You’ve Never Seen Ultrarunning Like This Before

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Two brothers published a book stuffed with photos of the passion, suffering, and victory that make up ultrarunning.

Photographer Alexis Berg and journalist and ultrarunner Frederic Berg explore the sport of ultrarunning in Grand Trail: A Magnificent Journey to the Heart of Ultrarunning and Racing, which came out last month. Through 13 of the world's most grueling ultra courses and interviews with eight of the sport's most famous athletes, the Berg brothers break down the history, training, personalities, and trails that drive ultrarunning. Flip through Western States, Hardrock, and more, and read about what it's like for Anna Frost to live out of a suitcase and Scott Jurek's childhood in Minnesota. "[Ultrarunning offers] the possibility of an inner journey to the limits of mind and body, achieving more than you ever thought possible," says Jurek in the book.

Here's a sneak peek:

In the beginning of ultrarunning, there was the Western States Endurance Run. The story of a horse race that one man decided to run on foot. In 1974 the pioneer Gordy Ainsleigh reached Auburn from Squaw Valley in a shade under 24 hours. Three years later, on the same trail, 16 runners lined up to race the first edition of the Western States.

There is much more to the American than meets the eye; he has become an icon of trail running almost despite himself. Anton Krupicka is a likable guy with many facets, not so much wild as passionate.

The Dolomites were originally a coral reef. To this day, they form majestic barriers, vertical fortresses over which the Lavaredo Ultra Trail course provides some extraordinary views.

An iconic American ultrarunner for nearly 20 years, Scott Jurek runs to "access a state of being, a zone." In 2015, this adept of veganism broke a legendary record—the Appalachian Trail.

The Transgrancanaria begins in the moonlight, with the start at 11 p.m. from the port of Agaete, Spain. Immediately, the long string of headlamps winds its way like a procession over a half-mile long. The course is wooded at first, then stony, with some technical downhill sections. It can get bitterly cold, and sometimes there is a little snow near the trails.

This race is a legend, the ultimate adventure. A story of the desert, of life, of friendship. For 30, the Marathon des Sables (MdS) has been blazing its very own trail on the running race scene. More than elsewhere, it is a tearful affair at the finish of the last of the six stages, when, after 155 miles, everything suddenly comes to a stop. A unique feeling at the end of a unique week almost cut off from the rest of the world, in the middle of the Sahara in southern Morocco.

After hours of solitude and silence, at the end of a fierce battle with pain, the finish line always comes as a huge relief. Here, in 2015, Didrik Hermansen finishes his first ultra, coming in second. The next year, he would finish first.

A week in the desert is both very long and very short. Even if the Marathon des Sables is the kind of race that you want to run just once in a lifetime, there are also many who come back each year for more.

Her emotion speaks volumes: the French runner Nathalie Mauclair, two-time world trail running champion, two-time winner of the Diagonale des Fous, and UTMB winner on her first attempt in 2015. She was 45 years old.

Republished with permission of VeloPress from 'GRAND TRAIL: A Magnificent Journey to the Heart of Ultrarunning and Racing.' See more at velopress.com/grandtrail.

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