Running on Empty: Review, interview, and giveaway

Marshall Ulrich is one tough dude. His resume as an adventure racer and ultramarathoner stands alone–he’s run more than one hundred foot races averaging 125 miles each; he’s summited Everest; he’s completed 12 expedition-length adventure races. And he’s won a heck of a lot of these events. All of which prepared him for the ultimate challenge of running across America 2 1/2 years ago, which he did with the 3rd fastest time ever, at the age of 57.
Pretty amazing journey, all of which he chronicles in his just released book, Running on Empty. It’s a fascinating story that takes you across the U.S. on his adventure, showcasing the good, the bad and the ugly. While it’s a story of this amazing athletic endeavor, it’s also a story of a man finding himself out there on that 3,000-plus mile stretch of road. That’s the aspect I found most interesting, which is why when I got to interview him, I focused on that part of the story. Below, my Q & A with Marshall Ulrich:
Q: It sounds to me that after the run across America, you came to a place of peace. Is that still the case?
A: I came to a place of peace in my own mind that has continued through the present. That peace centers around not thinking that I HAVE to go to and beat the pavement to feel whole. Rather, I turn to my wife and my children for support. It still takes effort and willingness on my part, but I’m learning the value of being able to rely on others to help me through rough times.
Q: I have doubts that someone with your background and make-up can truly let all the record-setting attempts go.
A: I’m always looking for new challenges so those are what I look to for motivation, but with some of my greater efforts, such as summiting Everest and the solo and quad Badwater runs, they are history. I’m content with my effort as I know I gave them my all and will not do them again. 
Q: Do you think you truly know yourself now?
A: Not entirely. I have come to accept that I’m always learning about myself. Mostly I’m coming to terms that I can’t do what I used to do and that I’m extremely vulnerable and weak at times. It’s allowed me to relax and accept myself where I am right now.
Q: At the end of the book, you talk about limits being self-imposed. I agree, but I also think that we have to carefully consider the impact taking on challenges like you have has on others. Early on, it’s clear you didn’t take that into consideration. What advice would you offer others today on finding the right balance between meeting challenges and giving loved ones what they need as well?
A: Finding balance in one’s life is difficult, but is is the key as well. It’s easy to be passionate about a sport such as running. When that starts taking on a life of its own, however, it’s time to do an evaluation. What is really important in your life, is it family first, then work, then sports? Or are things out of order? If so, we need to make a critical evaluation of who we are and if we are willing to change.
Q: On a physical level, how are you feeling these days? 
A: It’s now been almost 2 1/2 years since the run and I still struggle mentally motivating myself to get out  and run. So that is gradual. Physically, it took me a full 1 1/2 years before I felt back to near normal–I just felt tired and lacking in strength. As of today, I’m returning back to where I was before the run, but I feel I will never be the same.
Want to win a copy of Running on Empty? Thanks to TLC Books, I’ve got a copy to give away. To enter:
  • Be a follower or become one
  • Tell me how you balance your love of sport with your love of family

I’ll pick a winner via on 4/21.

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  1. Vanessa @ Gourmet Runner says

    How interesting! The man is amazing. It's hard to find balance. I would say, when running is making me healthier, happier, and a better person–it's good for those around me. I have more energy and love to give. When running causes me to be worn out, or grumpy, or sick from lack of sleep, then I'm not a good family member and I need to re-adjust the ratio a bit.

  2. C2Iowa says

    Great report.

    I am a follower.
    Balance – that is a tough one. Can only try to do the best that I can. Constantly changing.

  3. LisaMM says

    Great Q&A! Marshall is amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and for being on the tour for Running on Empty!

  4. Sara says

    I'm a follower! I balance running and family the best I can!!!! It is hard because my husband does not understand WHY I love to run or why I WANT to run in races and constantly try to improve myself. I set aside Monday nights and Sundays where I do not run (or talk about it much!) to spend time with just him and I.

    Thank you for the giveaway. :)

  5. Karen says

    I'm a follower. I balance fitness and family by doing most of my running while everyone else is asleep. I also told my husband he could pick the location of my big races…not sure if I'll actually follow through on that one, though. :)

  6. Mamarunsbarefoot says

    I follow you!! Balance is hard and I think somedays it leans towards running another towards family. It is a process that each day must be renewed.

  7. giraffy says

    Balance – I get my long runs done early in the weekends. And, I include them as much as I reasonably can… I drag #1 along when I can. I let #2 play in the complex gym (when it's empty!) while I run. #3 does yoga with me.

  8. marathonmaiden says

    and i feel like i don't balance very well. if it's a race i care a lot about then social stuff (i don't have my own family) falls to the wayside but if it's a race that i'm not targeting then i definitely imbibe in the social stuff. a bit too much.

  9. Jill says

    Balance? I'm pretty selfish, or was when I was running :). Honestly though, it gets a lot easier as the kids get older and become more self-sufficient. Still there's a lot of school activities to juggle so you just find the time around their schedules best you can.

  10. Amanda@runninghood says

    Balance….ahh, the key to it all! I try to be present as a mom, wife, writer, teacher, whatever I'm doing when I'm doing it and then when it is time to run, I do that! Fully! Completely. I make sure I carve out the time at the end of the day (this works best for me) and make sure I keep this time sacred. I believe that making time for my sport makes me better at the other things in my life and well, stay balanced. I set my priorities and stay dedicated to all the most important parts of my life…mother, wife, runner, writer, daughter…. It is all about telling myself and my family that something is important enough to carve out time for.

  11. Rene' says

    I am a follower. Balance…well now that all of my kids are in school I get it done while they are not here. the summer is another story. I either run early in the morning or in the evenings.

  12. funderson says

    OH! me me me! I go to the gym before anyone else wakes up so I can skip afternoon runs sometimes if I feel like it's needed.

  13. Teamarcia says

    I balance sport and family by sharing my love of it with them. And when the running gets heavy I get up extra early so I don't impinge on family time too much!

  14. fancy nancy says

    I get up WICKED early to fit it in before anyone even knows I'm gone! I also try to include the fam on any races and events.

  15. Rose @ Eat, Drink, and Be Meiri says

    As I was approaching my second marathon, my husband and I had a serious talk about my running. The way I was training was killing our weekends. I either wanted to leave things early because I had to get up early, or I was useless all day because my legs were sore from a long run. We talked about spending time together, and how I was always tired. It was a good, honest talk, and since then I've been more aware of how my running schedule affects others.

  16. JenniferLeah says

    amazing! I am reading my first real book post the birth of my girl (2 1/2) and I am devouring Born to Run each chance I get.
    I would LOVE to read this one next :)

  17. JenniferLeah says

    my husband understands my passion for running and triathlon so he really helps out with everything!! During the week I run with my daughter in the jogger. My in laws and my parents are really supportive too. I could not do what I do without them!!
    I feel very blessed.
    Now I just wish hubby would run WITH me and he could push the jogger and it would really be FAMILY DATE NIGHT

  18. ~K~ says

    HOw i balance running and family? Running makes Mama happy, so Mama runs, then comes home happy, which makes the fam happy! ha! And tomorrow the 4 and 6 yr old kiddos run their first race WITH Mama!

  19. trifitmom says

    i try to balance it by using the time while my girls are in school to workout. i try NOT to feel guilty about using child care to get a workout in and i try to make sure to be present when i am with them.

    I TRY that is all i can do

  20. Molly says

    I strive for balance day by day, by making deals with my husband, working out when the kids are at school, or having the kids join me on a walk or bike ride.

  21. Jen says

    I try to balance my day by doing the things that are highest on the priority list first. If I know that I'm going to be busy on a long run Saturday, I make sure everyone knows it and get anything that I need to get done before that. Mostly because I know from experience that it won't happen afterwards. I also try to let my family know in little ways like meals, laundry, notes on their beds that they really are the most important things in my life. And they know that running makes me happy and in turn a better mom.

  22. BabyWeightMyFatAss says

    balance? Yeah working on it. Wish it could be better. But marathon training takes up a lot of time. So this might be the last year. Maybe…

  23. Chris K says

    Great interview Amanda. Crazy it took so long to recover.

    As for balance. I have my did every Tue/Thurs and every other weekend. I run at lunch on Tues/Thurs cuz I have be Dad at night. On the weekends, I run in the morning while she's asleep. Luckily, she's old enough to stay home alone. There, I win the book.

  24. Geek 3000 says

    I'm a follower! You know it's an interesting the whole balancing family with sport question. It was a long hard road for me and my family to get there. My kids were fine, but my husband viewed me joining a sport as a near affair. I started reffing for roller derby over a year ago and it wasn't until maybe 4 months ago we got back to normal. Balancing took me making decisions on what I needed and what he needed. He had to decide that me being out of home what not about being away from him. It was hard, but I stood my ground and made sure that I didn't sacrifice my family for it. But they are the biggest reason I do it. I'm better mom and wife because of it.

  25. runningonwords says

    Nice interview!

    I'm a follower.

    I'm kind of terrible at balance, but since we don't have kids my husband does not feel horribly inconvenienced by my running and is awesome about giving me the time I need.

  26. Caroline says

    this is the order in my house
    1. the kids
    2. the husband
    3. the dog
    4. me

    I run when my youngest is at preschool m-w morning, I go in the streets near the school.
    on Tu-Thu I got to run at the Gym and jonathan goes to kids gym. Fri rest and help at my older son school. Sat-sun run outside really early.

  27. SupermomE12 says

    I am a huge believer in the importance of balance in our lives, but for me, there is no magic formula. You kind of have to go at it by feel. Sometimes a kid is sick or my husband is having a rough week and they need more or me. And sometimes I am feeling drained and worn out and need to focus a bit on myself. When everything is well balanced everyone's needs are met and everyone is happy, and that is my goal. :)

  28. cheryl says

    Why didn't he run the perimeter of American like Sarah Fulcher (sp) back in the 90s? I think that's a record just waiting to be broken.

    There's a guy here in town we call the "running man" who probably runs 20-30 miles a day. He looks like shit and shuffles along at a 15 min. pace.
    Give it a rest already! I don't admire him.
    It's one illness replacing another.

  29. Penny says

    I'm a follower.
    Balancing family and running is hard. You have to be a go with the flow kind of person, which is totally not me. It is hard to balance because my husband doesnt get why I have to run. I try to balance it all by doing all my workouts in the early mornings that way I'm back home in case I'm needed.

  30. Susan says

    I'm a follower who loves to read about ALL things running! :-) For balance, I do my long run during the week, while the kiddo is in school and leave my short run for the weekend.

  31. Terzah says

    This book sounds really good. I am a follower. I balance my love of sport and family by remembering that doing my sport makes me more present for my family. I'm no Olympian, but I like the line from Chariots of Fire, where someone trying to explain Eric Liddell says his sport is an extension of himself, not a separate thing. That's what I strive for.

  32. Jason says

    I am a proud stalker of your blog.

    Balance is tough but I do it by getting up before most people are fully asleep and get my workout in. I do this so that when I get home I can take my step-son to school and go to work. I then get home before them and make dinner so that there is no time wasted. It is a matter of using our time efficiently.

    Saturday morning is my time to train and Sunday morning is Karen's time to train. I then train in the afternoon of Sunday to get it all in.

    It works for us and I will lend a hand to those couples trying to do this but you have to find your own balance and do what works for you and your family.

  33. Lesley @ says

    I balance as best I can by trying to keep a schedule. Weekday runs are right after dropping the big 2 off at school and the little one gets some playtime with her gym pals. Evenings are for my kids – their activities and homework. And 1 morning each weekend, I get my outdoor long run (or race, depending on the week). I try to keep it early, so I have the afternoon/evening with the kids. I think keeping a consistent schedule is key for me!

  34. Scrappytbear says

    Im a follwer! So want to read that book!

    Family always comes first; but I do not think there is anything wrong with me health coming second; I usually do my workouts when the family is otherwise distracted; school, church (I worship my own way ;)), or sleeping :):):)