- 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: 88 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #110,478 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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It should be noted that the book is on its second title. The original title was: “Racing the Antelope: What Animals Can Teach Us about Running and Ourselves.” The author explains in the front matter why the original name was changed (apparently some loud and obnoxious writer had a similarly titled book on a different subject and whined about it.) Changing the title wasn’t required because: a.) titles cannot be copyrighted, and b.) it wasn’t exactly the same title anyway. Still the new, more succinct, title may lead one to expect a succinct book, which this isn’t so much.
Some readers will enjoy Heinrich’s writing style; others will find that it ventures too far into flowery territory on occasion. I did enjoy it. However, I can see how a reader might find some of the descriptive sequences to be excessive--particularly toward the beginning of the book.
While there’s some overlapping and interweaving, one can think of the book in three sections. It’s written in twenty chapters. The first six tell the author’s story of getting into running and his youth. The next eight chapters deal in comparative and evolutionary biology. In general, these chapters look at the biology of other creatures as they pertain to said animals’ ability to engage in running (or activities that are like running in that they involve endurance of muscles and the cardiovascular system.) Also included in this section is the evolutionary biology of humans as it relates to becoming a species of runners. This is the core of the book and was the most interesting section for me. In it, Heinrich considers the endurance activities of insects, birds, antelopes, camels, and frogs. Each of these has a particular relevance. For example, camels are masters of endurance under harsh conditions. Frogs tell the story of the difference between fast and slow twitch musculature (relevant to sprinters versus distance runners.) Antelopes are, of course, the exemplars running in the animal kingdom, but the nature of their running is so different from that of humans (i.e. making quick escapes versus pursuing wounded prey.) The last six chapters can be seen as a guide to preparing for ultramarathon races, but it’s also a continuation of the author’s self-examination of his running life from the time he began ultramarathoning.
I’d recommend this book for readers who are interested in the science of human performance. It’s well written, and the insights it offers into the biology of other animals are fascinating. Whether you read the whole book or just the part that pertains to your interests, you’ll take something away from this book.
I'd recommend this to anyone interested in endurance or evolution or living by their wits.
I chose this rating because the gratification I experienced reading this book far outweighed the paltry few dollars I spent on it.