Finished up Bernard Heinrich’s Why We Run recently, and while I’m ambivalent about the book as a whole, I’m going to recommend it anyways. Why, you ask? Because the best bits focus on fascinating biological and evolutionary running and endurance achievements in the natural world. Heinrich examines several of mother nature’s creatures for what they can teach us about running, including Camels as long-distance champions, Cheetahs and Antelopes as the speed demons, and so on. It’s riveting, and he presents the science in such a way that a layperson (such as myself) can keep up with no sweat. It’s only when he starts touching on his own running career that the book takes a strange turn. Basically, he lists out all of the biological reasons for why he trained the way he did, even going so far as to walk us through some of the stranger experiments he conducted (eating quarts of honey!) in his quest to break the 100K racing world record - which is 62.1 miles! But while these may work for him, his methods strike me as exceedingly strange. For instance, he claims he never stretches out, either before or after a race, and despite having surgery for a fractured kneecap during his race training, he only missed out on two weeks of training! This is not normal, and to me it distracted from what he was saying. To give you an antidote, I’d love to be able to run ultra long distances, but there’s no way my body would hold up to his training (due to shin and groin issues, mainly) much less take the abuse that he throws at it.
The fact that he did end up breaking the world record at the age of 41 is an impressive achievement. I’m just not sure if his advice is repeatable. But with that quibble, I highly recommend the book, especially the fascinating middle where he discusses the endurance techniques of the different animals.