Survival of the Fittest: Anatomy of Peak Physical Performance by Dr. Mike Stroud is an inspiring book to read in the week leading upto the Ultra. Dr. Stroud - polar explorer and practising hospital physician analsyses individual feats of survival and athletic prowess that illustrate the way the human body functions at its best. Events that he describes include crossing Antartica with Sir Ranulph Fiennes, running marathons in the Sahara, story of running seven marathons on seven continents in seven days in 2003 and an Eco-challenge race in 1995. The last race involved teams of 5 (together) crossing more than 300 miles of back-country in South Western United States using a variety of modes: running,hiking, mountain biking,horse-riding, canoeing and white-water rafting. The author's team included Helen Klein - a 72 year old great-grandmother who had completed over 50 marathons and 100 ultra-marathons since she took up distance running at the age of 55! Quite a fascinating book that makes you think that 50Km in under 6 hours should really be a walk in the park!
I particularly liked the chapter called 'The Happiness of the Long distance runner' which interperses the author's experience of running the London marathon with the physiological aspects of endurance training and explanation of what influences the ability to run distance at speed. One perhaps debatable statement he makes in the book is' It is your genes that make you go fast or far'.