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3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 2 March 2013
It took me a couple of chapters to get used to the style of writing but I found myself enjoying the book. I've seen that the book has had low stars on the reviews on Amazon but I tend to think that if people have a strong opinion they are more likely to leave reviews. There are probably a lot of people out there that have read the book, would have rated it a 4 or 3 but just haven't because their view isn't that strong.

Amongst other things I liked about the book is the fact that it included some history of running which meant I also learnt a lot about running. It also provoked me to think about why I run and what I think about when I run. The answers are not that complicated for me but thankfully Robin Harvie is a much deeper thinker and so it's a good read.

There are not many books I keep hold of to read again but I have kept this one and will read it again so for me it deserves a 4* review.
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on 4 June 2014
I really liked this book, and don't agree with the negative reviews on here. Perhaps because I read it as a mixture of a biography (of a short period in the authors life) and a history book.

The sections on the history of running, literary and cultural references were interesting, and I thought made you get to know Robin a little.

I read a lot of running books, a lot of them are very technical and dry, this was a much lighter book and it made for a pleasant and contemplative read.

It would have been nice to hear a bit more about the actual Spartathalon race, but then the story is really about the lead up to it.

One thing I didn't like, is that a seed has been planted in my mind. I recently ran the 145 mile Grand Union Canal race in the UK, and swore that was my last long race ever. My wife will not be happy...
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on 16 July 2013
This book is a great mixture between one runner's own story and the philosophy behind running. Anyone who runs for pleasure, whether it's 5km or 50km, should read this book. A really inspirational read that helped me to get through a very tough race!
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on 28 July 2013
..."we" being those who've similarly taken to the roads at crazy hours, run whilst the world around us slept, got lost in the run and its rhythm...
...admittedly the majority of the population think we're mad, but - we understand each other :-)
The Spartathlon provides the backdrop to a story that is about so much more than the running. I particularly empathised with how, for all the miles of solitude, when it came to the main event Robin found himself longing for companionship. It needn't involve conversation: just sharing a few miles with a couple of Finns (names unknown) would have sufficed. It's a theme that most runners will instantly appreciate: we run alone but, thanks to that unspoken understanding, we secretly enjoy sharing the journey with fellow passengers...
I only became a runner a year ago and, quite frankly, before then I would have been bemused by a lot (but not all) of what Robin recounts here. But for anyone who's lost themselves, even if just once, even if only briefly, in the rhythm of the run... this will resound quite beautifully.
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on 8 July 2011
Firstly, I am baffled at the fact this book got mostly good reviews. This book is a self-indulgent monologue that I tossed across the room in annoyance at the end. Who does this guy think he is? A healthy dose of humble pie would be a good start for him. I purchased it as I love books about running and I have read countless ones - I enjoyed everything from Christopher MacDougalls facinating fact-packed 'Born to Run' to Haruki Murikami's 'What I talk about when I talk about running'. In my opinion this is not a book that will be of interest to you if you love running like I do.. Having said all that the book is relatively well written and may be of interest to some self-help groups or people who are uncomfortable in their own skin.
Finally, why someone who clearly hates and not to mention doesnt understand the draw of running in the hills, would even attempt a race that traverses numerous mountain ranges has me wondering....!
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on 15 September 2012
Silly is the best word I can use to describe this book. Frankly I can't believe that the author managed to get it published. It chops and changes from his family history to his wife's family's grief, Mallory, Bekele, a history of the Olympics, villages in Denmark, the river Thames and even Plato. His attempts at philosophy are ridiculous. How about 'Some might reply that the river only reflects, that it holds no form of its own, that it contains no intrinsic meaning, and that our belief that it has a discrete personality stems from our tendency to anthropomorphise. But even if we are, like Narcissus, peering into it's realms, seeing only ourselves and the story of our own becoming, what a story it is!' Oh Please! If running utlras does that to you I'm sticking to the Park Run.
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on 16 August 2011
Poor prose, unsatisfying story, lots of random and sententious aphorisms. Most importantly, though, it simply has nothing to do with why we, ultra runners, run.

I run. I run ultras. I've run through deserts, around mountains and across cities. Each Saturday I put in my long run for the week, and it's normally 20-40 miles. I enjoy running; I enjoy seeing new places (and if you run 40 miles in one direction you see new places). I run because running makes me happy.

I don't run because of personal loss, an addiction to endorphins, difficulties at work, to reduce my heart rate, to prove myself to myself, because (most bizarrely) of some obscure caveman calling to return to the river (yes, you read that right), or to build a six pack; and I certainly don't run motivated by the seemingly random irrelevant external references that seem to be dropped into this text as they would be into a poorly produced high school project. Nor do the ultra runners I know (including a fair few of those quoted in the book).

Read "Born to Run" to get a sense of why it's just plain enjoyable to step out the door and go for a run for a few hours. Or just -go- for a run for a few hours. But don't waste those hours reading this.
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on 15 June 2012
This felt like a tough read and I really wish I'd taken the trouble to read some of the lower rated reviews on here before purchasing this book.

There IS an interesting story in here about the authors attempt at the Spartathlon, a race I'd never heard of previously but it's wrapped up in a lot of meaningless and dull side stories.

What is absolutely maddening are the literary references which seem to have been crow barred in for no real purpose. In a single paragraph on the Thames the author includes 4 quotes from different authors about rivers so the whole narrative becomes "As Proust said in x" or "Rousseau describes in y". I nearly gave up on the book as a result.

There is something in here for runners but there are many better running books out there to spend your money on.
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on 4 December 2012
I very rarely provide reviews, but so silly and self absorbed is this book that I felt compelled to warn others. I was genuinely looking forward to an account of the Spartathon, but instead was subjected to his views on world history, philosophy and a deeply personal account of a family tragedy that had nothing to do with the title but offended me greatly. It's more an autobiography of someone that we don't or care about than an insight into running. The Sparta race doesn't get covered until page 240, by which time I was so thoroughly sick of his segways into anything but running that I found myself jumping great sections to get the relevant bits. He is so self-absorbed that he makes frequent reference to his frustration at not possessing the eloquence to describe his need for running, whilst clearly believing he does and describing it in achingly long, boring and (he believes) eloquent passages. Seriously, I will never get the week back that it took me to wade through this book and I urge you not to waste your time. Go for a run instead.
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on 18 April 2011
I read this in one go with great interest as I am too obsessed with endurance running. Robin Harvie's account really stands out from others in the same category (and I have read a lot of them) because of its honesty and very elegant writing style.

Robin is a "normal" guy who found himself deep in the world of ultra-running. It is very refreshing to read an account from this point of view which makes the book accessible for runners and non-runners alike.

He throws up lots of interesting thoughts on running itself, how easy it is to put one foot in front of the other but how hard and rewarding it is to endure it over long distances. What it takes to get drawn to something like the Spartathlon.

If you liked Feet in the Clouds or really want to find out what drives someone to want to run 153 miles in one go, the hours of training involved and at the same time admitting that you are not a super-human then you will really enjoy this book.

Be careful though. After reading you may find yourself looking at the race website with a view of signing up. Somehow all that suffering seems so appealing.
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