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The Lure of Long Distances
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The Lure of Long Distances

3.02  ·  Rating Details ·  231 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
Robin Harvie was a fairly ordinary runner. He ran his first marathon after a bet. Then he found that although he couldn't run fast, he could run long distances--very long. A casual hobby turned into a 120-miles-a-week obsession, and a training route along the River Thames morphed into a promise to himself that he would tackle the oldest and toughest footrace on earth: the ...more
ebook, 288 pages
Published April 26th 2011 by Public Affairs (first published April 1st 2011)
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Feb 19, 2013 JDK1962 rated it did not like it
I picked this up because the overall concept sounded interesting, but IMHO, the author hasn't a clue as to how to tell a compelling story, or to present background or tangential information in a manner that properly integrates into the overall narrative. I read the first few chapters, and became increasingly impatient with the author as he kept jumping around...I kept expecting him to say "hey look, a squirrel!" since he seemed to be deep within authorial ADD territory.

And for the record? Going
Dec 30, 2011 E rated it did not like it
This was a terrible book. There was no consistency between the author talking about his race experiences and the history of humans running long. It was like he couldn't decide which book to write: the history of long distance running, which had potential to be interesting if well-presented, or his experience of running. Often, he would start writing about his experience of the run, but then would just jump to some historical fact, get so bogged down in the history, and never return to whatever i ...more
Kevin J.
Jul 06, 2012 Kevin J. rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: public-library, dnf
Did not finish. After 30 pages I still had no effin clue what the author was on about. Whatever it was, it happened over and over and over and over again. The repetition in those 30 pages made me seasick.

So, no, I didn't get to the end so your experience may vary.
Dec 26, 2011 Brian rated it liked it
This book is definitly written to a specific audience, and being in that audience I rather enjoyed it. I will say though, that I have no conception of if he is rehashing thoughts common in other novels in the running genre since this is the first book of its kind that I have read.

He starts off with an apology in about how he frames the story with his growing up which I was somewhat mollified by since I didn't actually like a lot of his personal life. His father-in-law dies and there is a whole l
Jul 19, 2012 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's interesting book that could be much, much better if the author didn't go too much in some details. First half of the book is full of uninteresting stuff like author's family history (why should I care and what does it has to do with the running?) or the mental state of his wife's mother. I understand that some of this stuff has been important part of the authors life at the time, but it's not for the reader.

Also, very big part of the book is compound of some philosophical texts that are usu
Nov 01, 2012 Paul rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: running, biography
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 12, 2011 Maria rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Being injured and unable to run I've taken to reading about it (call it a form of torture). This book tries to reflect deeply on why we choose to run long distances. Frankly I didn't find the book succeeded in its aim, the author was trying just a little too hard to be philosophical & in the end I sometimes just didn't get it (e.g. the discussion regarding his Mother-in-law's state of mind). The writing is not bad, and I did enjoy the last chapter which described the author's attempt at the ...more
Apr 21, 2012 Peter rated it it was ok
I tried and tried to like this book, because I so adore endurance sports. I finally gave up, because it became an endless series of attempts to answer the question "why do we run long distances?" and I don't really care. I just love running and swimming and bike riding and walking, and I don't feel the need to analyze it all in search of some explanation, any more than I feel the need to understand why the sky is blue or why kookaburras laugh or what love is. Some people evidently enjoy clinical ...more
May 21, 2011 Russell rated it it was ok
I enjoyed parts of this book, mostly the second half.

In the first half I skimmed over a few pages of historical information. Some of it was interesting but a lot of it was boring. I also didn't much engage with his childhood or more recent familial interactions.

The language is a bit too flowery for me and the story telling is a bit disjointed, frequently interrupting itself with tales from history.

Much better was his telling of running in the Lake District and the Sparathlon. The story of his tr
Jan 21, 2013 Cherie rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction, running
One man's story of running long distance; some funny moments but I didn't have patience for all the side stories, background memoir, and a lot of the excess stuff. DNF
May 13, 2017 Lynn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This really is a story of pure obsession. I didn't find it uplifting, actually it felt like such a lonely journey, but I definitely related to some of his feelings with my new found hobby but doubt I'll ever feel the need to compete in any events like the grueling Spartathalon!
Sep 02, 2011 Simon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Loosely hung around the story of the author’s attempt to run the ‘Spartathlon’, a 153 mile ultramarathon run every year between Athens and Sparta, this book tries hard to be a metaphysical discussion of the act and significance of running but I’m afraid it just left me confused and a bit annoyed.

Harvie’s style is portentous, opaque and humourless (and the last thing matters because running as a pastime is as ridiculous as it is enriching – all that Vaseline and fluorescent clothing). The book h
May 12, 2012 Oliver rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sport
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Trev Twinem
Lets get one thing straight...I am a runner...there i've said it and I have been running for a long time over 25 years so I am no spring chicken :)) In fact as I write this I have just returned from running the Stroud Half Marathon in a time of 1 hr 38mins...and I am a little disappointed with this...that follows on from the Bristol Half Marathon some 3 weeks ago where I was tripped at the 3 mile stage...had to spend 20 mins with the local St Johns Ambulance receiving treatment...but still as al ...more
Feb 22, 2012 Yitka rated it liked it
I admire what Robin Harvie tried to accomplish with this book. Unlike many running memoir books, he didn't just make it about himself; he made a genuine effort to position his own passion for running in a greater historical context, and address the psychological reasons that drive people to cover improbable distances on foot. He interspersed enough of his own story to keep a loose narrative frame for the book, even as he drifted off into rambling histories of other runners, other races, etc. How ...more
Nicola Howarth
I was really looking forward to reading this book as it was recommended as a fabulous read for anyone like me, who loves running. The book is littered with quotes from various famous elements to attempt to draw on what Robin Harvie's mind was thinking when he decided to enter the Spartathlon, a race like no other, that follows the path of Pheidippides, an ancient Athenian long distance runner, who in 490 BC, before the battle of Marathon, was sent to Sparta to seek help in the war between the Gr ...more
May 12, 2013 Robyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was the most analytical book I've read about running. I'm a long-time runner and was a bit overwhelmed by the depth and breadth that Harvie carved out to talk about his obsession. But he's an ultra-marathoner and perhaps the characterization is a fair parallel.

In a way it inspires me to want to ratchet up my program to at least consistent marathon running (I've run two). I love running half-marathons and feel challenged by that distance. Maybe it's time to push the limit again.

My favorite
Kevin Washburn
Dec 08, 2011 Kevin Washburn rated it really liked it
This book is interesting because its conclusion is not what the reader anticipates going into the first chapter. Based on his own experience of training for and running the Spartathlon, a recreation of Pheidippides’s legendary journey from Sparta to Athens, Harvie takes the reader on a philosophical journey as he hits the bricks along the River Thames. The result is a beautifully written text—so much so that the actual training and racing almost seems secondary to the insights Harvie gains throu ...more
Oct 29, 2013 Vasilis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: running
I was a little disappointed, because i hoped that the writer in the end would accomplish his goal of finishing Spartathlon. But in the end of the book the reasons that led to that decision seemed to me fair enough.
Generally it's a nice book with explains what the writer he thinks about running and primarily of the long distance running, and the connections he does with running and life.
It a was a little bit tiring that he was jumping from one subject suddenly to anoother but in the end all of th
Sep 17, 2012 Will rated it really liked it
A great book for marathon runners... may moments of "hey that's what I experience on a run". For those even tempted by a marathon or a longer distance race read this book. It is one of the best I've read that gets into the mental side of long distance running.

It also includes a few good historical mentions of the sport... the development over the last century... the potential effects of ultra running on the human body... but not from a scientific view... it's much more biographical.

Plus it's a
Mark Nunn
a lot of people who have reviewed the book have complained that it flits about do much and it is very hard to follow the narrative. I think that is a fair comment, you can be in ancient Greece one minute, running the London marathon the next with smattering of Bertrand Russell between.

if that annoys you then this isn't going to be an enjoyable read. I didn't mind, I liked the regular asides and the tales of ultra distance running were astounding, opened my eyes to a world I never knew existed.
Martin Fogarty
This book is definitely for a runner only and a deep thinking one at that. It is essentially an extended philosophical musing on why people chose to run long distances to the point of exhaustion. I am not sure if reading this would encourage anyone to take up the sport but it does give some telling insights to what drives at least some of its participants. It is almost painfully honest at times.
Agness Kram
Apr 07, 2013 Agness Kram rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Its a good book, it lost one star in my opinion though because it approached running in a too philosophical way! Running is simple and I think he took is too far over-analyzing it. But it's all a matter of opinions :-)
Apr 28, 2012 Low rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a quick read for me although it went a bit meandering at times, but at least it was not too long. Got lost sometimes because the narrative flew all around the place but taken in bits it's okay.
Josie Wright
This is a very interesting book which is punctuated by what another described as 'self indulgent, pretentious nonsense' which I have to agree with. But it only makes up 1/5 of the book, so I just ignored it.
Sarah Simmons
Oct 24, 2014 Sarah Simmons rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the psychological exploration of this book. I was not looking for a guide to running far, an inspiring success story, or a history lesson. This book is, I think, ideal for distance junkies who love literature and philosophy.
Jun 23, 2013 Dylan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this... I don't agree with the author's view on running and I'm clearly not cut out to be a ultra marathon running; however this doesn't detract from the book and end the end I felt a real connection with the story.
Kristen MacGregor
Jun 16, 2014 Kristen MacGregor rated it it was ok
It took me a LONG time to make it through this book- it just wasn't my style. He had a lot of literary references that I didn't know and I felt were just his way of showing off. The most exciting part of the book is the shortest- the last chapter when he's finally doing THE big race!
Joe Rydel
Apr 08, 2015 Joe Rydel rated it did not like it
As other readers have noted, I too bought this book after being compelled by brief summary I read online. While I enjoyed parts of the book, it was a real struggle for me to get through it. Much like the ultra runners highlighted in this book, I did persevere and make it to the finish!
Callum Jacobs
I liked the idea of this book and you have to give the guy props for trying to run the Spartathalon, but in the end it was all just a bit pretentious. Not that much about running and quite a bit about the history of rivers.
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Robin Harvie is an atheist, publisher and author of Why We Run: The Story of an Obsession. He lives in London.

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“Running should not be hemmed in by schedules and routines. Its beauty derives from the fact that it cannot be governed by the magnetic fields of others.” 0 likes
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