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Running for the Average Joe


          Another tall, thin, fit-looking guy walked up to me and I thought, “he looks like a runner,” which wasn’t unusual since I was at a marathon expo in Fort Collins, CO, selling my book Running on Empty, a memoir driven by the story of my record-setting run across America in 2008. But, as my wife reminds me, “Everyone has a story,” and Bill Watts had come a long way, physically and psychologically, to look the part of a marathon runner at that race expo in 2011. Bill was humble and easy-going, despite the fact that he’s an extremely intelligent and focused guy – qualities that have brought him success as an IT systems engineer (I can barely keep my computer running!), as well as a runner.


           As we chatted, I shared some of my story: How I had started running back in 1979 as a way to manage the stress and resulting high blood pressure, from watching my first wife die of breast cancer. How I continued running, emotionally empty for almost 30 years, completing what I called the Triple Crown of Extreme Sports: over 125 running races averaging over 125 miles each; completing 12 expedition-length adventure races, including being one of only three people in the world to compete in all nine Eco Challenge races; and climbing the Seven Summits, including Mount Everest, all on first attempts (the mountain gods were kind to me!). Listening to Bill, I began to realize that he was a true student of the wonderful sport of running, as well as a runner extraordinaire in his own right. Despite decades of running, I realized I could learn stuff from this guy!


          If I had met Bill back in 2001, I wouldn’t have thought he looked like a runner at all, because he didn’t. He weighed almost 200 pounds and suffered from high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Literally fearing for his life, he started running. Actually, he made a lifestyle change. He didn’t want to be part of a fad, or simply look for a quick fix; he wanted to get in shape, and stay in shape… for a lifetime. He made the commitment, but when he looked for information about how running could help him keep his commitment, he found books for people that were already runners, not “average Joes” like him. He found books for people who could already run, say, “a tempo run at a 5:00-minute mile pace” – not someone like him who couldn’t even run half a lap around a track! As the years went by, and Bill started competing in 5k and 10k races, then marathons and beyond, he continued to think about those running books – written for runners, and written only about running. He wished there was a book that covered all aspects of a lifestyle change, from psychology, to physiology, to nutrition; not just running and training plans. He wanted a book that would truly help others get in shape and stay in shape. To fill the void and help others, he started researching and writing Running for the Average Joe.

          Having been a runner for over 37 years, I thought I knew a lot about running. But Bill has taken every aspect of running, physiologically and mentally, then dissected it, examined it, and related it to us in a useful way. He helped me to understand terminology that scientists and nutritionists use, that frankly, didn’t make sense until Bill explained the how and why. The depth and breadth of the research is astounding – although I should have known to expect nothing less, knowing Bill’s intelligence, focus, and attention to detail. This book is by far the best researched and most comprehensive yet written, by a very talented man who has the ability to explain complex topics in simple and always understandable language. Average Joe is masterfully written, with personal stories from his own experience that will take you step by step through your own transformation. Packed with tips and suggestions, motivational quotes, mantras and challenges, this book will help you along through running and in life. You’ll learn so much from this book, which I call the “A to Z Runner’s Bible.”

          A labor of love fueled by years of running and research, Bill thoroughly addresses running in history, mind, body, and soul. You’ll find out how to take that initial first step (the most difficult) and how to maintain a style of living that we all deserve. You’ll learn what equipment you need, how to build strength and conditioning through running and cross-training, how to handle injuries, and what to eat. Knowing that what you really need is lifestyle change, this book will take you on a journey with an emphasis on improving mental and physical health by setting and achieving your goals… and how to go beyond.


          When Bill contacted me recently, asking me to write the foreword to his book, I thought back to our conversation at the marathon expo and remembered, “I could learn stuff from this guy.” Little did I know how much I could learn! Running for the Average Joe is absolutely the most comprehensive running book – no, the most comprehensive book on how to make a lifestyle change – that I have ever read, and I’ve read more than a few! I invite and encourage you to delve into this book. But be careful, as you will get more than you bargained for. While it is a handbook chock full of information about running that you will want to reference well into the future, Running for the Average Joe is really a book that can teach you how to enjoy a better life.


Marshall Ulrich

Extreme athlete and best-selling author of Running on Empty, An Ultramarathoner’s Story of Love, Loss, and a Record-Setting Run Across America

Evergreen, Colorado, May 2016

Ulrich and Watts.jpg

Ulrich and Watts at the 2018 Greenland 50k

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