Thursday, July 19, 2007

Racing the Antelope

In his book, Bernd Heinrich delves into the evolutionary components of endurance of both animals and humans. Framed over the backdrop of the story of his own 100km record training and race in 1981, his is a story that offers inspiration. And maybe, some insight into why, in his view, we have literally evolved to be runners. All of us.

"My suspicion is that the effects of running are quite ordinary. It is the other states, all other feelings, that are peculiar, for they are an abnegation of the way you and I are intended to feel. As runners, I think we reach directly back along the endless chain of history. We experience what we would have felt had we lived ten thousand years ago, eating fruits, nuts and vegetables, and keeping our hearts and lungs and muscles fit by constant movement. We are reasserting as modern man seldom does, our kinship with ancient man, and even with the wild beasts that preceded him."

On the notion that "vision" is what separates from other predators and informs our running.

"A quick pounce-and-kill requires no dream. Dreams are the beacons that carry us far ahead into the hunt, into the future, and into a marathon. We can visualize far ahead. We see our quarry even as it recedes over the hills and into the mists.

It is still in our mind's eye, still a target, and imagination becomes the main motivator. It is the pull that allows us to reach into the future, whether it is to kill a mammoth or an antelope, or to write a book, or to achieve record time in a race.

Other things being equal, those hunters who had the most love of nature would be the ones who sought out all its allures. They were the ones who persisted the longest on the trail. They derived pleasure from being out, exploring, and traveling afar. When they felt fatigue and pain, they did not stop, because their dream carried them still forward. They were our ancestors."

"I believe our common hunter's heart is the ability to impart value far in excess of what seems practical. That's dreaming. That's a large part of what makes us human. If modern runners were drawn around a campfire in a warm African night, they would, like any Bushmen, poke the embers and relive the run all the way to the finish line and beyond. "

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