Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Book review: The Extra Mile by Pam Reed

I think I had peripherally heard of Pam Reed, possibly in Born to Run, but I wouldn't have thought to read about her if I hadn't gotten this book as a Valentine's Day present from my husband.  If he'd really thought about what he was doing, he would never have picked it up because the more I read about longer races the more I think, Maybe.....

In this memoir, Reed touches on her upbringing and competitive history, including cheerleading and college tennis.  She doesn't shy away from the more controversial aspects of her life.  She talks matter-of-factly about her struggle with anorexia, although in the book it isn't presented so much as a struggle as it is a quirk, and she is upfront about the way that he second (current) marriage started as an affair. 

Of course, the meat of the book recounts Reed's emergence as a top ultrarunner, notably her surprising first win at Badwater in 2002.  Much of the book recounts her participation in marathons, ultramarathons, and 24- and 48-hour races, but she also takes the time to talk in depth about the sacrifices of her crew and just what it means to crew for an ultra.  She writes about balancing a family and a running career, and she seems very passionate about increasing women's participation in endurance sports.

While Pam Reed's story is one of amazing accomplishments, her book is not a particularly compelling one.  In school, my teachers always emphasized Show, don't tell, and I think this is one of the book's failings. As I said above, it seems very honest and matter-of-fact, but it's just her telling you about her life.  The experience of reading the book wasn't one of being there.  I can't help but compare it to Born to Run (granted, a very different book), which was fascinating.  I felt like I was there.  Moreover, it made me want to throw away my running shoes and run barefoot to Mexico.   Reed's book, on the other hand, didn't inspire me to do anything more than finish so I could move on to something more interesting.


  1. Hi there! Just read your blog for the first time, and I liked the review of the Tiger Mother book. There's been some publicity about it here in the UK and I'd liked to read it. I read Pillars of the Earth about 15 years ago, and I love it!

  2. Thanks for the review. Doesn't sound like a book I would LOVE...You've convinced me that I probably won't be missing out too much if I DON'T read it. :) Ha! I still have Born to Run on my dresser collecting dust. must read it!

  3. yes I have read Little Bee! I loved it...made me think and I think I was pretty shaken by it...I'm very very sensitive so sometimes I don't do well with heavy topics but it is all good stuff to think about.

  4. I've heard of the book, but this is the first review I've read on it. I guess I'll just stick to reading ultra runner's blogs!