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Local author explores the world’s toughest long-distance footrace

Pagosa Springs resident Ed Furtaw has been running marathons or longer races since 1978, and he has completed more than 100 ultramarathon races, meaning those longer than the standard 26.2-mile marathon distance. “Tales From Out There: The Barkley Marathons, the World’s Toughest Trail Race” is his story of what many runners believe to be the world’s hardest long-distance trail footrace because it has such a low finishing rate. Some years no one finishes.

The Barkley’s 100-mile course, with an almost unbelievable 24,850 feet of elevation climb (and you have to come down, too!), is purposely designed and adjusted to keep it at the outer limit of human endurance. Indeed, the author says that the course is set up so most runners cannot finish. There’s also a 60-mile course called the Fun Run or the Short One.

Because of the distance, difficulty and time limits, runners must run around the clock at least once for the Fun Run and at least twice for the 100-mile. The course is not marked, so good navigation and orientation skills are a must. Checkpoints consist of 10 stops where runners tear a specific page out of a paperback book to prove they were there — an idea suggested by the author before his first run on the grueling course.

Part history and part memoir, Ed’s book describes the first 24 years of the event, starting in 1986. He includes colorful stories of a runner losing one of the pages he had collected, another who collects license plates from his competitors, runners persevering through heavy rain and wind, and linking arms to form a human chain in order to cross a raging river — not to mention his own experience falling waist deep into a very cold creek and the fact that to be accepted into the race you have to write an essay explaining why you want to run it.

This is a book written by an expert. Ed was the first official finisher in the history of the race. He has run the Barkley 14 times, most recently for 60 hours starting on March 27. This year he placed 13th out of 40 runners, and he says it was “a typical fun event as we faced rain, wind and briars.”

“Tales From Out There” is an interesting read for runners and non-runners alike. That’s no doubt because Ed believes there is a bigger message than running to his story. “It’s really about human potential, and the fact that we are capable of doing much more than we think,” he says. By the way, the author’s byline on the book is Frozen Ed Furtaw, a nickname he earned from the Frozen Head Mountain area in eastern Tennessee where the Barkley Marathons are held.

Ed and his wife, Gail, moved to Pagosa Springs from Las Vegas four and a half years ago, and you’ll often find them hiking local trails or participating in local running events.

Free lecture Saturday

The sixth and last free Lifelong Learning lecture at the library on Saturdays from 3 to 4:15 p.m. takes place this Saturday, May 15. Dennis Aronson will speak on “Islam: What You Need To Know.” All Lifelong Learning lectures are free to the public. We hope to see you there.

Large print

New suspense and mystery titles include “The Black Cat: A Richard Jury mystery” by Martha Grimes, “The Killing Edge” by Heather Graham, “Cat of the Century: A Mrs. Murphy mystery” by Rita Mae and Sneaky Pie Brown, “Whiter Than Snow” by Sandra Dallas and “Thereby Hangs a Tail: A Chet and Bernie Mystery” by Spencer Quinn. Other new large print books are “Nanny Returns” by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, “The Aloha Quilt” by Jennifer Chiaverini, “Imperfect Birds” by Anne Lamott, and “The Burning Lamp,” Book 2 in the Dreamlight Trilogy by Amanda Quick.

Christian novels

“Plain Paradise” by Beth Wiseman is about a deep secret in an Amish family. “Take Three” by Karen Kingsbury is the latest in the Baxter family Above the Line series.

Other new novels

“Good to a Fault” is an award-winning novel by Canadian Marina Endicott. “The Last Time I Saw You” by Elizabeth Berg explores the lives of classmates at a reunion. “The Lake Shore Limited” by Sue Miller centers on a play written by one of the book’s characters. “Every Last One” by Anna Quindlen is about a mother focusing on her depressed son.

Mysteries and suspense

“Deception” by Jonathan Kellerman is the latest in the Alex Delaware series.

“Without Mercy” by Lisa Jackson is a thriller set in an elite boarding school. “The Shadow of Your Smile” is the latest by Mary Higgins Clark. “Solar” by Ian MacEwan is about an aging Nobel Prize winner. “Liars All” is a Bordie Farrell mystery by Jo Bannister. “A River in the Sky” by Elizabeth Peters features Egyptologist and amateur sleuth Amelia Peabody. “The Moonlit Earth” by Christopher Rice is a psychological thriller about a sister who must save her brother, accused of being a terrorist.


“Black Magic Sanction” by Kim Harrison features witch Rachel Morgan. “Angelology” is a fantasy by Danielle Trussoni.

Books on CD

New nonfiction include “Change Your Brain, Change Your Body” by Dr. Daniel G. Amen, “Courage Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight” by Karl Rove, “Drive” about what motivates us by Daniel H. Pink, and “The Big Short” about the collapse of the bond and derivative markets by Michael Lewis. New mysteries include “Fantasy in Death” by J. D. Robb and “Deception” by Jonathan Kellerman.

How-to and self-help

“Green Sense for the Home” rates the payoff from 50 green home projects. “Rework” is a business book to help you work more productively. “Bank on Yourself” offers tips to growing and protecting your financial future. “Divorce After 50” is a guide to unique legal and financial challenges in late-life divorce. “The Ten Things To Do When Your Life Falls Apart” is an emotional and spiritual handbook by Daphne Rose Kingma. “Stuff” explores the compulsive disorder of hoarding. “Payback Time” is an investment guide by Phil Town. “Women Food and God” by Geneen Roth promises to help overweight women suffering from compulsive eating.

Quotable quote

“Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.” — Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626), English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist and author.

Thanks to our donors

For books and materials this week, we thank Stan Church.


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