It is fair to say that I’m obsessed with Bernd Heinrich. I found his book Why We Run: A Natural History to be both rigorous and moving and his lifetime commitment to running to be inspiring.
Heinrich is going to be a presence on this blog for a while to come, so get used to it and check out this awesome video Salomon Running did about him. Maybe it’s the lack of sleep, but this video almost moved me to tears.
When I picked up Bernd Heinrich’s Why We Run, I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it. It is both a memoir of ultra training and a mediation on what we can learn from the endurance and running abilities of various animals. Generally, I’m not a huge fan of naturalist writing – I’m a city boy, and the life of bugs isn’t really my thing. However, Heinrich’s strong writing, and idiosyncratic approach, really sucked me in. I couldn’t put the book down. I’ll probably write a fuller review in the future, but here’s another quote that has stuck with me.
A quick pounce-and-kill requires no dream. Dreams are the beacons that carry us far ahead into the hunt, into the future, and into a marathon. We can visualize far ahead. We see our quarry even as it recedes over the hills and into the mists. It is still in our minds eye, still a target, and imagination becomes the main motivator. It is the pull that allows us to reach into the future, whether it is to kill a mammoth or an antelope, or to write a book, or to achieve record time in a race. Other things being equal, those hunters who had the most love of nature would be the ones who sought out all its allures. They were the ones who persisted the longest on the trail. They derived pleasure from being out, exploring, and traveling afar. When they felt fatigue and pain, they did not stop because their dream carried them still forward.
They were our ancestors.
Pictograph of Runners cited by Heinrich in Why We Run