Relentless Forward Progress is a great introduction to ultramarathons for the average marathoner. Bryon Powell does a good job of covering a lot of different topics that the curious marathoner would want to know about taking the next step.
Where he falls short, however, is in the format that that information is presented in, at least in the Kindle edition. I haven’t seen the print edition of the book, but my assumption is that the majority of the criticisms that I have are probably a non-issue in the print version.
Even with the formatting errors, the book is still worth picking up. For the experienced ultrarunner, it’s worth browsing through for the 1 or 2 ideas that may have never occurred to you and that will make your next race more enjoyable. For the marathoner looking to move up, it provides a pretty comprehensive guide, especially if you aren’t sure how to modify your training to handle the extra distance.
Here’s my full review:
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Hello! This is Blaine Moore, from RunToWin.com, and today I would like to review Bryon Powell’s new book, “Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Ultra-Marathons.”
Bryon owns the iRunFar.com website. He has a lot of experience with ultra-running. He’s been covering the sport for the last few years full-time with his website, and he has really put together a great book for the beginning ultra-runner.
It has a lot of great advice in it. There are a lot of guest articles in the book from various experts, professional athletes, and talented ultra-runners in the industry.
He has a lot of great advice for pretty much everything that you need to know if you’re moving from the marathon up to an ultra: How to adjust your training plans, how to eat for an ultra versus what you would normally do for a marathon, what kind of gear you’re going to need, running at night, running in different conditions, how to keep yourself safe (which is really important.) He does a really good job of relaying this information in a pretty easily digested format.
Now, there are a few things that I didn’t like about the book; I got the Kindle edition. So I think that his publisher really needs to do a second edition for the Kindle that’s got slightly better formatting. There are just a few things that would come up throughout book, like you might have one word a page for four or five pages. There’s a couple of spots where the images need a little work, so that they’re a little bit easier to see. The included charts aren’t really very usable. You can’t really tell the difference between a normal day and a day that’s bolded for the training plans. Or on the electrolytes chart, you really can only see about a third of it. So I think they really need to do a little bit more on the formatting aspect of it. I’m sure on the print book that that looks fine, but I haven’t actually seen the print version of it.
One of the other gripes that I have is that too much of the book is spent on the training plans and how to modify the training plans versus all of the other content that he has. He has some pre-canned plans for how to run an ultra on different amounts of mileage per week, but he has the same opinion that I do where a pre-canned plan really isn’t necessarily going to be the best thing for you and you should probably look into customizing a program for yourself or hiring a coach to customize one for you. So a lot of the book gives you really good advice on how to customize a plan, but that small piece of the content kind of takes up a large proportion of the book, because he does have to spend a few chapters before you get to the training plans, then a couple of chapters with the training plans, and then continue talking about that afterwards as well.
So, the only other real gripe I have with the book, is that there’s kind of a discontinuity as you’re reading, because while some of the guest articles that are included in the book are in the appendix, and just kind of tacked on to the end of the book, other ones are either chapters in themselves, or are a piece of a chapter. It’s a little strange to be reading the author’s voice, and then all of a sudden to have a few pages that are in somebody else’ voice, which is not necessarily anything close to what the way Bryon is writing.
So, if you’re just reading a piece of the book at a time, and this book is very easy to just say, “Oh! I’m interested in this part of ultra running, so I’m going to go straight to that part of the book.” But if you’re trying to read it from start to finish, or a few chapters at a time, it can be a little be disconcerting, and take you out of what you’re trying to do while you read the book and what you’re trying to learn.
So I’d recommend maybe moving some of those articles into the appendices at the end of the book. And I’d also move the “Call for Feedback” that he has in there. It isn’t actually at the end of the book; there’s another chapter afterwards. I’d probably move that to right in front of the appendices. But other than that, if you are thinking about running your first ultra-marathon, I’d highly recommend picking up a copy, and giving it a read.
You can find more information out about the book, and you can buy it at iRunFar.com, or you can search for it on Amazon. And if you’d like to see or read some more reviews just like this one, just visit my site at RunToWin.com.
Thanks a lot!
Bryon recently took part in the Marathon Mastermind. You can listen to his coaching session by going over to www.marathonmastermind.com and joining in yourself.
If you want to listen in for free, you’ll have to sign up today to hear Bryon, however. His coaching session ends later tonight. There are still 4 more coaching sessions coming up throughout the rest of this week that you can listen to for free.