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In Why We Run, biologist, award-winning nature writer, and ultramarathoner Bernd Heinrich explores a new perspective on human evolution by examining the phenomenon of ultraendurance and makes surprising discoveries about the physical, spiritual -- and primal -- drive to win. At once lyrical and scientific, Why We Run shows Heinrich's signature blend of biology, anthropolog In Why We Run, biologist, award-winning nature writer, and ultramarathoner Bernd Heinrich explores a new perspective on human evolution by examining the phenomenon of ultraendurance and makes surprising discoveries about the physical, spiritual -- and primal -- drive to win. At once lyrical and scientific, Why We Run shows Heinrich's signature blend of biology, anthropology, psychology, and philosophy, infused with his passion to discover how and why we can achieve superhuman abilities.


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In Why We Run, biologist, award-winning nature writer, and ultramarathoner Bernd Heinrich explores a new perspective on human evolution by examining the phenomenon of ultraendurance and makes surprising discoveries about the physical, spiritual -- and primal -- drive to win. At once lyrical and scientific, Why We Run shows Heinrich's signature blend of biology, anthropolog In Why We Run, biologist, award-winning nature writer, and ultramarathoner Bernd Heinrich explores a new perspective on human evolution by examining the phenomenon of ultraendurance and makes surprising discoveries about the physical, spiritual -- and primal -- drive to win. At once lyrical and scientific, Why We Run shows Heinrich's signature blend of biology, anthropology, psychology, and philosophy, infused with his passion to discover how and why we can achieve superhuman abilities.

30 review for Why We Run: A Natural History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    I accidentally read this and then I purposely read everything else he wrote.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Strömquist

    I really love running, but I really don't love many books on the subject at all. Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running I enjoyed very much, but that's hardly "on the subject". Lore of Running is an amazing wealth of information - but hardly enjoyable reading material. And don't get me started on that Springsteen copyright infringement piece of manure. This is why I treasure this one so much. Bernd Heinrich's enthusiastic mixture of biology and evolution and his own experiences is I really love running, but I really don't love many books on the subject at all. Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running I enjoyed very much, but that's hardly "on the subject". Lore of Running is an amazing wealth of information - but hardly enjoyable reading material. And don't get me started on that Springsteen copyright infringement piece of manure. This is why I treasure this one so much. Bernd Heinrich's enthusiastic mixture of biology and evolution and his own experiences is quite irresistible. His theories and methods are told matter-of-factly rather than implying he knows how to do it. I love his quirky ideas, such as running from his office to his car (so that his body would get used to running as primary means of self-powered transportation) or when he searches for the 'perfect' fluid to maintain him during really long runs. (Even if the 'scientific' me could argue, or at least suspect, that there's not one ultimate drink here, but that maybe they should be varied across the course of a run. Maybe testing one at a time was what ultimately disqualified beer for instance...) Anyway, it's been a long time since I read this (and it's certainly up for a re-read), so if you want a better review have a look at this one I found here -> Jared's review of 'Why We Run'.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Solera

    This book suffered from an identity crisis. From the very title, you anticipate that it will be a natural history of the human body, the impulses that led us to walk upright, the impetus that provoked us into running short, and later long distances. At some point you would expect to read about theories about the human physique and how it correlates to talents at long-distance running. Bernd Heinrich's book does this, but it gets confused along the way. It begins as a memoir, a look into his life This book suffered from an identity crisis. From the very title, you anticipate that it will be a natural history of the human body, the impulses that led us to walk upright, the impetus that provoked us into running short, and later long distances. At some point you would expect to read about theories about the human physique and how it correlates to talents at long-distance running. Bernd Heinrich's book does this, but it gets confused along the way. It begins as a memoir, a look into his life as a child in eastern Europe. He enjoys describing the landscape and letting us even smell what his formative years were like. The problem is, these stories and locations don't come back later in the book to provide any reflective lessons or allow us to look back on his life with any new information. Secondly, the framing of the book is a bit self-serving. It begins with Heinrich lining up to run a championship 100k race in Chicago in 1981. From there it steps back to his childhood, then leapfrogs to descriptions of the aerobic mechanics of various animals, from frogs to pronghorn antelopes, birds, and dogs. This, for me, was the best part of the book. He discusses each animal's strengths and weaknesses when it comes to endurance, from describing their physical composition to meticulously breaking down their abilities to take in air, perform and preserve energy. We get insight into the camel's ability to stay hydrated, the cheetah's competitive advantage in explosive strength and an enlightening view of the pronghorn antelope's status as the best ultrarunning animal of its kind. But then once that is over, we come back to his 100k race, where he describes in huffs and puffs what it is like to run very fast for very long. He doesn't neatly weave back the lessons he's taught us in the previous chapters to any real relevance -- were he to describe his actions while running and compare them to other animals, I'd get a sense of cohesion. This, however, wouldn't solve the irrelevance of his childhood vignettes. Sadly, this book wasn't as interesting as I was hoping it would be and it only served to show that I can read a book on running and not love it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jared Hidalgo

    Award-winning ultra-marathoner, biologist, and writer Bernd Heinrich weaves a warm, persuasive narrative with threads of scientific data from his studies as a biologist and also with personal stories from his life as a dedicated runner. Indeed, Why We Run brings together elements of an autobiography, of research notes on animal physical endurance, and of storytelling for distance runners. The result is a bid to understand that ordinary people poses the ability to run the distance and acquire eve Award-winning ultra-marathoner, biologist, and writer Bernd Heinrich weaves a warm, persuasive narrative with threads of scientific data from his studies as a biologist and also with personal stories from his life as a dedicated runner. Indeed, Why We Run brings together elements of an autobiography, of research notes on animal physical endurance, and of storytelling for distance runners. The result is a bid to understand that ordinary people poses the ability to run the distance and acquire even other desirable athletic abilities. But the invitation comes in a most unusual way. In the book, the author finds meaningful connections among otherwise disparate topics. Bees, antelopes, the Nandi tribe, the runner Barney Klecker, and even cranberry juice all help explain the nature of running. With this unique approach, the reader may seem pulled in different directions, but the reading flows surprisingly easily and interestingly. And eventually, Heinrich’s colorful narrative helps the reader realize that all humans can become runners, and those who already are may improve on it. Heinrich starts and ends the book by recounting a 100-kilometer championship in 1981 Chicago. Corresponding with his warm-up for the race is a small amateur, but inspiring view of running history. Then the author moves back in time to describe his personal childhood with flashes from friend’s experiences in WWII. After that, the story moves on to the Heinrich’s experience in the African plains, college, and scientific animal research. While telling all these stories the author also reveals how cases of other animals’ experiences with bodily movements relate directly to that of humans. Some example are the camel’s complex adaptation to the desert, the bird’s anatomy and its diet, and the frog’s loud and continuously sustained croak shed light into our own capacity for stamina and physical endurance. Enter the modern runner’s world. Still outlining his running philosophy, Heinrich establishes an experiential reality of running that even explores some popular running myths. He points out that most of the record-breaking Kenyan ultra-marathoners come from the laborious Nandi tribe, where running is a vital, natural ability for hunting food. The author also shares some personal gems of wisdom and results of makeshift experiments with running exercises and diets. For example, he downplays the usefulness of stretching, and yet believes that modern cross-training techniques are reasonable for long-distance runners. The book finally concludes in a full circle with the account of the 100-kilometer race against All-American ultra-runners. In the end, Why We Run is a worthwhile read for those interested in the animals’, but particularly in humans’ ability to survive, adapt and move. However, Heinrich’s book may give the impression of having a different purpose. Probably to the surprise of many, the book is not a how-to-be-an-athlete, an instructional guide, or a customary piece of writing. Why We Run simply tries to answer the same question the title is asking. Movie: An Uncommon Curiosity: at home & in nature with Bernd Heinrich

  5. 5 out of 5

    Crystal Starr Light

    Bullet Review: I started this in July?! Geez, my reading really has suffered this year. This was a strange book. Part biography, part how to manual, part biology, part evolutionary biology, this book is ultimately the story of Bernd’s 1981 win of the 100km ultramarathon in Chicago. When the book is about that, I found it great. When it dived into antelopes, camels and frogs, I was so NOPE. Interesting, but a bit of a trudge. Not surprising it took so long to finish.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tra-Kay

    Know what you're getting into. The cover and title are misleading. I loved Winter World and felt that Heinrich was a magnificent writer and scientist. This book muchly undid that feeling. Firstly, what this book is not about: antelope, prehistorical man, the Olympics, modern running, Bernd's life, how to run, or why we run. It is, instead, partially about all of these things and more. It sounds like they might combine fabulously. But if you look at the other reviews, you'll see that for many it fal Know what you're getting into. The cover and title are misleading. I loved Winter World and felt that Heinrich was a magnificent writer and scientist. This book muchly undid that feeling. Firstly, what this book is not about: antelope, prehistorical man, the Olympics, modern running, Bernd's life, how to run, or why we run. It is, instead, partially about all of these things and more. It sounds like they might combine fabulously. But if you look at the other reviews, you'll see that for many it falls piteously short, because it tries to cover several topics without smoothly combining them. It seems distinctly cut into near-disconnected chunks, and never covers any one topic completely. The main reason it comes off this way is simple: people interested in competitive running aren't usually interested in the complex physiology of animals; and people interested in explanatory, descriptive nature writing aren't usually interested in the names, times, and general specifics of competitive running. As a result, most people feel that only half or less of the book was of interest. But as others have opined, the writing isn't that good either. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that if Bernd wasn't already well-established, this book would not be in print, or at the very least doing anywhere near as well as it is. It almost seems unfair, honestly. If my rating (which is due to the book having many insightful comments and containing interesting biological information) weren't a 3, it wouldn't be a 4, if you take my meaning. If this all weren't enough, Bernd comes off as egotistical yet tries to seem humble, and it detracts from the book. His continual determination to win is sometimes weakly masked by comments like, "I did not record my finishing pace (I think I was third)..." and his praise for his opponents followed by his pleasure at defeating them is especially annoying. I just wish he'd be more upfront about the fact that he wanted to be first and the best in everything he attempted. Finally, I love animals in the lovey sense, not just the "you are cool" sense. For some scientists, animals are wonderful and fascinating; and they're even more fascinating once you grind them up whole to measure lactic acid or shoot them down and observe them in detail. Don't think I didn't notice your brazen justification for meat-eating and hunting, Bernd, cuz there's only one group one would feel the need to argue against on that point. So...I normally don't mind these things (I did find the frog-grinding highly disturbing), but once that justification was added, I definitely felt a little annoyed. In short, most people would benefit by skipping this book. I don't have much interest in running (I picked it up thinking it involved early man and animals like antelopes, which I love), so I haven't gone into this, but I suggest looking up a book that better covers that interest, or whichever one you have. If you're strongly interested in Heinrich, how animals expend energy, AND competitive running, then give it a shot.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bim Santos

    I really wanted to love this book, which I happily chanced on at a second-hand bookshop at a time when I am trying to double down on my training. But though I eagerly lap up non-fiction science books, this came as a complete and utter disappointment. The author is a supposed ultramarathoner and biologist but the output lacked method and rigor, often jumping from one idea to the next without any sensible thread and dishing out a ton of “I suspect” and “probably” out of thin air, for example surmi I really wanted to love this book, which I happily chanced on at a second-hand bookshop at a time when I am trying to double down on my training. But though I eagerly lap up non-fiction science books, this came as a complete and utter disappointment. The author is a supposed ultramarathoner and biologist but the output lacked method and rigor, often jumping from one idea to the next without any sensible thread and dishing out a ton of “I suspect” and “probably” out of thin air, for example surmising out of the blue that women’s inferiority to men’s in running may be due to shorter feet, or selective pressure, then jumping next to talk about animals he encountered in the wild. I was also startled and taken aback by the naked and brazen display of hubris by the author, thinking himself head and shoulders over his hometown peers, without giving them the benefit and courtesy of context, as shown by this astounding paragraph thick with self-congratulatory glee one could almost hear him beating his chest and patting his own back while admiring himself in the mirror: “Many of the people close to me in rural Maine did not appear to strive for great things. I saw them carrying their black lunch pails, with a thermos and sandwich, each morning on their way to the dreary bowels of the claning wooden mill. In the evening they came back, milked the cow, and went to bed. After some years of the same endlessly repeating routine, they died, usually in the same hospital they were born. I wanted to do something different.” The only saving grace perhaps are the interesting running quotes scattered in modest measure in a few pages, but otherwise, this is like hearing your overly-effusive uncle in your family reunion drunk (in his own kool aid) slurring while romanticizing and boasting about his latest exploits and the bygone days of his sport of choice through shoddy science and select scattershot anecdotes. For all his unadulterated navel-gazing and chest-thumping, the author might as well have called this “Why I Run.”

  8. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    Such a great book. I'd like to take Bernd out for coffee and go for a run in the woods with him!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Phillip Lecheminant

    One of my favorite books of 2018. I had never heard of it until I was browsing the sale section on iBooks and decided to take a chance. There were three main components on running included in this book. 1) Physiology and science behind running. You'll learn what is actually happening in your body when you run. Fair warning, it can get a little technical in places, but Bernd is a talented author that makes the hard science really interesting. 2) We can learn a lot about running by looking at anim One of my favorite books of 2018. I had never heard of it until I was browsing the sale section on iBooks and decided to take a chance. There were three main components on running included in this book. 1) Physiology and science behind running. You'll learn what is actually happening in your body when you run. Fair warning, it can get a little technical in places, but Bernd is a talented author that makes the hard science really interesting. 2) We can learn a lot about running by looking at animals and studying their running and endurance capabilities. The chapter on antelopes is worth the book alone. They can maintain sprint speeds for long distances and have been reported to run 7 miles in 10 minutes. Oftentimes they'll race cars and trains for the sheer enjoyment of a "running" competition. 3) Bernd Heinrich was the world record holder of the 100k (62 miles) in addition to being a distinguished professor of zoology. He included many philosophical tangents about his love for running. Running is a primitive act that connects us with our ancient ancestors. From the beginning of mankind, humans have had to run and hunt with a specific goal in mind in order to survive. While I was once adamantly opposed to running, after training for my first half marathon I believe I activated that primitive desire to run with a goal in mind and fell in love with the very first sport of human existence. I plan on reviewing this book before my first marathon.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Keith

    This book was very different than I expected. I though it would be a history of running, perhaps about the Tarahumara. The first third was biography. Just as I reconciled myself to reading a biography, it switched to the metabolism details of specific insects. Then running metabolism of large mammals. When we got to the last third of the book it was about his running training as an adult. At least twice he ignored medical advice and pressed on. In his case, he survived without permanent injury. He This book was very different than I expected. I though it would be a history of running, perhaps about the Tarahumara. The first third was biography. Just as I reconciled myself to reading a biography, it switched to the metabolism details of specific insects. Then running metabolism of large mammals. When we got to the last third of the book it was about his running training as an adult. At least twice he ignored medical advice and pressed on. In his case, he survived without permanent injury. He also told of some training that was misguided & he learned from those mistakes-steps. Through the course of reading this book I went from disappointment, to learning something, to being interested in the outcome of his training. He said that ultra distance runners have 1%-6% body fat. Really? I thought 4% was the lowest viable BF% for men. Research: https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/id... Says about 8% for elite runners (not ultra). So, perhaps ultra runners do get that low. I didn’t find any numbers for ultra runners in the time that I had available to do research.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Todd

    A good indication that you may be growing tiresome of a book: you find yourself leafing ahead in the book to see exactly how many pages have been dedicated to the anatomy of antelope, frogs, birds, camels etc.. but I did learn a lot about the physiology of many different birds, moths and animals, so that was interesting. We human animals, are in fact, evolved to run. The hair on our head to the splay of our toes, and the rhythm of our lungs, heart and limbs while running, indeed proves that we a A good indication that you may be growing tiresome of a book: you find yourself leafing ahead in the book to see exactly how many pages have been dedicated to the anatomy of antelope, frogs, birds, camels etc.. but I did learn a lot about the physiology of many different birds, moths and animals, so that was interesting. We human animals, are in fact, evolved to run. The hair on our head to the splay of our toes, and the rhythm of our lungs, heart and limbs while running, indeed proves that we are just a bunch of wild monkeys, monkeying around, evolved to avoid being killed, and to kill others. Like a long distance race, I had my personal doubts half way through this, but the book finished strong and left me feeling good by the end of it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Patricia Burgess

    An early book about running tied to anthropological study about why and how humans evolved, their early days as hunters, comparison/contradiction to other species; interwoven is author’s story of becoming ultrarunner, his trials with nutrition, training programs, advice, self-motivation. Well-written, self-deprecating.

  13. 5 out of 5

    David

    This was an interesting take on running. Heinrich is a zoologist, and views running through that lens. Over the course of his own training for his first 100-mile race, he talks about the ways various animals run, and compares their physiology to that of humans. For example, he explains what makes migratory birds such excellent distance athletes. They can fly thousands of miles with little rest because they are so light, their lungs and hearts are made for it, and many of them double their weight This was an interesting take on running. Heinrich is a zoologist, and views running through that lens. Over the course of his own training for his first 100-mile race, he talks about the ways various animals run, and compares their physiology to that of humans. For example, he explains what makes migratory birds such excellent distance athletes. They can fly thousands of miles with little rest because they are so light, their lungs and hearts are made for it, and many of them double their weight before migration so that they have the fat to burn. In addition to having lots of interesting information, he wrote of training for an ultramarathon in a way that didn't seem nearly as crazy as they often do. And the writing was often quite beautiful. I don't know that I'd recommend it for non-runners, but if you've got any interest, give it a go. I read it while training for my first mini-marathon, and it was interesting and kept running on my mind. While I'm not sure that it inspired to train any better, it was a good time to read it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tristan

    This is an excellent book if you are interested in anthropology and the biology associated with running. It analyses the relationship between humans and animals in an attempt to find out why it is that we run and why we are able to run as far as we do. The author himself is an ultra-marathon runner, and the book chronicles his journey to one particular race, his first 100km ultra. This part of the story is well written and engaging but I was left wanting more, more analysis of his own journey, th This is an excellent book if you are interested in anthropology and the biology associated with running. It analyses the relationship between humans and animals in an attempt to find out why it is that we run and why we are able to run as far as we do. The author himself is an ultra-marathon runner, and the book chronicles his journey to one particular race, his first 100km ultra. This part of the story is well written and engaging but I was left wanting more, more analysis of his own journey, the trials and tribulations. I was particularly interested in the knee injury he suffers close to the race, but I was not satisfied by how this was discussed. Maybe that's because I am a runner with an injury and I am looking for stories to make myself feel better. Ultimately this is a fascinating book and worth while reading. A few grammatical and tense errors along the way but the narrative is strong enough to keep you turning the pages.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Cara McKenna

    Nice! Bird-perv memoir!! Stole this paperback from the Husbo last night and read the first half straight through. Great book in many respects—a compelling mix of memoir, running theory, and anthropological study. But my favorite part is what a total bird-creeper the author is. I feel so understood. Page 40, childhood memory: "I spied a tiny owl, no larger than a coffee mug. The yellow eyes of the saw-whet owl looked at me in surprise, and I looked back in wonder. I needed this creature. I craved i Nice! Bird-perv memoir!! Stole this paperback from the Husbo last night and read the first half straight through. Great book in many respects—a compelling mix of memoir, running theory, and anthropological study. But my favorite part is what a total bird-creeper the author is. I feel so understood. Page 40, childhood memory: "I spied a tiny owl, no larger than a coffee mug. The yellow eyes of the saw-whet owl looked at me in surprise, and I looked back in wonder. I needed this creature. I craved it…" [child-Heinrich stuns the owl with a slingshot] "It revived soon after I had it in my hand. I could not get enough of the little owl and maneuvered it into a cage in a hiding place up in a spruce tree in the woods. I felt the bird would be at home there and I could see it frequently. But after a few days my memory of it was secure, and I let it go to live free in the woods."

  16. 4 out of 5

    Two Readers in Love

    Perhaps there is something about the act of long-distance running that lends itself to meditative writing; I have read several good books by writers (Murakami, Cheever), humorists (Zweibel), and now can add this one by a research biologist to the list. This book is wonderful reading for non-runners and runners alike. Part memoir, part training diary, and part evolutionary history; that list sounds like a monstrous chimera, but like the capacity for running that the author describes it somehow ev Perhaps there is something about the act of long-distance running that lends itself to meditative writing; I have read several good books by writers (Murakami, Cheever), humorists (Zweibel), and now can add this one by a research biologist to the list. This book is wonderful reading for non-runners and runners alike. Part memoir, part training diary, and part evolutionary history; that list sounds like a monstrous chimera, but like the capacity for running that the author describes it somehow evolves beautifully to become more than the sum of its parts. The biology is fascinating, and the transparency of the writing is up there with Stephen Jay Gould. The author's love for his subject is contagious.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    What begins as walk down memory lane of Bernd life, slowly develops in a fast read, fueled by the anticipation that only a major personal challenge is about to take place. Bernd uses his preparation for the 1981 100k ultra race, as the end towards which the book is driven. Using comparisons between animal biology, backed up by his scientific knowledge, Bernd suggest that maybe our biologic evolution, and some of our particular human features derive from the act of running. Without being to filled w What begins as walk down memory lane of Bernd life, slowly develops in a fast read, fueled by the anticipation that only a major personal challenge is about to take place. Bernd uses his preparation for the 1981 100k ultra race, as the end towards which the book is driven. Using comparisons between animal biology, backed up by his scientific knowledge, Bernd suggest that maybe our biologic evolution, and some of our particular human features derive from the act of running. Without being to filled with facts or memoirs, the book flows just the way the author might actually run. If you have some interest in running and the biology behind it, this book is a must.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Torres

    I am not particularly scientifically literate in biology, but I do enjoy a well written and documented explanation of the diverse ways in which several animals achieve great endurance feats, and how those abilities are essential to their survival. In this book the author not only explains how birds travel long distances when migrating or how camels can cross deserts with limited access to water in high temperatures, he also explains how humans can learn from these and other fellow animals and be I am not particularly scientifically literate in biology, but I do enjoy a well written and documented explanation of the diverse ways in which several animals achieve great endurance feats, and how those abilities are essential to their survival. In this book the author not only explains how birds travel long distances when migrating or how camels can cross deserts with limited access to water in high temperatures, he also explains how humans can learn from these and other fellow animals and better their endurance in long distance running. He does this in an autobiographical way, as he describes his training regimen for a 100k ultramarathon.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jenwah

    There were interesting things that I took from this book... but the book FELT like long distance running... it was exhausting! The writing was not spectacular, often especially the science was poorly written and difficult to follow. And the chapters seemed a bit thrown together with very different tones and purpose. Other than those fits and starts, it was fun to get into the mind of someone who actually does these things and does them well. I enjoyed what I didn't skim-over of the science too.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    This was quite a mixed bag -- part childhood memoir, part essay about preparation for a 100k race, part detailed look at the chemistry of locomotion in different species (insect, avian, and mammalian), and part discussion of the role of long distance running in human evolution. I picked the book up because I was interested in the latter -- so I was only about one fifth satisfied when the book was over.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    A non fiction/ natural history. The author is a Marathon winner using biology and philosophy to lead us through his passion for running. A very readable interesting book to give non-runner insite into the challenge of a run.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Veronica

    I thought this book would be more a "natural history" and less about Heinrich's life and running experiences. I felt like I was mislead by the title and the description. The writing itself is also not very good. I stopped reading after about 100 pages.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kristi

    Written by a biologist and ultramarathoner. He shares information about endurance and movement in species from beetles to camels from a Biology knowledge base intertwined with his training for an ultramarathon. As an armchair scientist I found it very interesting.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Shane Wolf

    Couldn't read it for more than 45 minutes at a time, and the beginning meanders around painfully, but once it gets into the meat of the evolutionary biology portion it's great.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Coon

    Another classic I can’t believe I hadn’t read. Nerdy science leading to a great explanation the psyche of the runner and why we do this. Fascinating on many levels

  26. 4 out of 5

    Vasilis

    A book about the physiology and biology of running. Showing the differences and similarities of human and some animals regarding endurance.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Dana M

    "Why We Run" has been on my bookshelf for years. I "borrowed it" from my grandmother and haven't returned it to Maine. I picked it up this week because I've been contemplating a return to racing (my last race was Twin Cities Marathon in October 2017). I've had some much needed time away from running, but I've been slowly returning to the sport. I have entire shelves packed with running books, and Why We Run is nowhere near my favorite. That said, I like parts of it. Heinrich is a professor in the "Why We Run" has been on my bookshelf for years. I "borrowed it" from my grandmother and haven't returned it to Maine. I picked it up this week because I've been contemplating a return to racing (my last race was Twin Cities Marathon in October 2017). I've had some much needed time away from running, but I've been slowly returning to the sport. I have entire shelves packed with running books, and Why We Run is nowhere near my favorite. That said, I like parts of it. Heinrich is a professor in the biology department at the University of Vermont. He knows a lot about animals and a lot about running. The last two chapters of the book describe Heinrich's training for the 100 km National Championships (he ran up to 140 miles per week). This part of the book is exciting and beautifully written. Overall though, Why We Run feels like an outdated take on the sport (especially in relation to women in competition). It was published almost 20 years ago (Heinrich was 60 at the time). In a section describing why men are better suited to fast running than women, Heinrich writes: "When women do run as fast and far as men (as many can), they likely do so at a reproductive cost. They must lose so much body fat that ovulation ceases." There's a lot wrong with this statement. While it's fair to say that many female runners struggle with amenorrhea / female athlete triad, it is not fair to say that women can only be fast "at a reproductive cost." It's just false. If you run 100 miles per week and take in enough calories (that's a lot of calories), you will continue to get your period and likely beat many male athletes. Many of America's fastest women get a regular period. Amenorrhea is not a sign of fitness or speed (**you don't need to stop getting your period to be fast**). There's also plenty of evidence that male marathoners tend to have have decreased sperm counts due to lower levels of testosterone. Generally, endurance running tends to reduce semen quality. Men sometimes get fast "at a reproductive cost." Heinrich doesn't mention it. There are other lines like this throughout the book that bother me. I blame this on the fact that the book was written 20 years ago, by a 60 year old man. There's another piece of this book that I struggled with though: long, dense sections (with many diagrams) describing the anatomy of birds and insects. I understand why these pieces are included. Perhaps I was just not in the mood. Biology majors / insect lovers will enjoy this section more. If you're a runner, this is worth reading. You'll really enjoy parts of it (maybe just skip to the last two chapters). I don't feel at all confident that non-runners will enjoy this book. Perhaps one of you will prove me wrong.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Burd

    I really enjoyed Bernd Heinrich's unique take on how our bodies, like the bodies of certain animals, have adapted to be able to run. In addition to the fascinating science behind how birds migrate long distances with hardly any rest or how camels survive desert conditions and still are able to travel for miles, he explores the evolution of running in humans from hunters and gatherers to today's competitive runners. He looks at the physiology and psychology of training for ultra marathons using h I really enjoyed Bernd Heinrich's unique take on how our bodies, like the bodies of certain animals, have adapted to be able to run. In addition to the fascinating science behind how birds migrate long distances with hardly any rest or how camels survive desert conditions and still are able to travel for miles, he explores the evolution of running in humans from hunters and gatherers to today's competitive runners. He looks at the physiology and psychology of training for ultra marathons using his own personal experience as an example. Heinrich was a talented runner during the 70s and 80s but he struggled in his training because there wasn't the wealth of scientific information we have today about training, nutrition, hydration and race strategy. But being a biologist himself, he used his understanding of the animal world to hone in on the most effective methods to tackle the extremely long distance races he was so passionate about. His final chapter recounting the greatest race of his running career was riveting for me. I felt totally inspired by his dedication and perseverence and found myself cheering him on for a race that took place 40 years ago. Throughout the race he turned his thoughts to the animals and birds he had studied and gained the strength he needed to keep going when his body was exhausted. I love running and this book only reinforced that love by making me realize how natural and beautiful the motion of running is. In the peak of my training years, my coach at the time gave me the nickname of the Gazelle. The memory of that great compliment came back with new meaning after reading Why We Run.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    Not the best running non-fiction book out there, but interesting enough. To me it was a little schizo... at first it was a "la la la we're out in nature", Annie Dillard-style navel-gazing type book. Then it became what I thought the whole thing was going to be like, initially--a book about how humans differ from other creatures, biologically, with regards to running proclivity and adaptations. Then the end part was the more edge-of-your-seat part, witnessing the author running his 100-kilometer Not the best running non-fiction book out there, but interesting enough. To me it was a little schizo... at first it was a "la la la we're out in nature", Annie Dillard-style navel-gazing type book. Then it became what I thought the whole thing was going to be like, initially--a book about how humans differ from other creatures, biologically, with regards to running proclivity and adaptations. Then the end part was the more edge-of-your-seat part, witnessing the author running his 100-kilometer (62 mile) race in Chicago. So it was pretty good, and there is some interesting stuff in there about the biology of various creatures, and which animals are more adapted to sprinting versus endurance and why.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Grace

    I love Bernd Heinrich's writing. I started by reading his works on birds and natural sciences, and only later realized he's a distance runner. The book starts off a little slow for me -- a little more memoir than natural sciences-- but midway really picks up and delves into animal physiology, running physiology, and the natural history of running across species. I enjoyed this thoroughly, especially the last few chapters of his big race. What a delight to find one of my favorite nature writers a I love Bernd Heinrich's writing. I started by reading his works on birds and natural sciences, and only later realized he's a distance runner. The book starts off a little slow for me -- a little more memoir than natural sciences-- but midway really picks up and delves into animal physiology, running physiology, and the natural history of running across species. I enjoyed this thoroughly, especially the last few chapters of his big race. What a delight to find one of my favorite nature writers also is a runner! I love birds and running-- so does Heinrich, making him one of my favorite reads.

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