Still Not Bionic by Ira Rainey: A Great Read on Ultrarunning


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Ira Rainey’s new book on ultrarunning, “Still Not Bionic: Adventures in Unremarkable Ultrarunning” has just been released and we were delighted to be sent a copy by Ira to review for Trail and Kale.

Getting to know the former Fat Man-turned Green Man ultrarunner

When I first started getting interested in trail marathons and beyond, I turned to books as a key source of research to find out what was involved, and how other people had managed to build their training and endurance up to be able to run long distances off-road. A book that kept coming up was “Fat Man to Green Man: From Unfit to Ultramarathon”, by Ira Rainey. This book interested me because it was written by someone ‘normal’ – not an elite athlete, or someone who had been sporty all their lives.

Still Not Bionic: Ira Rainey Green Man
“Visiting an old friend [the Green Man] during a training run” Photo Credit: Ira Rainey

What does someone do when they want to lose weight and enter the world of ultrarunning?  I found a lot of the answers in that book: a great, down to earth and easy to read true story. It was also particularly relevant to me as the author lives and works in the same part of the country as me, and, as it turned out, we had attended many of the same events (although each time, I was running a shorter distance option!).

I wouldn’t say reading the first book is a necessity in order to read Still Not Bionic, but it makes sense to, as you’ll get to know more about Ira and his background by doing so – if you haven’t read either, then if you get both they can be read back-to-back, as Still Not Bionic follows on chronologically from Fat Man to Green Man: From Unfit to Ultramarathon.

Still Not Bionic

The friendly tone in which the book is written makes you immediately feel like you can relate to Ira’s situation / feelings. Like any great story, it takes you on a rollercoaster journey through the highs and lows he experienced over the years that followed completion of his first ultramarathon.

You find yourself nodding along to many of Ira’s experiences and observations, some of which are laugh-out-loud funny, and others are so insightful that they make you stop, put the book down momentarily, and reflect on either how you ‘couldn’t have put it better, yourself’, or how the advice being handed out is so valuable that you want to write it down somewhere and take it with you to read when you’re out in the middle of nowhere, struggling on a really tough race.

Still Not Bionic: Ira Rainey Green Man Ultra Pacing
“Leaving the final Green Man Ultra checkpoint at Blaise, with concern over the time” Photo credit: Annemarie Hoskins

Some of my favourite Still Not Bionic quotes

“There was no clearly defined trail or tarmac road to run up, it was simply a steep mud and rock gully that climbed to infinity and beyond. I took one look up and decided that it was definitely a walker.” Ira Rainey, Still Not Bionic

I know the description above was true, as I too had ‘run’ up that same gully, that year. At the time I thought I was the only person struggling with the never-ending wall of mud and rocks. Isn’t it interesting to sit back and realise that what challenges you may be just as big a challenge, if not a greater one, for the people around / in front / behind you during a trail race? When you’re in the thick of it, it is easy to forget this.

“At this point we were about 12 miles in and we had long ago lost sight of the faster runners leading the charge. In a strange way I always find that quite comforting. Rather than feeling as if I’m floundering hopelessly at the back, I don’t feel the pressure to keep up with those in front” Ira Rainey, Still Not Bionic

I’ve realised this too. As soon as the faster people are out of sight, the pressure comes off, and I start to enjoy myself more than worrying that everyone is running off ahead of me. Perhaps this is one of the keys to being a happy mid-back pack ultrarunner!

“It’s a fine mental balance between stepping outside your comfort zone to achieve something, and questioning why you are bothering at all. If you’ve reached the latter then you will always be fighting a losing battle.” Ira Rainey, Still Not Bionic

It’s important to realise that the above is true. If we’re all honest, we’ve all had races or runs where the mind has said ‘what is the point in doing all this?’ and the next thing you know, you’ve stopped. Equally, hopefully we have all had races where we have stepped outside the comfort zone, ignored the negative thoughts, and pushed on through to achieve something great.

When is a book inspiring?

I think the word ‘inspiring’ gets over-used, but I would definitely use the word to describe this book to new, aspiring and existing ultrarunners looking for a down-to-earth, enjoyable read.

Still Not Bionic: Finishing South Downs Way 100 Ira Rainey
“The elation of finishing one-hundred miles” Photo credit: Stuart March Photography

Ira shows that there are some immense challenges out there, but these can be achieved with hard work, the right training and preparation, and, most importantly, the right mindset. I’ll leave the final word with him:

“The challenge of running such a long distance does make you question yourself frequently, and it forces you to face up to your own personal demons. But when you eventually reach the end one thing shines through: you realise that no matter how bad it gets, you can always keep pushing on and in the end it is always worth it.” Ira Rainey, Still Not Bionic

For sale on Amazon, where you can see other readers’ reviews (all 5-star last time I checked):

Still Not Bionic – Ira Rainey

One of Trail & Kale's co-founders, a mom, and guardian of our resident trail dog, Kepler, Helen can be found trail running with Kepler and enjoying road runs with her mini in a jogging stroller, all while testing out the latest running gear for our readers.


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