Embracing the Fear of Ultramarathons

'Running and Stuff' by James Adams

Running and Stuff (2015) by James Adams


Using a ‘stream of consciousness‘ writing style, Adams relays the details of how he tackled some of the toughest ultra races in the world.

Uninspired by running marathons, Adams becomes motivated by other runners’ abilities to overcome intense and prolonged pain. After running his first ultramarathons in 2007 (the Tring 2 Town Ultra) and 2008 (the Grand Union Canal Race) he learns his body can cope with high mileage weeks and racing frequently.

He writes a frank and humorous blog to chronicle his journey towards running extreme distances.


The Briton Adams completes multi-day races as well as the famous Spartathlon 246 km race (twice) and the Badwater 135 mile race with fearless stubbornness. Rather than spending his life attaining material possessions, these incredible feats of endurance are his way of sharpening his mind and collecting stories.

He compares his experiences to giving birth and believes injuries caused by running can be fixed by more running. He enjoys regular banter with other runners and meets many people that assist him, a measure he finds more important than the display of a watch. He finds that over time, training and running for long distances will squash his nerves and desire to quit.

His adventure concludes with a gruelling 3,220-mile run across 13 states of America, which takes him 70 days, in which time he requires hospital treatment for severe dehydration. He also suffers days of post-run depression.


Despite his laid-back and daring persona, Adams discovers important lessons on the most effective means to train for ultramarathons.

  1. Run marathon races as training.

  2. Focus on how you feel whilst running, because this determines the outcome of a run.

  3. Always consider how you want to feel the day after a race, as this will ensure you embrace your weaknesses early and spend time overcoming them.

  4. Races require you to become ‘emotional imperfectionists’, willing to risk failure so you can achieve indescribable highs.

Ultimately, Adams proves that to run extreme distances you do not need natural talent or tactical mastery, just a love of running combined with a lack of fear.

3 thoughts on “Embracing the Fear of Ultramarathons

  1. Really enjoyed your review of the book! I think it’s easy for a lot of the running books to run together (ugh) after a while, but “Running and Stuff” one is one of my favorites. It’s doesn’t do the normal “I was fat and depressed – then magical running happened” story line that’s been so overdone.


    1. Thanks a lot Keith. I agree; James’ book seems honest and humble. His story proves that a significant factor in ultrarunning performances is overcoming pre-conceptions about fitness. Generally, exercising mental resilience and overcoming fear remain an unexplored running topic. I hope to write more blog posts on this and experiment to strengthen my own ‘running’ mind.


      1. Most definitely. I can’t help but notice how many ultrarunners just slide gently over the fact that they ran through the night, alone, in the mountains… while hallucinating. No big deal. We should be bottling up that craziness and selling it.


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