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Why We Run: A Natural History

por Bernd Heinrich

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328459,540 (3.73)8
Racing the Antelope "The human experience is populated by dreams and aspirations. For me, the animal totem of these dreams is the antelope, swift, strong, and elusive. we chase after 'antelope,' and sometimes we catch them. Often we don't. But why do we bother? I think it is because without dream 'antelopes' to chase we become what a lapdog is to a wolf. And we are inherently more like wolves than lapdogs, because the communal chase is part of our biological makeup." In 1981, Bernd Heinrich, a lifelong runner, decided to test his limits at age forty-one and race in the North American 100-Kilometer Championship race in Chicago. To improve his own preparations as a runner, he wondered what he could learn from other animals--what makes us different and how we are the same--and what new perspective these lessons could shed on human evolution. A biologist and award-winning nature writer, he considered the flight endurance of insects and birds, the antelope's running prowess and limitations, the ultraendurance of the camel, and the remarkable sprinting and jumping skills of frogs. Exploring how biological adaptations have granted these creatures "superhuman" abilities, he looked at how human physiology can or cannot replicate these adaptations. Drawing on his observations and knowledge of animal physiology and behavior, Heinrich ran the race, and the results surprised everyone--himself most of all. In Racing the Antelope, Heinrich applies his characteristic blend of scientific inquiry and philosophical musing to a deft exploration of the human desire--even need--to run. His rich prose reveals what endurance athletes can learn about the body and the spirit from other athletes in the animal kingdom. He then takes you into the heart of his own grueling 100-kilometer ultramarathon, where he puts into practice all that he has discovered about the physical, spiritual--and primal--drive to win. At once lyrical and scientific, Racing the Antelope melds a unique blend of biology, anthropology, psychology, and philosophy with Heinrich's passion for running to discover how and why we run.… (mais)
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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/ideal-body-fat-percentage-for-runners/ 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.
( )
  bread2u | Jul 1, 2020 |
When I picked up this book I was expecting a anthropological and biological look at running. What I got was several chapters of the author's history, which was interesting, but not what I was in the mood for at the time. Finally in the seventh or eighth chapter the book took a turn more to my liking. I found parts of this book extremely interesting. Especially the biological adaptations contrasted in the pronghorn antelope and the camel. Also the theory of why we came to run, namely "persistence scavenging" (my term) and "persistence hunting." The book made me laugh a couple times as well. It ends with a description of his training for an ultramarathon and experience of the subsequent race. Both descriptions left me with respect for the author and an insight into the grit it takes to be a runner. ( )
  nebreader | Nov 19, 2008 |
Really odd, but really interesting. The exercise physiologist in me found it fascinating. The runner in me found it enlightening. The kid in me who grew up with a bit of an oddball science dad who ran long distances well before it was fashionable found it familiar. ( )
  bookem | Oct 11, 2007 |
If you like long-distance running. Or, if you're obsessed by it. This is the book to read.

"I decided to enter the race, and, if possible, win it." It still sends shivers down my spine. ( )
  chrisadami | Mar 30, 2007 |
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The human experience is populated with dreams and aspirations.
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Racing the Antelope "The human experience is populated by dreams and aspirations. For me, the animal totem of these dreams is the antelope, swift, strong, and elusive. we chase after 'antelope,' and sometimes we catch them. Often we don't. But why do we bother? I think it is because without dream 'antelopes' to chase we become what a lapdog is to a wolf. And we are inherently more like wolves than lapdogs, because the communal chase is part of our biological makeup." In 1981, Bernd Heinrich, a lifelong runner, decided to test his limits at age forty-one and race in the North American 100-Kilometer Championship race in Chicago. To improve his own preparations as a runner, he wondered what he could learn from other animals--what makes us different and how we are the same--and what new perspective these lessons could shed on human evolution. A biologist and award-winning nature writer, he considered the flight endurance of insects and birds, the antelope's running prowess and limitations, the ultraendurance of the camel, and the remarkable sprinting and jumping skills of frogs. Exploring how biological adaptations have granted these creatures "superhuman" abilities, he looked at how human physiology can or cannot replicate these adaptations. Drawing on his observations and knowledge of animal physiology and behavior, Heinrich ran the race, and the results surprised everyone--himself most of all. In Racing the Antelope, Heinrich applies his characteristic blend of scientific inquiry and philosophical musing to a deft exploration of the human desire--even need--to run. His rich prose reveals what endurance athletes can learn about the body and the spirit from other athletes in the animal kingdom. He then takes you into the heart of his own grueling 100-kilometer ultramarathon, where he puts into practice all that he has discovered about the physical, spiritual--and primal--drive to win. At once lyrical and scientific, Racing the Antelope melds a unique blend of biology, anthropology, psychology, and philosophy with Heinrich's passion for running to discover how and why we run.

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