Why We Run by Bernd Heinrich
I first read this book 10 years back and reread it two months ago. It’s an excellent biography and exploration into the physical and psychological reasons we pursue running and achievement. Biologist and award-winning nature writer Bernd Heinrich recounts his year long journey preparing for a 100K lap road race in Chicago in 1981. He set an American record as well as the World record for Masters; he was 41 at the time. As a biologist, Bernd writes about experimenting with different fueling and training techniques such as running on beer or fruit juice, and carbo-loading. He explores and tries to mimic techniques he discovers in Nature and writes about the great endurance feats of birds and insects.
Combining his expertise as a physiologist, comparative animal biologist specializing in exercise and temperature regulation, and runner, he posits that the unique human capacity for long-distance running in heat is a human adaptation similar to running adaptations in other animals. Another argument of the book was that humans evolved to be ultra-distance runners that could run down even the swiftest prey, through a combination of endurance, intelligence, and the desire to win. (via Wikipedia)
Recent articles and short films I stumbled upon that gave more insight into the Bernd himself are what drew me back to Why We Run. I was, I am, captivated by his connection and passion for the Wild, his need for movement, and solitude, his curious nature, and his minimalist lifestyle. Bernd lives in a cabin with no running water or electricity on 600 acres in the Vermont woods. He is a relic, a throwback, and an example for how to live in our manufactured and attention fragmented world. You can read further about the man in this 2014 profile in Runner’s World.
Watch this excellent short film produced by Salomon Running.
Platte River is a collection of three novellas written by Rick Bass, who I believe is most known for his nonfiction nature writing. His writing is so descriptive it is impossible not to be transplanted to the scenery in each story. Although set in modern day, the stories center around families, friendships, and lifestyles that are simple and often structured by natural phenomenon and the changing of the seasons. In one town he describes a complete transformation every year when the chinook winds blow through. Moods turn playful, the whole population walks around naked: “It was hard to describe the sense of freedom chinooks brought…” (Mahatma Joe). In all three short stories characters make unlikely connections through simple, outdoor activity and find solace in skating icy rivers, fighting river currents or tilling earth. Even without the underlying themes of love, self-awareness and the healing power of nature this collection is well worth the read simply as a lullaby for our senses.