Alexis and Frederic Berg VeloPress 2017 One of the obvious reasons why trail running is so appealing is that it takes you into nature, heightening the appreciation of the simple beauty of the landscape around you. Other outdoor sports that deliver us breathtaking views have been the subject of the coffee table book treatment. Now, trail running gets its turn with Grand Trail by ultra-enthusiast brothers Alexis and Frederic Berg. Together, they team up to deliver an uneven but ultimately enjoyable global tour of the ultra-trail scene in words and impressive pictures.
Publisher VeloPress has spared no expense in the production of Grand Trail. This deluxe hardcover landscape format edition features high-quality printing and richly coloured photographs. At about 300 pages, Grand Trail doesn’t overwhelm and feels like the right length for a lazy Sunday afternoon perusal on the sofa. But the curatorial content choices are somewhat unusual, limiting the scope of what could have been the definitive book on contemporary ultra trail running.
Grand Trail focuses on the Ultra Trail World Tour, a series of notable races, such as the Western States 100 in Colorado, the Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji and the Marathon des Sables through the Sahara. It intersperses t hese race overviews with profiles of many of the stars from these races, including Kilian Jornet, Anna Frost and Scott Jurek. Unfortunately, other i mportant figures like Canadians Rob Krar and Ellie Greenwood are curiously overlooked. Because the book turns its lens entirely on the Ultra Trail World Tour, no races are highlighted from big swaths of the globe, including South America, one of the secondary hotbeds of t he ult r a-t r a il scene. Quebec’s Ultra-Trail Hurricana race is featured, as it’s a part of the World Tour and one of the finest events to pop up on the scene in recent years. The “before and after Hurricana” shots, where the photographer took portraits of the runners looking fresh and then moments after the gruelling 125k race, are entertaining, but really only deserve one look and could have been edited out in favour of another profile or highlighted race.
If you’re an ultrarunner, you’ll probably be able to look past Grand Trail ’s shortcomings. It’s a great reference for future destination races to put on your bucket list, and it’s an easy way to show your non-trail runner friends why it is you do what you do.— MD