The Longest Race

Posted: January 4, 2016 by smrtnsasy in Runnin' & Readin'
BOOK:  THE LONGEST RACE: A Lifelong Runner, an Iconic Ultramarathon, and the Case for Human Endurance
AUTHOR: Ed Ayres
PUBLISHER/DATE:  The Experiment, LLC.  2012

This is a very good read for any runner who has been lured by long distances.  It is written by a runner who has run very long distances for a long time.  He was the founding editor and publisher of Running Times magazine.  His experience is unquestioned.

Ed Ayres, the author, focuses on the JFK 50 Mile Race which is the oldest and largest ultramarathon in the United States.  The adventure unfolds as Ayres races to break age-group record for the race at age sixty.  A brief history is given about the race’s beginnings starting with the challenge from President John F. Kennedy to the Marines in 1962.  They were challenged to cover 50 miles in a day like Marines were able to do under President Theodore Roosevelt.  Kennedy had reason to challenge because of the severe decline in fitness of the American military.  This led to the first race in 1963.  Since then, there has always been a strong military contingent running in the event.

The narrative follows Ayres from the race’s beginning in Boonesboro, Maryland, running through town and quickly entering the Appalachian Trail.  The author gives privy to his thoughts as he run along the rocky trail toward the C.O. Canal Towpath.  He lets us in on his racing strategy as he approaches certain points on the course or racing against certain opponents.

As he progresses through the race, he gives us his thoughts and views of historical landmarks such as the Civil War’s Harpers Ferry and Antietam.   This keeps the reader engaged through the reading and not bogged down with just a racing report.

A very interesting facet throughout the book is the environmental slant within the story.  It involves endurance related to man leading to the future of our society as well as the planet’s future.  You don’t get this in the usual story of an iconic event.  But Ayres gives it all to us in a well written book worthy of reading by any serious runner…especially those of us who run long.


“…what makes endurance running an adventure is that you never know what will actually happen.”

Ed Ayres








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