As a relatively new and by no means talented runner, I was NOT excited to learn about ultramarathons - half marathons are about my speed right now, anAs a relatively new and by no means talented runner, I was NOT excited to learn about ultramarathons - half marathons are about my speed right now, and a marathon is at the outer limits of what might ever be possible for me. Running for 24 hours straight, however, has never sounded fun in any way.
But this book! Is so exciting! And exhilarating! I got so much more than I bargained for in reading this - I really only picked it up because I've seen SO MANY people reading it on the bus or at lunch or during study breaks that I thought there must be something a little interesting about the story.
A guy meets a crazy, live-off-the-land-in-the-desert guy who runs all day and drinks beer and eats dried corn and then he meets this guy's heroes - the Tarahumara, an isolated tribe of indigenous people now living in the canyons of Mexico's deserts.
I really liked the flashbacks, the descriptions of the runners and the runs they went on, the detailed analysis of the evolution of humans into 'running animals,' and the clan and brotherhood (sisterhood) of ultra elite runners.
"You know what kind of nerves are in your feet? The same ones that network into your genitals. Your feet are like a minnow bucket full of sensory neurons, all of them wriggling around in search of sensation. Stimulate those nerves just a little, and the impulse will rocket through your entire nervous system; that's why tickling your feet can overload the switchboard and cause your whole body to spasm."
..."a higher-consciousness cult called Divine Madness, which seeks nirvana through sex parties, extreme trail running, and affordable housecleaning." (ha!)
"'I love to run just to feel the wind in my hair,' she'd say. She could care less about races; she was just hooked on the joy of bustin' out of prison. It wasn't long before she began defusing job stress in advance by jogging the nine miles to the lab each morning. And once she realized that her legs were fresh again by punch-out time, she began running back home again as well. Oh, and what the heck; as long as she was racking up 18 miles a day during the workweek, it was no big deal to unwind on a lazy Saturday with 20 at a pop....or 25....or 30... One Saturday, Ann got up early and ran 20 miles. She relaxed over breakfast, then headed back out for 20 more. She had some plumbing chores around the house, so after finishing run No. 2, she hauled out her toolbox and got to work. By the end of the day, she was pretty pleased with herself; she'd run 40 miles and taken care of a messy job on her own. So as a reward, she treated herself to another 15 miles. Fifty-five miles in one day. Her friends had to wonder, and worry. Did Ann have an eating disorder? An exercise obsession? Was she fleeing some subconscious Freudian demon by literally running away? 'My friends would tell me I'm not addicted to crack, I'm addicted to endorphins,' Trason would say, and her comeback didn't much put their minds at ease: she liked to tell them that running huge miles in the mountains was 'very romantic.' Gotcha. Grueling, grimy, muddy, bloody, lonely trail-running equals moonlight and champagne. But yea, Ann insisted, running was romantic; and no, of course her friends didn't get it because they'd never broken through. For them, running was a miserable two miles motivated solely by size 6 jeans: get on the scale, get depressed, get your headphones on, and get it over with. But you can't muscle through a five-hour run that way; you have to relax into it, like easing your body into a hot bath, until it no longer resists the shock and begins to enjoy it. Relax enough, and your body becomes so familiar with the cradle-rocking rhythm that you almost forget you're moving. And once you break through to that soft, half-levitating flow, that's when the moonlight and champagne show up: 'You have to be in tune with your body, and know when you can push it and when to back off,' Ann would explain. You have to listen closely to the sound of your own breathing; be aware of how much sweat is beading on your back; make sure to treat yourself to cool water and a salty snack and ask yourself, honestly and often, exactly how you feel. What could be more sensual than paying exquisite attention to your own body? Sensual counted as romantic, right?" ---(this is the most amazing description of long distance running I've ever heard. It takes me at least 4 miles to reach this place, and I can't do it for 20 miles at a time like the woman in this section can, but whoa, this is an awesome piece of writing.)
"...was Zapotek a great man who happened to run, or a great man because he ran? Vigil couldn't quite put his finger on it, but his gut kept telling him that there was some kind of connection between the capacity to love and the capacity to love running. The engineering was certainly the same: both depended on loosening your grip on your own desires, putting aside what you wanted and appreciating what you got, being patient and forgiving and undemanding. Sex and speed - haven't they been symbiotic for most of our existence, as intertwined as the strands of our DNA? We wouldn't be alive without love; we wouldn't have survived without running; maybe we shouldn't be surprised that getting better at one could make you better at the other. Look, Vigil was a scientist, not a swami. He hated straying into this Buddha-under-the-lotus-tree stuff, but he wasn't going to ignore it, either. He'd made his bones by finding connections where everyone else saw coincidence, and the more he examined the compassion link, the more intriguing it became. Was it just by chance that the pantheon of dedicated runners also included Abraham Lincoln ('he could beat all the other boys in a footrace") and Nelson Mandela (a college cross-country standout who, even in prison, continued to run seven miles a day in place in his cell)? "
"Posted on the wall of Vigil's office was a magic formula for fast running that....had absolutely nothing to do with running: it was stuff like 'Practice abundance by giving back,' and 'Improve personal relationships,' and 'Show integrity to your value system'...'Eat as though you were a poor person.'...If Deena wanted to think about training under Vigil, she had better be ready to train like the Tarahumara. That meant living lean and building her soul as much as her strength."
'"When I'm out on a long run,' she continued, 'the only thing in life that matters is finishing the run. For once, my brain isn't going blehblehbleh all the time. Everything quiets down, and the only thing going on is pure flow. It's just me and the movement and the motion. That's what I love - just being a barbarian, running through the woods."'
'"Humans really are obligatorily required to do aerobic exercise in order to stay healthy, and I think that has deep roots in our evolutionary history...if there's any magic bullet to make human beings healthy, it's to run." If running shoes never existed, more people would be running. If more people ran, fewer would be dying of degenerative heart disease, sudden cardiac arrest, hypertension, blocked arteries, diabetes, and most other deadly ailments of the Western world. That's a staggering amount of guilt to lay at Nike's feet. But the most remarkable part? Nike already knew it.'
'Compared with NFL-revering American guys, Tarahumara men are Lilith Fair fans.' (ha!)
'Because I was eating lighter and hadn't been laid up once by injury, I was able to run more; because I was running more, I was sleeping great, feeling relaxed, and watching my resting heart rate drop. My personality had even changed: the grouchiness and temper I'd considered part of my Irish-Italian DNA had ebbed so much that my wife remarked, "Hey if this comes from ultrarunning, I'll tie your shoes for you." I knew aerobic exercise was a powerful antidepressant, but I hadn't realized it could be so profoundly mood stabilizing and-I hate to use the word - meditative. If you don't have answers to your problems after a four-hour run, you ain't getting them.'
'Once temperatures climb above 90 degrees F, a few extra pounds of body weight make a huge difference - so much so that to maintain heat balance, a 160-lb runner would lose nearly 3 minutes per mile in a marathon against a 100-lb runner.'
'After a while, Louis began to look at running to the way other people look at walking; he learned to settle back and let his legs spin in a quick, easy trot, a sort of baseline motion that could last all day and leave him enough reserves to accelerate when necessary.'
'Know why people run marathons?..because running is rooted in our collective imagination, and our imagination is rooted in running. Language, art, science; space shuttles, Starry Night, intravascular surgery; they all had their roots in our ability to run. Running was the superpower that made us human - which means it's a superpower all humans possess.'
'There's something really weird about us humans; we're not only really good at endurance running, we're really good at it for a remarkably long time. We're a machine built to run- and the machine never wears out. You don't stop running because you get old...you get old because you stop running.'
"'Our greatest talent...also created the monster that could destroy us. Unlike any other organism in history, humans have a mind-body conflict: we have a body built for performance, but a brain that's always looking for efficiency. We live or die by our endurance, but remember: endurance is all about conserving energy, and that's the brain's department. The reason some people use their genetic gift for running and others don't is because the brain is a bargain shopper.'
'You and I know how good running feels because we've made a habit of it. But lose the habit, and the loudest voice in your ear is your ancient survival instinct urging you to relax....And there's the bitter irony: our fantastic endurance gave our brain the food it needed to grow, and now our brain is undermining our endurance.'
'If you don't think you were born to run, you're not only denying history. You're denying who you are.'...more
**spoiler alert** I intentionally have NOT read any other reviews of this book yet. This book was recommended to me by a colleague, and the next day I**spoiler alert** I intentionally have NOT read any other reviews of this book yet. This book was recommended to me by a colleague, and the next day I purchased the ebook version and read it in 3 days. I've read my fair share of spiritual memoirs, "tales from the beyond", etc.
I'm definitely on the fence about this one. I don't think it helps that I've been watching the whole first season of "New Girl" like it's a job - and therefore Schmidt's "douchebag jar" philosophy was close to the surface of my brain.
In honor of Schmidt and his jar, I highlighted several quotes that just SCREAMED "JAR!" to me. Here goes, my list of the top douchebaggy quotes of one of this year's best sellers:
1) How he met his wife: "She'd been on a couple of dates with my college roommate, Vic. One day, he brought her by to meet me - probably to show her off. As they were leaving, I told Holley to come back anytime, adding that she shouldn't feel obliged to bring Vic." *groan*
2) While in heaven: "Someone was next to me: a beautiful girl with high cheekbones and deep blue eyes. She was wearing the same kind of peasant-like clothes that the people in the village down below wore. Golden-brown tresses framed her lovely face. We were riding along together on an intricately pattered suface, alive with indescribable and vivid colors - the wing of a butterfly." *really?!?*
3) On his forgetting of himself while in heaven: "How could I understand all that I did, yet not realize that on earth I was a doctor, husband, and father?" *In that order, buddy? Douchebag.*
4) "It's this thinking that catches the football in the end zone, that comes up with the inspired scientific insight or writes the inspired song." *Oh, so now football is so consequential as to put those who play it in direct connection with the Creator of the Universe?*
5) "Susan is an intuitive - a fact that never got in the way of my feelings about her. She was to my mind, a very special person, even if what she did was, to say the least, outside my straight-and-narrow neurosurgical view. She was also a channel and had written a book called Third Eye Open, which Holley was a big fan of" *! - don't end your sentences with a preposition, as if! *2 - so glad that you could see above Susan's gifts and continue to value her as a person, *3 - Holley really found a great anti-feminist kinda guy, since his wife is so weak-minded as to believe in silly things like intuitives, but her 'big stwong hubby is much more rational...GGRRRR.
6) "Quite simply, I'd never held myself open to the idea that there might be anything genuine to the idea that something of us survives the death of the body. I was the quintessential good-natured, albeit skeptical, doctor." *Oh for fuck's sake*
7) "With a brain affected by a deadly bacterial infection and mind-altering medications, anything could happen. Anything, that is - except the ultra real experience I had in coma." *OH MY GOD, are you kidding me? Did you really just say that?? Are you really that much more special than everyone else??*
Oh, and the names of his experiences were redonkulus. "Girl on the Butterfly wing"? Realm of the Earthworm's Eyeview?" Dude. REEEAALLY?? Do you know how many drugs he would throw at a patient that came at him with that crazy hackneyed crazy assed shit?
However, there were also several good gems to be found - here's a few:
In the worlds above, I slowly discovered, to know and be able to think of something is all one needs in order to move toward it. To think of the Spinning Melody was to make it appear, and to long for the higher worlds was to bring myself there.
You are loved and cherished. You have nothing to fear. There is nothing you can do wrong.
If I had to boil this entire message down to one sentence, it would run this way: You are loved. And if I had to boil it down further, to just one word, it would (of course) be, simply: Love.
Love is, without a doubt, the basis of everything. Not some abstract, hard-to-fathom kind of love but the day-to-day kind that everyone knows - the kind of love we feel when we look at our spouse and our children, or even our animals. In its purest and most powerful form, this love is not jealous or selfish, but unconditional. This is the reality of realities, the incomprehensibly glorious truth of truths that lives and breathes at the core of everything that exists or that ever will exist, and no remotely accurate understanding of who and what we are can be achieved by anyone who does not know it, and embody it in all of their actions.
We can only see what our brain's filter allows through. The brain- in particular its left-side linguistic/logical part, that which generates our sense of rationality and the feeling of being a sharply defined ego or self - is a barrier to our higher knowledge and experience.
It is my belief that we are now facing a crucial time in our existence. We need to recover more of that larger knowledge while living here on earth, while our brains (including its left-side analytical parts) are fully functioning. Science - the science to which I've devoted so much of my life- doesn't contradict what I learned up there.
The (false) suspicion that we can somehow be separated from God is the root of every form of anxiety in the universe, and the cure for it.
How do we get closer to this genuine spiritual self? By manifesting love and compassion. Why? Because love and compassion are far more than the abstractions many of us believe them to be. They are real. They are concrete. And they make up the very fabric of the spiritual realm.
I maintain that the human mystery is incredibly demeaned by scientific reductionism, with its claim in promissory materialism to account eventually for all of the spiritual world in terms of patterns of neuronal activity. This belief must be classed as a superstition...we have to recognize that we are spiritual beings with souls existing in a spiritual world as well as material beings with bodies and brains existing in a material world. - Sir John C. Eccles (1903-1997).
But one thing we do know about particles is that each one is connected to every other one in the universe. They are all, at the deepest level, interconnected.
I believe it's a balanced load: therefore, 3 stars it is. ...more
What does it say about my brain that I can't read more than a few pages of this book before tossing it down for something more fun....like the interneWhat does it say about my brain that I can't read more than a few pages of this book before tossing it down for something more fun....like the internet??...more
read about half- couldn't get into it, and the LONG mythical story of the Indian woman and her husband avoiding death was lost on me during my commuteread about half- couldn't get into it, and the LONG mythical story of the Indian woman and her husband avoiding death was lost on me during my commute - eh....more
He had me hooked when he talked about the married couple and "thin-slicing" relationships - anyone who says they aren't completely paranoid about theiHe had me hooked when he talked about the married couple and "thin-slicing" relationships - anyone who says they aren't completely paranoid about their ratio of contempt:love after reading this book is lying, end of story, btw.
But then...then...after a lot of verbal meandering...and strange, vaguely related sociology/psychology studies I lost steam. I was waiting for a "WHOA, THAT BLEW MY MIND" final chapter, but was disappointed.
Cool premise for a book, somehow, although it's hard to put a finger on, I felt that it was somewhat poorly executed, however. ...more