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The Lure of Long Distances: Why We Run Hardcover – April 26, 2011

4.1 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Dean Karnazes, ultramarathoner and New York Times bestselling author
“Every runner has a story, and Robin Harvie’s is one of the most remarkable I’ve ever encountered. [The Lure of Long Distances] is brilliantly written, deeply emotional, raw and honest. Robin scrapes away the superficial dermis and offers a rare glimpse into the mindset and motivation of a long-distance runner.”

Joyce Carol Oates
“An astonishing memoir. It will make all who are drawn to running feel stirrings of true excitement.”

Philip Hoare
“An intensely personal journey, woven with philosophy, history, and pain. Robin Harvie’s debut is by turns compulsive, challenging, and ultimately rewarding.”

Guardian (UK), April 17, 2011
“A paean to the transformative effect of pushing your body way beyond your imagined limits…. There is much to enjoy in this erudite, literary memoir.”

Independent (UK)
, April 17, 2011
“Where the book truly excels is in its depiction of Harvie’s internal landscape. He largely shuns training tips and inspirational advice in favor of a true memoirist’s tone, exploring the reasons why he runs – grief, ambition, boredom – with an almost brutal honesty. These passages are as moving as they are illuminating…. This is a memoir for anyone who has ever dreamed about reaching the outer limits of what they're capable of.”

About the Author

Robin Harvie ran his first marathon in 2000 after a bet. When he realized he couldn’t run 26.2 miles in under 3 hours 12 minutes, despite years of trying, he decided instead to see how far he could run before keeling over. In preparation for the toughest and oldest footrace on earth he ran 6,000 miles in one year, including the Round Rotherham 50 mile ultra, the Sri Chinmoy Transcendental 100 kilometer ultra marathon, in which he came fourth, and the 72 mile Bob Graham Round in the Lake District. He lives in London.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (April 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1610390202
  • ISBN-13: 978-1610390200
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,309,973 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I purchased this book anticipating a story of running long distances and the challenges that go along with it. What pleased me was the historical and literary references that accompanied this engaging journey. Books about running often account for the actual trials and tribulation out on the roads and trails. This book goes beyond that. Any runner can read this and learn or confirm something they know to be true about the logistics and phenomena of ultra running. However the author, in this case, really goes a step farther and connects his running to events and places from the past. My copy of this book is highlighted and underlined because the various sections were so inspiring. Mr. Harvie's book is wise, interesting and very quotable. He answers the question of why we run in a way that makes sense. This is a "must have" for anyone who appreciates good writing in nonfiction adventure.
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Format: Kindle Edition
For the very reasons that a previous reviewer gave it a 5-star rating, I gave it a 2-star rating. I got tired of the historical information. It seemed at times the historical tales were like filler. So, I guess it just depends on what you are after. I wanted to know what he was thinking, what he was feeling, and how he trained. There was some of that, and those parts were truly enjoyable, but they were just too few and far between for me.
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Format: Hardcover
While it's great to read books about superhumans like Dean Karnazes doing superhuman things like running through snow, deserts and days, it's also nice to hear about how a nice, normal person - in this case 30-something book publisher, Robin Harvie - decided to sign up for a marathon after a friendly bet, and simply kept going - ultimately facing the world's oldest and toughest race of them all, the 152-mile Spartathlon. In his book, he shares stories he collected along the way, as well as observations and analysis of what moves him to move for mile upon mile and, ultimately, why all runners are inspired to keep putting one foot in front of the other, even when blisters, shin splints and dehydration might be telling us otherwise. Unlike other books I've read about running, Robin's book is filled with analogies and quotes from explorers, poets, historians and artists, so you come away learning a thing or two about the history and lore of running, as well as what it takes to muster up the courage and grit to run for 3-days straight after only a year of training.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm a sucker for running books. I prefer the narrative/memoir books to "how-to" or training books. The Lure of Long Distances is about as memoir-ish as they come. I knew I could relate to Harvie on some level by the bio on the book jacket: After trying unsuccessfully to improve his marathon time, "he decided instead to see how far he could run before keeling over" and started running ultramarathons. That's my story, too. I started running seriously later in life, completing my first marathon at age 39. Lots of running books talk about how our bodies start getting slower after 40, so I knew I'd never get too much faster. I started reading about ultramarathons and decided that I may not be fast, but maybe I can last a long time on my feet.

Harvie was a younger man when he started running ultras, and has run much farther than I ever have. The Lure of Long Distances covers his running history, primarily the year he spent preparing for the Spartathlon, the annual 152 mile race from Athens to Sparta. He weaves in his training experiences, personal stories, reports from other races and runs along the way, anecdotes from history and modern running, and plenty of literary and poetic reflections. He writes skillfully, putting together some beautiful and effective passages.

However, the overall product didn't turn out to be a very satisfying read. All the well-written passages and stories flowed from one to another, kind of like the aid stations in an ultramarathon. By the time you get to the end, you know there were some nice views and good conversations along the way, but they only fit together in the sense that they were part of one long race.

This is not to say I didn't like the book. It was an enjoyable read.
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Format: Hardcover
I have read everything by Karnazes, Ulrich's bio and Going Long excerpts from Running World magazine, but nothing explains the mental challenges of ultramarathoning better than Harvie's book. Every day I train beyond 20 miles the challenge is less about physical ability and more about the mental barriers we put in front of ourselves, this book confronts them head on. A must read if you're headed into uncharted ultra-running territory!The Lure of Long Distances: Why We Run
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