Run Oregon bookshelf: Grand Trail: A Magnificent Journey to the Heart of Ultrarunning and Racing

The cover of Grand Trail by

The cover of Grand Trail by Alexis and Frederic Berg/Velopress 2016/$45

Portland-area runner Marya Van Metre read Grand Trail: A Magnificent Journey to the Heart of Ultrarunning and Racing by Alexis and Frédéric Berg and shared her thoughts Run Oregon. Van Metre, mom to 4-year-old twins, has countless 5ks, 10k, and half marathons under her belt along with one marathon and recently made the transition to running (and thoroughly enjoying) ultras. She also happens to be fluent in French, which made her perfect to review this book which does include some content in that language. Grand Trail is available from the VeloPress website here for $45. First-time customers can save $10 with the code VPFIRST.

Absolutely breathtaking photographs. That was my first impression upon picking up Grand Trail. The front cover offers a brief glimpse of what is to come within this beautifully put together book.

Grand Trail takes the reader around the world to visit epic and legendary trail races through photos and written descriptions of the course and its history. These pictures capture not only the gorgeous scenery awaiting racers who toe the start line, but exhibit the pure and visceral emotions felt by those who tackle these challenging courses.

Along with exploring 13 of the worlds most storied races, this book offers personal interviews with 16 elite runners from around the world, as well as vignettes on many aspects of trail running: history, why we run, training, nutrition, and questions about the future of the sport. Much of the information is presented in an open ended way; it isn’t telling you what to think about changes in the sport, or how to train, it’s offering questions that make you think, and questions that might not even have definitive answers.

I am somewhat new to the “ultra” and “trail running” world, having finished my first 50K last April, and planning my first 50 miler (hopefully!) next summer. I really enjoyed this book; probably why I was able to finish reading it so quickly! Grand Trail introduced me to a few new races I hadn’t heard about or thought much about in the past. It had me thinking about possible vacations to different parts of the world: The Tarawera Ultramarathon in New Zealand was probably my favorite, I’ve always wanted to visit New Zealand … what a perfect “excuse”!

I also really enjoyed the personal portraits of elite ultrarunners around the world. I had some knowledge about “big names” like Scott Jurek, Kilian Jornet, and of course Bend’s own Stephanie Howe Violett. But I wasn’t as familiar with runners like Gediminas Grinius (a Lithuanian Army vet who started running to deal with his PTSD), Laurence Klein (a French Mother-runner who earned her first spot on a French national team at age 35 after disappointment 15 years earlier), and  Dawa Sherpa (a legend of the ultra world, but out of the race scene for the past few years, with his non-traditional training approach to ultras: working 9 hours a day as a construction worker). Editor’s note: some of these links are to French websites, but you should be able to translate them using a web browser.

I came away inspired by these stories of real people who love running in nature as much as I do, as well as by so many wonderful photos of some of the worlds most scenic races. It made me excited to explore some new areas in Oregon, because we’ve got some pretty beautiful places here, too!

This book was written and photographed by brothers Frédéric and Alexis Berg. Frédéric is an ultrarunner himself, having completed Diagnole des Fous (three times) and Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc (once). His brother, Alexis is a professional photographer and was the official photographer of the 2015 Ultra-Trail World Tour.

So if you’re still looking for that perfect gift for your ultra/trail runner friends, (or something to offer inspiration for you) this book has got you covered! Bonus: It’s bilingual English/French!

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