RUNNER by Lizzy Hawker


RUNNER by Lizzy Hawker is both humbling and inspiring to a mid-pack runner like me who spends his days pounding the pavement in the suburbs. Hawker is a legend in the ultrarunning community. She’s a five time winner of the fabled Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, she held the world record for 24 hours on the road, and she was crowned women’s world champion in the 100km.

She takes us with her through all of those grueling races. And, impressive as that may be, it’s not the racing and the accolades that move the reader, it’s Lizzy’s pure and unadulterated love for running and her adoration of the natural world. She finds peace in high places and dark hours. Running allows her to explore the immediate physical world and her own uninterrupted thoughts.

Lizzy Hawker


On long training runs, I sometimes drift into a contemplative state of mind where clarity and truth briefly reveal themselves only to be dashed once the hypnotic moment passes. The well-trained body works effortlessly and the mind is given the freedom to wander to more interesting places. The longer the run, the more interesting this mental wandering becomes.

One cannot help but be impressed with the endurance and strength of Lizzy Hawker. She runs up and over mountains, day and night, for hundreds of miles at a time. She runs through pain and discomfort, hunger and exhaustion, and pursues her goals with fierce determination even as other world-class athletes fall by the wayside.

“Focus and attention, intention and effort. These are what bring dreams to reality, that allow us to do what it is we want or need to do. And they are what give what we want or need to do meaning.” -Lizzy Hawker

The long solo efforts are indicative of an endurance athlete’s introverted personality, but Lizzy values community and finds inspiration in the kindness of strangers. The tired runner is grateful for even the tiniest gestures. A smile, or the touch of another’s hand, can make even the toughest moments bearable.

Lizzy Hawker child


Lizzy takes us on a world tour and introduces us to the places she runs. She brings us in close to share in her deepest thoughts and feelings about running. But, she leaves just enough out that we never know who she really is.

I found the last few chapters of RUNNER to be the most interesting. The always moving and inexhaustible Lizzy Hawker is forced to stand still. A series of stress fractures takes away her freedom and her passion, and force her to contemplate a life of stillness.

Anxiety flourishes in the gap between what we fear might and what we hope could happen. -Lizzy Hawker

As an injured runner, I ate up these last chapters in a single sitting. Hawker puts into words the powerful emotions of an injured runner with lucid brilliance and acumen. She writes from a place of knowledge and experience.

RUNNER by Lizzy Hawker, is an understated tale of epic accomplishments.

RUN or DIE by Kilian Jornet

Run or Die Killian JornetRun or Die
Kilian Jornet

Kilian Jornet is a world champion ultrarunner and ski mountaineer. He has run up and down Mt. Kilimanjaro faster than anyone else. The 26 year-old Spaniard is a three-time champion of the Skyrunner World Series from 2007–09 and the winner of the 2011 Western States Endurance Run. A few years back, Killian Jornet ran the 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail and stopped just twice to sleep on the ground for a total of about 90 minutes, setting a record time of 38 hours and 32 minutes. He is a monster endurance athlete.

Most of us cannot imagine what it’s like to run for days at a time, covering distances that are commonly associated with planes and tour buses. Jornet’s words convey the emotions, the misery, and the glory that come with pushing yourself to the very brink.

His story begins like so many other ultrarunners, with a supreme love and respect for the natural world. Killian Jornet grew up at 6,500 feet above sea level, on the northern slopes of Cerdanya, along the mountain frontiers with France and Andorra. He learned to navigate the woods at night without a headlamp by walking with his mother and sister in his pajamas before bedtime. The mountains and the natural world provided his entertainment and he developed a respect and a love for them from an early age.

Killian JornetBy age 3, he had already climbed Tossa Plana, Perafita, and La Muga. By age 6, he had completed four Aneto summits. And, at age 10 he crossed the Pyrenees in 42 days. As a teenager, Jornet was a cross-country ski champion. Soon after, he blended his passion for the outdoors with his talent for endurance athletics and rose to the top of the ultrarunning world.

In RUN or DIE, Killian Jornet takes you with him on some of his most epic races. You’ll traverse the length of the Tahoe Rim Trail, a 165-mile long-distance hiking trail which forms a loop around Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada and Carson ranges of California and Nevada. You’ll cross the Pyrenees, running 500 miles from the chilly Atlantic Ocean to the warm Mediterranean Sea. You’ll compete the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc, the world’s most competitive ultrarunning event outside the United States.

Jornet  will also take you on a run up and down the tallest mountain in Africa, 19,341′ Mount Kilimanjaro, in less than 8 hours. And, you’ll run a hundred dusty miles in the Western States 100 alongside American ultrarunning legends Anton Krupicka and Geoff Roes. Along the way you’ll marvel at the audacity of Jornet and others like him.

Killian Jornet has a gift for accurately describing the natural environment, the physical experience of running for days, and the resulting emotional fatigue. I haven’t run beyond marathon distance, but I feel like I am so much closer after reading this book. Jornet is a gifted storyteller. He can describe and relate the seemingly indescribable.