Why We Run: A Natural History – Bernd Heinrich

I’m not quite sure what I expected from Why We Run, but how it opened up wasn’t it. The structure of the book is very much of why/how Heinrich decided to train as an Ultramarathon runner. So we start with how he started doing cross-county running as a chilld and how he dealt with injuries.

But as the chapters slip by we benefit more and more from Heinrich’s academic knowledge as a zoologist, looking at styles of running and movement across nature. We find out how antelopes run, and how humans can catch them if they have the intelligence to co-ordinate and the stamina to run for longer than antelopes, even if we can’t beat them in a sprint.

He then moves away from the mammals to look at migrating species and how they sustain swift movement for days at a time in terms of energy and muscle usage.

There is definitely some psuedo-science in here, with a use of E=mc² to describe eating, weight and running speed which is not quite the speed or mass that are referred to! But he is open about being a zooligist, but should probably have stayed away from special relativity!

He then explores how he trialled different training styles, diets and lifestyles to understand what works for him as a runner, and how he turns that into racing strategy, and what that means in terms of racing results.

I may never be even a conventional marathon runner, but this exploration of our bodies’ running capability definitely inspires me to keep heading out for a run in the country.

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