Running: A Global History

Running: A Global History

by Thor Gotaas
     
 

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In the past decade, the number of Americans who consider themselves runners more than doubled—in 2008, more than 16 million Americans claimed to have run or jogged at least 100 days in the year. Though now running thrives as a convenient and accessible form of exercise, it is no surprise to learn that the modern craze is not truly new; humans have been

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Overview

In the past decade, the number of Americans who consider themselves runners more than doubled—in 2008, more than 16 million Americans claimed to have run or jogged at least 100 days in the year. Though now running thrives as a convenient and accessible form of exercise, it is no surprise to learn that the modern craze is not truly new; humans have been running as long as they could walk. What may be surprising however are the myriad reasons why we have performed this exhausting yet exhilarating activity through the ages. In this humorous and unique world history, Thor Gotaas collects numerous unusual and curious stories of running from ancient times to modern marathons and Olympic competitions.

Amongst the numerous examples that illustrate Gotaas’s history are King Shulgi of Mesopotamia, who four millennia ago boasted of running from Nippur to Ur, a distance of not less than 100 miles. Gotaas’s account also includes ancient Egyptian pharaohs who ran to prove their vitality and maintain their power, Norwegian Vikings who exercised by running races against animals, as well as little-known naked runs, bar endurance tests, backward runs, monk runs, snowshoe runs, and the Incas’ ingenious infrastructure of professional runners.

The perfect gift for the sprinter, the marathoner, or the daily jogger, this intriguing world history will appeal to all who wish to know more about why the ancients shared our love—and hatred—of this demanding but rewarding pastime. 

           

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Editorial Reviews

Spectator

"From starting-gun to finishing tape may be a clean ten seconds, but behind that moment swirl a few thousand years of human joy and despair and endeavour—this seems to be the argument of Gotaas's rich and engrossing book."

Times (UK)
An admirable attempt to cover the running phenomenon, not merely in its cultural and historical sweep but also in its philosophy. Gotaas starts by giving us some of the fascinating history of running, showing that it has been part and parcel of human life since our earliest days and has featured prominently in cultures ranging from that of the Incas . . . to Sumeria. . . . It is the attempts by Gotaas to get beneath the surface of running that provide the book’s most revelatory moments.—Matthew Syed, Times (UK)

— Matthew Syed

Guardian
Recreational running, Gotaas points out, has been around since the dawn of recreation time. It's not some modern punishment we invented to burn off excess pints and pizza; it's our most ancient and universal form of play, and has been rhapsodised and dramatised for thousands of years. Gotaas combs the world for true running tales, and comes up with some beauties. . . . An amazingly wide-ranging study.

— Christopher McDougall

Observer
“As well as being vital to our early survival, running is a universal form of play, as this fascinating study shows . . . Gotaas’s research ranges as freely across the globe as it does through time. He pays as much attention to modern African champions as he does to European greats, carefully and colorfully describing the lives of overlooked luminaries such as Abebe Bikila, the barefoot Ethiopian who won the 1960 Olympic marathon in Rome, and Henry Rono (Kenya’s ‘Mr Comeback’).”

Independent (UK)
“Fulfils its brief brilliantly.”—Independent

History Today
“Gotaas has amassed a huge range of material here . . . rich in detail and anecdote.”

Choice
Gotaas takes a broad, shallow approach in this history of running worldwide. . . The book includes many interesting pearls and debunks myths associated with running. . . . Recommended.

— T. K. Ambrose

Times (UK) - Matthew Syed

"An admirable attempt to cover the running phenomenon, not merely in its cultural and historical sweep but also in its philosophy. Gotaas starts by giving us some of the fascinating history of running, showing that it has been part and parcel of human life since our earliest days and has featured prominently in cultures ranging from that of the Incas . . . to Sumeria. . . . It is the attempts by Gotaas to get beneath the surface of running that provide the book’s most revelatory moments."—Matthew Syed, Times (UK)

Guardian - Christopher McDougall

"Recreational running, Gotaas points out, has been around since the dawn of recreation time. It's not some modern punishment we invented to burn off excess pints and pizza; it's our most ancient and universal form of play, and has been rhapsodised and dramatised for thousands of years. Gotaas combs the world for true running tales, and comes up with some beauties. . . . An amazingly wide-ranging study."
Choice - T. K. Ambrose

"Gotaas takes a broad, shallow approach in this history of running worldwide. . . The book includes many interesting pearls and debunks myths associated with running. . . . Recommended."

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781861895264
Publisher:
Reaktion Books, Limited
Publication date:
10/15/2009
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.40(d)

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