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The Longest Race: A Lifelong Runner, an Iconic Ultramarathon, and the Case for Human Enduranceby Ed Ayres
Synopses & Reviews
First and foremost a book about running, The Longest Race takes readers alongside ultramarathoner Ed Ayres as he prepares for, runs, and finishes the JFK 50-mile race at a then record-breaking time for his age division — 60 and older. But for Ayres, this race was about more than just running, and the book also encompasses his musings and epiphanies along the way about possibilities for human achievement and the creation of a sustainable civilization. Looking back over a lifetime of more than 50 years of long-distance running, Ayres realizes that his running has taught him important lessons about endurance, patience, and foresight. These qualities, also hallmarks of being human, likely helped humans to survive and thrive in the evolutionary race — and, Ayres posits, they are qualities absolutely necessary to building a sustainable society.
Grounding each step of his argument are vivid details from this particular race and other moments across his long running career. These experiences take us far beyond the sport, into new perspectives on our origins as future — and what it means to be a part of the human race. In the end, Ayres suggests, if we can recapture the running prowess and overall physical fitness of our “wild” ancient distance-hunting ancestors, we will also be equipped to keep our bodies, our society, and the entire world running long into the future.
"Veteran long-distance runner Ayres, a 55-year competitor in more than 600 races, brings the reader along for his grueling trek on the 2001 JFK 50 Mile, the nation's oldest ultramarathon, explaining some critical insights that enable one to cross the finish line. Ayres starts strong as he ascends in the cold to the Appalachian Trail, descends downhill to the Potomac, sets the pace along the towpath, and fights fatigue passing the Civil War landmarks of Harper's Ferry and the Antietam battlefield. Using Sheehan's axiom of 'listening to your body,' the author provides runners with crucial information and key tips, ending with his must-have 'Notes for an Aspiring Ultrarunner,' advising on breathing, nutrition, attitude, technique, training, footwear, and terrain. Revealing, savvy, and fast-paced, Ayres's eloquent book on marathon running is a master class on the priceless life lessons of enduring and conquering obstacles to victory. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Ed Ayres is a legend who shares his many provocative insights and lessons in an informative yet enjoyable way. A true champion, Ed uses his gift to help us all be the best that we can be.” Dean Karnazes, athlete and New York Times bestselling author
“The Longest Race is ostensibly about Ed Ayres running the JFK 50 ultramarathon, a historically rich course that includes a number of Civil War battlefields. As he carries us with him along this course, he deftly uses the past to inform the present. His overarching question: What does it take for an individual as well as a civilization to go the distance without collapsing?” Lester R. Brown, President of Earth Policy Institute
“Ed Ayres frames The Longest Race within an eight-hour period at a single event — the John F. Kennedy 50 Mile race. Then between its start and finish lines he deftly weaves a lifetime’s experiences and observations: a memoir of a pioneering ultramarathoner and professional writer, a primer of advice on going long distances, an anthropological study of humans as runners, and a set of environmental/ecological essays. Each topic alone would have made a good book. Together they yield a great one, richly detailed and finely written.” Joe Henderson, former editor, Runner’s World
“An ultramarathon is made up of a million moments, and you’re different at the end than you were at the start — it’s the perfect metaphor, as Ed Ayres makes clear, for the race we’ve got to run now, with focus and grit, if we’re going to deal with the deepest trouble we’ve ever stumbled into as a planet.” Bill McKibben, Schumann Distinguished Scholar, Middlebury College
“The Longest Race tells an extraordinary story of the athletic spirit fueled by, yet transcending, competition. Deep in our souls, it’s a thing we can find only through the hard work of caring and striving, not only for ourselves but for our fellow competitors, for life itself, and indeed for the fate of the Earth. We return to this spirit or we perish.” David Meggyesy, author of Out of Their League, Former Western Director, NFL Players Association
“An extraordinary journey of the human body, mind, and soul running together — not as hierarchical powers in a troubled civilization, but as a holistic and exhilarating display of ancient capabilities that lie at the heart of the human experience. This is a breathtaking, feet-on-the-ground story.” Marianne Williamson, author of A Woman’s Worth and Healing the Soul of America
Among endurance runners, there are those
About the Author
Ed Ayres has been running competitively for 55 consecutive years, and he loves it as much now as he did when he joined his high school cross-country team in 1956. Ayres placed 3rd in the very first New York Marathon in 1970, and he is the only participant in that race still competing today. Having been a part of this country’s interest in running since the movement’s inception, he then led the way to even longer races. He placed 3rd in the US 50-Mile championship in 1976 (in 5:46:52); 1st in the JFK 50-Mile in 1977; and 1st in four US national age-division championships at 50K road, 50K trail, and 50 miles. He was the founding editor and publisher of Running Times magazine, now published by Runner's World parent Rodale Press. He also worked for 13 years as the editorial director of Worldwatch, published by the Worldwatch Institute.
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