“It soon becomes clear that this book isn’t just about an athletic race. It’s also about the human race” (Bloomberg Businessweek).
Having run in more than six hundred races over the span of fifty-five years, Ed Ayres is a legendary distance runner—and this book is his urgent exploration of the connection between individual endurance and a sustainable society.
The Longest Race begins in 2001 at the starting line of the JFK 50 Mile—the nation’s oldest and largest ultramarathon and, like other such races, it’s an epic test of human limits and aspiration. At age sixty, his sights set on breaking the age-division record, Ayres embarks on a course over the rocky ridge of the Appalachian Trail, along the headwind-buffeted towpath of the Potomac River, and past momentous Civil War sites such as Harpers Ferry and Antietam.
But even as Ayres focuses on an endurance runner’s familiar concerns—starting strong and setting the right pace, controlling his breathing, overcoming fatigue, and staying mindful of the course ahead—he finds himself as preoccupied with the future of our planet as with the finish line.
A veteran journalist and environmental editor, Ayres reveals how the skills and mindset necessary to complete an ultramarathon are also essential for grappling anew with the imperative to endure—not only as individuals, but as a society—and not just for fifty miles, but over the real long haul, in a unique meditation that “ought to be required reading even for people who have never run a step” (The Boston Globe).
“He seamlessly moves between discussing running to exploring larger life issues such as why we run, our impact on the environment, and the effects of the nation’s declining physical fitness . . . Thought provoking.” ―Booklist
“To read this book is to run alongside a seasoned athlete, a deep thinker, and a great storyteller. And Ayres doesn’t disappoint: He is the best kind of running companion, generously doling out hilarious stories and hard-won insights into performance conditioning and the human condition. His lifetime of ultra-running and environmental writing drive his exploration of what keeps us running long distances―and what it might take to keep the planet from being run into the ground.” ―Nature Conservancy magazine