Woman in rust coloured vest with dark hair in ponytail, smiling
Credit: Bloomsbury/Peloton

The blurb

“Susie Chan is an icon of endurance running. Since taking up running at the age of 35, she has completed the legendary Marathon des Sables more times than any other British woman, set the 12-hour treadmill World Record and was one of the first women to finish all the World Marathon Majors.

“Susie’s story is an inspirational fight against the odds. From leaving a dysfunctional marriage, managing as a single mum and tackling cancer treatment, Susie has had her fair share of adversity. Throughout it all, running has kept her going. She always finds a reason to lace up her shoes and hit the road – or the track, trail or tread. Her mantra: You never regret a run.

“From the Moroccan desert, the Peruvian jungle and the sweltering Death Valley, to Susie’s local South Downs and a running track in Tooting, her adventures take her across the globe. With Susie’s down-to-earth personality, refreshing attitude and wicked sense of humour, we learn the countless reasons she finds to push herself further and the life-changing opportunities running has given her.

“Her passion for the sport is infectious, and her story is a shining example to all in the running community and beyond.”


I was excited to read Susie’s book, having followed her adventures on social media for many years, and it did not disappoint. It’s easy to feel like those people we follow on social media are superhuman, because we only ever see their highlights, and exciting moments, but immediately from the first chapter, Susie comes across as a very humble, and normal, person who has faced numerous challenges, just like the rest of us.


The book begins by delving into what initially drew Susie to running at the age of 35, and how it profoundly transformed her life. As she reflects on her beginnings, readers are introduced to a woman who, despite starting later in life, found an unexpected passion that set her on a different trajectory, and redefined her identity and future. This transformation is vividly illustrated in her recount of the Marathon des Sables, a gruelling multi-day event in the Sahara Desert. Susie describes how she flew home from the Sahara a different person, a pivotal experience that propelled her to dramatically alter her life’s course.

The book follows a largely chronological timeline, focusing on the standout moments and races in Susie’s running career to date. Her passion for endurance really shines through: she describes various iterations of the iconic Marathon des Sables with a mix of reverence and enthusiasm.

The variety of terrains Susie has tackled is staggering—from deserts and jungles to 100-mile trail races, 24-hour track runs, and 12-hour treadmill challenges. Each type of terrain presents unique challenges, and the book offers insights into the diverse experiences of an ultra-runner.

Among her many achievements, Susie has also completed all six World Marathon Majors. This chapter offers insight into the unique experiences each race provides.

What did I enjoy about the book?

Reading about Susie’s many worries when joining a running club and heading into her first ultra marathons is both relatable and reassuring. These personal anecdotes remind readers that even seasoned runners like Susie experience doubt and fear. Her candid discussion of these worries, and how she overcame them, provides encouragement to those facing their own uncertainties.

Her detailed descriptions of camp life at the MdS and sleeping in the jungle bring to life the camaraderie and unique challenges of many different ultra races, as well as an insight into what is really going on inside an ultra-runner’s head. Susie describes in great detail, for example, her state of mind in the final section of the 100 Mile Thames Path Ultra, and paints a very honest picture of the mental fortitude required to push through the pain and exhaustion to the end, driven by the sheer desire to sit down sooner. Every chapter, I’d think “Wow, that sounded really tough” and then the next chapter would be about something even harder!

Susie’s sense of humour shines throughout the book, with anecdotes like the story of her car ending up in someone’s front garden, adding a light-hearted touch to more serious moments such as her account of discovering she had cancer after completing the Chicago Marathon and earning her Six Stars. She discusses her recovery journey and how she managed to return to running, demonstrating remarkable resilience and determination. Susie also discusses the impact perimenopause has had on her running.

Friendship and community are recurring themes in Trails and Tribulations. Susie’s account of crossing the Badwater finish line, supported by her team, paints a vivid picture of how crucial the right team is on a long endurance event in a challenging environment such as this. There are many beautiful moments like this throughout the book, shining the spotlight on Susie’s friendships made through running.

Final thoughts

I really enjoyed this book, and found I couldn’t put it down. The book is packed with insights into many great ultra events, yet I was still left wanting more, as Susie mentions plenty of other races which are not described in the book. Trails and Tribulations is not just a book about running; it’s a story of transformation, resilience, and the extraordinary power of pushing one’s limits (even when you have that niggling voice of self-doubt in your head). Susie Chan’s inspiring journey will resonate with runners and non-runners alike, offering a profound message about the enduring human spirit.

You can find more details about the book here, published by Bloomsbury