- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Ecco (May 7, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060958707
- ISBN-13: 978-0060958701
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #154,280 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Why We Run: A Natural History
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About the Author
The author of numerous bestselling and award-winning books, Bernd Heinrich is a professor of biology at the University of Vermont. He divides his time between Vermont and the forests of western Maine.
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Top Customer Reviews
As to the book, I thoroughly enoyed "Racing the Antelope." Part autobiography (Heinrich is a very interesting person) part biology (presented in a very accessible way), part scientist at work, this book gets to the core of, well, why we (at least some of us) run.
WHY WE RUN has all sorts of biological discussions that remind me of the worst of Stephen J. Gould's pieces. Unfortunately the biological passages for the most are incoherent although tantalizing. For example, and there are many like this: "Eating is controlled by psychological drives, which in turn are influenced by blood chemistry. Just thinking about a hamburger can change your blood chemistry." But wait a minute, the blood chemistry was supposed to influence the thinking (i.e. psychological drives?). Much of the writing and thinking is mushy like this.
The strong points of the book are that despite the self-indulgent and poorly connected and developed thinking, Heinrich is a passionate and engaging person and this comes across in his writing. He has also led an interesting and bizarre life.
To me the book is most valuable as an inspirational story. His inspirational attitude is deeper than the "if you just believe and try hard enough you can do it" variety. Heinrich has a kind of hard-knuckled, gritty attitude toward life (and at the same time a love of nature and animals--although he is also an avid and skilled hunter). He manages to communicate a holistic view of human nature and biology that I found encouraging and inspiring, and at the same time realistic.
As a 20 mile a week runner nearing 60, I found the book helpful to my puny efforts. Heinrich, however, is so far beyond anything that any ordinary runner could ever even dream about in his wildest dreams, that it is hard to connect with him. Frankly his running seems super-human, and not just a little crazy, but downright insane. Unlike some other writers, Heinrich never makes the reader feel inferior and I appreciate that. He is modest and humble. Fine traits, I'd say in a world class athlete.
BTW: The author explains in the preface why the book has been retitled. Several other non-related books had been published at the same time with "antelope" in the title.
This is not a new book it is simply a new titled version of Bernd Heinrich's book "Racing The Antelope" so if you have already bought the older version or read it don't rush out to buy this new titled edition.
The beginning of this book is Bernd's autobiography about his childhood in Germany, and in the Maine woods. In this section he writes about his undefeated cross-country career and his college running career at UMO (University of Maine at Orono). Despite his very unique and almost bizarre childhood, he seems very human and easy to relate to from in two major ways in my life. The first is as a Mainer who has always enjoyed the outdoors, and the second is as a high school cross-country runner. This is mostly because as Bernd alluded to, running itself is very natural especially in the Maine woods.
The middle chapters at first appeared to have just been thrown in, but once you have finished the book his reasons for putting in several chapters about animal biology as well as physiology and psychology become readily apparent. This intriguing and random section goes into scientific detail about several animals such as wolves, dogs, cats (canines, felines), camels and antelopes as well as many more, in relation to running and what we can learn from them.
The final section of his book is filled with details of his preparation and racing in a 100 k (62.2 miles) ultra marathon, which he won and set a world record in. In this section you understand why he had the section on animal biology when he tries to improve his performance by using many different running techniques and fuels, such as Ocean Spray Cranberry juice, which he used and was sponsored by in the Chicago ultra marathon. It is surprising that as a runner you can still relate to him when it comes to the pain he must overcome to succeed. When you look at the distances he trains at and races at you realize just how far away his is with his crazy endurance. To run like he does you have to be in unbelievable shape and be a little crazy.
This was a great blend of Bernd's autobiography, biology and his practice and racing in the Chicago ultra marathon. At times it grew a little dull for me but I still highly recommend it for any runner, at any level as well as anyone interested biology. If you're curious about why we run read this book.