Book Review: The Longest Race by Ed Ayers (Psst . . . It’s A Must Read!)

Between books, blogs, magazines, and other miscellaneous articles and essays, I do a lot of reading.  Most of what I read is enjoyable, informative, and worthwhile.  Every so often, though, I am fortunate enough to pick up exactly the right thing at precisely the right time and I read something that just truly resonates with me – something that I know has a meaningful and personal lesson to teach me.  Such was the case with The Longest Race by Ed Ayers.

The Longest Race - Own Photo 2To say that I’ve been on a bit of a personal journey over the last year or two of my life is putting it somewhat mildly (though, aren’t we all in one way or another?).  So much of what I’ve been pondering, exploring, and learning was reflected back at me in Ayers’ book and so many of the values that he holds and articulates in his writing echo my own.  Ayers writes with a profound respect for the sport of running, humankind, animalkind, and the planet as a whole and it is a beautiful thing to read.

The story he tells is of his experience at the 2001 JFK 50-mile ultra-marathon, and this story alone makes for a wonderful read.  As a runner myself (though not an ultra-runner by a long shot), I was drawn in by the tale of endurance.  I certainly learned a bit about running from Ayers and will be applying my new education to my own training.  But, to say that this is a book that is solely about running would be to ignore many of the larger themes in the book.

The Longest Race offers us a glimpse into Ayers’ mind and it is a brilliant place to explore.  His grasp of history, science, and the human condition is evident as he reflects on the past, as it is so boldly laid out before him on the JFK course, as well as on the future, as he considers deeply the connections between people, animals, the environment, and the sustainability of all three.  Ayers also touches here and there on topics such as patience, anxiety, nutrition, and relationships both within the running community and outside of it.

This is an extraordinary tale that I will be reading again.  There were several moments in the book where I was struck by a certain importance of what I was reading to my own current place in life.  I have more to learn from Ayers’ story and I would be willing to make a bet that others do too.

31 comments on “Book Review: The Longest Race by Ed Ayers (Psst . . . It’s A Must Read!)

  1. Excellent. I can’t wait to read it. I love books that come along at the perfect moment! makes them all the more special! xo

  2. Thanks for sharing. I’m definitely gonna check this out now.
    -JulieC

  3. Running Girl says:

    I will have to check it out! I just finished Scott Jurek’s Eat and Run. That was a great read too – and VERY inspirational. It includes recipes from his vegan diet but the story is really how he came into ultra running.

  4. Tania_tc says:

    Sounds interesting. Added to my to-read list, thank you.

  5. runcolbyrun says:

    Fantastic. Thank you for posting! I was just about to send out a “anyone have any good reads lately?” email to my friends and viola! Here you are! I’ll definitely check it out. And as an aside, THANK you for linking our blog, It’s a Marathon AND A Sprint to your site! Tina and I are really enjoying the blog-o-sphere. Such a great creative outlet. It’s been wonderful stumbling upon your blog. Always well done. Thanks again! 🙂

  6. Sounds like a good read. I put a hold on the book at my library. (Coincidentally, I will be running my first 50 miler this weekend!)

  7. evelinruns says:

    Thanks for sharing! I’ all about reading books right now and I better make the best of it, so I keep adding books to the to-read list and this one definitely sounds like a good fit!

  8. Red Hen says:

    Just bought it on your recommendation.

  9. Renee O. says:

    Thanks for a great review. This is definitely going on my to read list. It sounds like we could all learn from the book!

  10. Zahra says:

    Thanks for the tip – sounds great. I’m off to order myself a copy now! Good motivation for my third marathon next year 🙂

  11. I hope to read this soon! It has been on my read list for awhile! Glad you liked it!

  12. Ooh, this is a good read. It’s on my Kindle right now.

  13. tlsylvan says:

    I’m going to pick this up tomorrow, thanks for the review!

  14. Thanks for sharing! I’m going to have to look into this book, I’m in need of a new one at the moment!!

  15. Zahra says:

    Brilliant! Good luck with your training… it can seem like a bit of a slog – especially those 2-3hr runs, but all the effort is totally worth it in the end. Oh, and if anyone tells you running a marathon is 90% mental, they are totally right! 😀

  16. Sophie33 says:

    Waw! It sounds like a really good book! thanks for sharing it with us!

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