x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Why We Run: Take the long way home

Robin Harvie records his 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.

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.