November 11, 2012
The Longest Race by Ed Ayres
I've been trying to turn myself into a runner. I like the idea of running; the fitness, the goal of crossing the finish line, there really isn't anything bad about running. But it's very hard for me to get motivated as my mind tends to wander and I get bored while running. So knowing that this was a book written by an ultra-marathoner, I figured that he would have some good tips in here for helping that, considering he runs for fifty miles straight.
And while this book does have a few tips (located in the back) it's actually more a story about Ayres journey and his thoughts on the world. The book takes place in 2001 and the running of the JFK Ultra-marathon, a fifty mile race through the Appalachia trail and surrounding areas. Ayres is competing at sixty years of age and he breaks down the race into several chapters. Through these chapters there is a different theme at each section being that of thinking of wars past, thinking of the ecological future, how running derives from the activities of primitive man, and so forth. It's actually almost a stream of consciousness type of writing except that it isn't as choppy and random as those seem to be. But it does have that quality of the topic being all over the place. But the main constant is his running and what he does to run the way that he does. He talks about breathing, metabolism, and other things about running that I actually found very helpful.
Since this is Ayres thoughts we are mostly focused on his experiences and him in this book. And that's not a bad thing, you could almost call this an auto-biography of sorts. He may go on about other topics but the undercurrent is that he is running this race as a sixty year old, and that's really impressive. He doesn't go so much into his faults per say, but he does share his mistakes and how he's improved them in running. Like diet while on races, he shares what works and didn't work for him while running these ultra-marathons. You will learn that Ayres is a Quaker and deeply involved with wanting to improve the world's policies on taking care of resources. And if that's not your thing than you might not want to read Ayres book, because he is only telling it from his side.
I really enjoyed the running parts of this book. Sure the other parts were interesting but they distracted me when I just wanted to read about the running. I almost would have liked to have seen two books and I probably would have read both of them. I just found myself hurrying to get past the history lessons and scientific explanations to find out more about Ayres' run, which really intrigued me. Not that the history and science weren't good themselves, they just weren't what I wanted to read while reading about running. But despite that the book is still ok; it's one that I would probably re-read and maybe read at different times with different focuses on the book. Maybe look at only the running sections one day and the science the next. I do know I'll go back to the tips at the back at some point because they seem very useful.
I won't be running any ultra-marathons anytime soon; it's all I can do to finish a 5k in a respectable time. But you never know what the future will bring. My curiosity has been piqued by this book, and that's always a good thing.
The Longest Race