CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 11. . . .November 15, 2013
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2013.
192 pp., pbk. & EBK, $7.99 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4431-1918-4 (pbk,, ISBN 978-1-4431-2855-1 (EBK).
Grades 7-9 / Ages 12-14.
Review by B. MacDougall.
Torn between savouring every word or rushing to the end, I stampeded my way through Ultra as I really wanted to know what happened. The book opens with the hero, Quinn, a 13-year-old, being interviewed.
QUINN: “I still don’t get why it was such a big deal. All kids like to run. Go to any schoolyard. You’ll see kids playing, tag, soccer, capture-the-flag...”
SYDNEY WATSON WALTERS: Take me back to the starting line. That morning...before the race started. What was running through your head?
QUINN: I was thinking...I must be out of my mind....One hundred miles. 160 kilometers. Half a million strides...I took my first step. It would be hours before I reached the first rest stop, and two sunrises before I’d cross the finish line...I was about to burn 10,000 calories. Drink 20 litres of water. My heart would beat 1.2 million times...”
SYDNEY WATSON WALTERS: How do you train...?
QUINN: I ran for 2 hours almost every day.
SYDNEY WATSON WALTERS: I’ve heard that your body is different than most peoples.
QUINN: Yeah, my heart is freakishly big. Twenty per cent bigger than other kids my age.
I remember rediscovering the joys and hardships of running as a teenager. Just the other day I did 5 km after being away from running for more than three years due to surgery. I texted my daughter, “What am I doing?” Somewhere along the line, the endorphins hit and all was right with the world. The sun shines, the breeze is gentle on your face, and you are surrounded with kindred spirits. At the end, having argued with both mind and body, you finish delighted! Just like Quinn. But as we move forward in the story, we learn that Quinn is dealing with other things.
Down the road I could see a long white banner. The banner had one word on it. The most beautiful word in the world:
“Ouch!” I shouted. Mom said, “Time to stretch out your quadriceps. ... Try a lunge....Your father swore by this one,” she said. “No way can I do that,” I said. “If you can run a hundred miles, you can do a simple stretch...Hurts a lot, doesn’t it?” said Mom. “A lot,” I groaned. “ Good, said Mom, “Maybe that’ll teach you not to run any more of these crazy races.”
“You should’ve stopped me,” I told her.”Why didn’t you stop me?” ...” “You’re a runner, Quinn,” she said. “It’s what you love to do. And nobody, not even me, should stop you from doing what you love.”
“But I could’ve been hurt,” I went on, my heart pounding now.”I could’ve been hurt like Dad!” “You should have stopped him from leaving,” I cried. “All you had to do was tell him NO.”
“Your father was a soldier,” she said. “He went because he needed to help others. That’s who he was, and that’s why we loved him. That’s not something I had the power to stop.”... “I miss him,” I mumbled into her hair. “Me too,” she said. “More than anything.”
Ultra offers a unique insight into things that affect both the mind and the body; issues that can push us sideways no matter what our age. Thankfully David Carroll offers both acknowledgment and acceptance of life. I look forward to his next publication.
Note from the author:
I hated running when I was a kid... I had no idea how good it could feel to "float”"over an undulating footpath, with stripes of sunlight lining the forest floor. I never dreamed that one day I'd be able to run for 24 hours straight. And I'd have thrown a running shoe at you if you'd suggested that the culmination of one dream — successfully completing a 100-mile race, would lead to the realization of another life-long goal: publishing an actual novel. I guess it's true what they say. Once you've run 100 miles in a day, the word 'impossible' loses its meaning. —David Carroll
David Carroll’s home page is: http://writerunrepeat.com
B. MacDougall is a teacher-librarian at a junior/senior school in the Canadian Foothills.
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