Why We Run records Robin Harvie's decision to compete in the Spartathlon in Greece, a challenge that requires its entrants to run 152 miles from Athens to Sparta in under 36 hours. As with many amateur runners, it takes a while for the author to find his rhythm.
Harvie begins with the months leading up to his greatest test. His finale is, naturally, the race itself. But this is less a training diary, more the unwinding of one man's responses to exercise. His pages are populated with historical and inspirational figures - from the relatively unknown (ultra-marathon competitor Scott Jurek) to the more familiar (Olympian Emil Zåtopek) - as his mind wanders in the long, lonely hours of preparation.
He makes several attempts to answer the question in his book's title. "The lure of running great distances is always a deeply personal one," he writes, unsatisfactorily, early on. Later, Harvie finds his feet: "It became clear that a marathon is not a great distance for those of us who will never trouble the winners." Echoing the Olympic creed, for Harvie, it is more important to compete, than to win.