At a glance
I recently read 50/50 by Dean Karnazes. The book is about Karnazes' accomplishing 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days and some tips for improving your running ability. As all Karnazes' books, there is pretty well written. On the other hand, having read Ultra Marathonman, Run!, this one starts to be a little bit too much. Some advices are very obvious if you are an experienced runner and sometimes, you feel the dude is full of himself. To sum up: you just started running, need basic tips/advices and some inspirational stories? Go for it! You are already an experienced runner and/or already read a book from him? Better to change your mind and pick another book!
"Run Forrest, Run!"
Inspiration, inspiration ...
The storyline is pretty simple and basic: Dean wanted to complete 50 marathons in 50 days and 50 states. The North Face company sponsored him and got a van with a crew that bring him everyday in a new state to complete his 26.2 run. As the challenge is on for 50 consecutive days, some marathons are re-created during week days and only few runners can join. Other are live events where Karnazes run as a regular participant.
In one event, only one runner joined the race while some others have several thousands enthusiastic runners. During the book, Karnazes' talks about its charity business (No Child left Inside - to fight children obesity by promoting healthy eating and activity) but also how he made connections over his journey (such as running with Mike Huckabee, an advocate for activity and healthy eating). There are a ton of inspiring people and that reflects the diversity of the running community and the diverse motivations for starting running: some are cancer survivors, others just wanted to fight an addiction and some just want to lose weight. One interesting aspect is the impact of Karnazes' challenges on other people lives, and not only running: some teachers follow his travels to help children learning how to count using floating point ("after twelve days, how many miles Dean did?") or even geography ("where is the next state he will be running?"). There is no debate: this is a fantastic achievement and even if many runners would be able to do the same, it
The real take-away?
Sometimes, the book turns out like this is written by a dude that is full of himself and this is probably the limitations of writing about running: as this is a solo activity, you end up by talking mostly about ... you. Even if Karnazes tried to say he is a regular and normal dude, you can't think he is proud of himself. This is fair enough: he completed an amazing challenge and this is definitively an impressive achievement. But sometimes, it just appears to be too much. Also, this current book contains stories from previous ones. So, you sometimes feel you already read it before and it would be better to make some chapters shorter. Needless to told same story twice and people who really want to learn more about the guy will read the other books ...
Also in this book, you also see that such endeavor has some drawbacks and what is the cost of achieving this challenge. Everything comes at a cost and training for this challenge took all Karnazes' time. As he reported, apart running and family, there is no room for anything else at all at all. Even social life, there is none. It seems that Karnazes does not seem to care at all and have no regret about it. But for the average Joe, it might not be so appropriate and this might not be the appropriate model to follow, lacking of some balance between running and just enjoy time with relatives.
On the other hand, the book do not try to convince readers to use a particular training plan/lifestyle or see Karnazes' way to train as the only way to go. Instead, it lists a number of advices you can try and use for yourself. This non-dogmatic approach is probably a good aspect for the book: running advices/tips tend to be dogmatic ("if you do not stretch, you will be injured" or "if you do not carb-load in the pre-race diner, you will not have enough energy to make it to the finish") while the book focuses on some advices and invites people to give it a try. It's then up to you to use them or not (or even better: improve them!)
Should I read it?
For beginner runners who are trying to read an inspirational story and get some good running tips about training, lifestyle, nutrition, etc. 50/50 might be a very good book to read. You will enjoy the description of several races, learn about Karnazes journey across America and have some tips to train.
On the other hand, if you are not new into running, have some experiences and already have your own training plan an diet, this book might not be appropriate. The advices are pretty basic and you already know most of what is discussed. Try to read another book or save your money to sign up for a nice local race.
Finally, if you never read any book from Karnazes and want to discover the guy, it would be better to read Ultramarathon Man, probably the best book from this dude so far.