ISBN: 0060958707

Epilogue: “If modern runners were drawn around a campfire in a warm African night, they would, like any Bushman, poke the embers and relive the run all the way to the finish line and beyond. That’s what I’ve tried to do here.”

Adrian recommended this book to me. An autobiographical account of a runner, who’s also a biologist. The book is interspersed with personal anecdotal experiences of his introduction to the world of ultramarathon running, his childhood, his training, his scientific training and understanding about the human condition thorough comparisons with insects, birds and mammals.

Hawk Moths and Pronghorn Antelopes and long distance running.

P65. “The distance runner must fairly float along the ground, and sometimes for hours on end. Ideally, he has light, thin bones and long, thinly muscled limbs, like a bird. The key to the distance runner’s performance is to supply his fat-burning muscles with a sustained supply of oxygen…” consequently that requires a large support system: heart that can pump large volumes, large arteries, large fuel depots in muscles, the liver…

Mitochondria: microscopic power units with batteries of enzymes that covert fuel and oxygen to energy, used by muscles for contraction.

Muscles needed by Sprinters and throwers do not need Mitochondria and such support systems for oxygen delivery.

P66. Blood, oxygen, Hemoglobin and Myoglobin.

P73. “Gems or generalisations?”

P83. On the individual ability to get more aerobic work out of the same volume of oxygen taken in. “… it turns out that what you have is less important than what you do with it.”

P86. Champion distance runners may have traits inherited from the maternal line.

P97. Insect wings have no muscle; the flight muscles are inside the body, e.g. Thorax (contrast this with mammals like birds).

P124. “Play serves a vital function in many animals. It serves the ultimate function of practice, and it is motivated by pleasure. Pleasure is the proximate mechanism for achieving many ultimate benefits.”

P136. On camels not being fast runners over short distances. “… they provide us with a lesson: slow and steady wins the race.”

The book starts off a little slow, in that he described the scenes from one of his practice run. I thought it odd for a book to start like that. But maybe that was the point. Running is as much about conscious act of running, as well as observing and appreciating life that is around us.

I could be overanalysing it of course, but this book is definitely philosophical book several levels. Running is a mental game, as the book explains several time. Runners ultimately compete against themselves.

Having run in my youth (though not marathon) I could relate to his experiences. Especially his blow-by-blow, step-by-painful-step of his best race.

This book made me want to pick up running again. And gives one the feeling that “we can”.

Chpt 16, his views and approach on Diet, for ultramarathon races.

P255 “After all, two sets of numbers designating birth and death dates say little about a person. It is the in-between that matters”.