Reports were that Charlie hoped to be at the Motel 6, only a couple of miles from where Marshall was currently trying to get some sleep, by midnight. I’m certain (now) that those reports were exaggerated. But it was true that Days 7, 8 and 9 were better days for Charlie than they were for Marshall, and he was closing that +70-mile gap that Marshall had gained on him around Fallon.

Despite Marshall’s physical and emotional challenges—just so many of them!—he got up and out the door of the RV again at 11:04 p.m. ...

<<Back to main Journals page | Read the next excerpt from Heather’s journal >>


Copyright 2010-2011 by Marshall Ulrich