First and foremost a book about running, The Longest Race takes listeners alongside ultramarathoner Ed Ayres as he prepares for, runs, and finishes the JFK 50-mile race at a then record-breaking time for his age division - 60 and older. But for Ayres, this race was about more than just running, and the book also encompasses his musings and epiphanies along the way about possibilities for human achievement and the creation of a sustainable civilization.
Looking back over a lifetime of more than 50 years of long-distance running, Ayres realizes that his running has taught him important lessons about endurance, patience, and foresight. These qualities, also hallmarks of being human, likely helped humans to survive and thrive in the evolutionary race - and, Ayres posits, they are qualities absolutely necessary to building a sustainable society.
Grounding each step of his argument are vivid details from this particular race and other moments across his long running career. These experiences take us far beyond the sport, into new perspectives on our origins as future - and what it means to be a part of the human race. In the end, Ayres suggests, if we can recapture the running prowess and overall physical fitness of our "wild" ancient distance-hunting ancestors, we will also be equipped to keep our bodies, our society, and the entire world running long into the future.
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Should have been called The Longest Book
This book was exhausting to get through for a number of reasons. First off, I didn't know it was going to be an intertwined recounting of racing and a bunch of eco-metaphors and analogies. I'd consider myself a moderate environmentalist and open to new ideas, but the way he wove the stories of a 50 mile race, human physiology, and the health of the planet together was painful at times. I just wanted him to finish one coherent thought before departing off into explaining how the build up of lactic acid was like the build up of CO2 in our atmosphere. If he had only made a couple of departures onto a topic he feels passionately about I would have enjoyed it, but it was two to three departures in every chapter and by the end I was just begging for it to end.
The author and his audience would have been better served with a much shorter book on his running alone or his environmentalism alone. The way the two are brought together simply does not work for the reader. I wouldn't recommend this book to either the ultra-distance runner or the environmentalist.
Not the right reader for this book. The author is writing about a race he did when he was 60 years old, but the author sounds like he's mid-30's at best. While some stories will carry this just fine, in this story the discontinuity of the young voice talking with the words of age and experience was uncomfortable and noticeable.
There are certainly valuable things I took away from this book, primarily regarding running physiology, pacing, and fueling on long runs, but with the challenges presented, I'd recommend looking elsewhere.
painful and preachy
I've been reading a lot of running memoirs lately. Lot's of great ones out there. This is not one of them. Sorry.
- C. Verner