Josh about to pass his grandpa

Josh about to pass his grandpa
Here, at age three, Josh regularly runs a mile or two with me--and I have to work hard to keep up!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

100 Quotes on Running and Human Endurance

       For fun, but also for inspiration and enlightenment, I decided to put together a collection of 100 quotes about that most fundamental activity of our species, the human race.  The quotes I found range from whimsical to profound--sometimes in the same breath (see Dr. Suess). And I was especially fascinated by how universally evocative running seems to be not just to those of us who run for sport, but to philosphers, scientists, and even U.S. presidents (Thomas Jefferson, John F. Kennedy, and Jimmy Carter), as well as to some of the giants of literature and the arts (Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci, Joyce Carol Oates). And of course, let's not leave out actual runners, from Clarence DeMar to Kathrine Switzer to the guy who may have written more about running than anyone else on our crowded planet, Joe Henderson. I hope you won't mind that I'm also including a scattering of quick takes from my book The Longest Race, which will be out on October 9.
        So, here goes:

1.  "Endurance is one of the most difficult disciplines, but it is to the one who endures
      that the final victory comes."
                --The Buddha

2.  "Men ran after and ate horses for four hundred thousand years.  The outcome is
       more than a love of horse flesh; it is a runner's body."
                --Anthropologist Paul Shepard

3.   "There are as many reasons for running as there are days in a year.... But mostly
       I run because I am an animal and a child."
                --Dr. George Sheehan

4.   "Running! If there's any activity happier, more exhilarating, more nourishing
       to the imagination, I can't think of what it might be."
                --Joyce Carol Oates

5.   "If you can fill the unforgiving minute
      With sixty seconds worth of distance run--
      Yours is the Earth..."
                --Rudyard Kipling

6.   "I got plenty of cautions that one or two of these marathons was all a man
       should do in a lifetime."
                --Clarence DeMar, in 1911, before the first of the seven
                   Boston Marathons he won, and the 65 he ran overall.

7.   "Running has substantiall shaped human evolution.  Running made us human."
                --Evolutionary biologist Dennis Bramble of the University of Utah

8,    "What's true for us as individual humans is true for the civilization we create:
        a sprint culture, seeking ever greater speed and power in all things cannot endure."
                --from The Longest Run: a Lifelong Runner, an Iconic Ultramarathon,
                   and  the Case for Human Endurance (October 2012)

9.    "I'm 84 years old. Don't let the altar-boy face fool you."
                --Johnny Kelly, aftger the finish of his 61st Boston Marathon

10.   "There are clubs you can't belong to, neighborhoods you can't live in, schools
          you can't get into, but the roads are always open."
                --Nike advertisement

11.   "The best long-distance runners eat raw meant, run naked, and sleep in the snow."
                --Alaska Airlines advertisement referring to sled dogs, as cited by

12.   "As a boy, I was about the slkowest moving youngster in school."
                --Seven-time Boston Marathon winner Clarence DeMar

13.   "Happiness is pushing your limits and watching them back down."
                --New Balance advertisement

14.   "We humans...don't just sense what's happening in our bodies through
         the mediation of our consciousness up top in the ivory towers of our heads,
         but through our feet."
                --The Longest Race

15.   "Why couldn't Pheidippides have died at 20 miles?"
                --Frank Shorter, 1970, two years before he won the Olympic marathon

16.   "Sport, which mimics the language and emotional intensity of war but eliminates
         the fatal destruction, may be a form of redemption."
                --The Longest Race

17.    “They say a good love is one that sits you down, gives you a drink of water,
         and pats you on top of the head. But I say a good love is one that casts you
         into the wind, sets you ablaze, makes you burn through the skies and ignite
         the night like a phoenix; the kind that cuts you loose like a wildfire and you
         can't stop running simply because you keep on burning everything that you touch!
         I say that's a good love; one that burns and flies, and you run with it!” 
                --C. Joybell C.

18.    "A city that outdistances man's walking powers is a trap for man."
                --Arnold Toynbee

19.    "It might be a paradox that would only irritate an old-school coach, but I knew
          well that I would run my best by hoping that everyone else ran their best."
                --The Longest Race

20.   "Men are born human.  What they must learn is to be an animal.  If they learn
         otherwise it may kill them, and kill life on the planet."
                --Anthropologist Paul Shepard

21.   "Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience."
                --Ralph Waldo Emerson

22.   "Early humans actually ran with lower energy efficiency than the animals they chased--yet
                --The Longest Race, citing University of Utah biologist David Carrier

23.   "Since I was forty and definitely slipping, I have won seven full marathons,
        got second six times, and third four times.... I'm wondering what I can do
        after I'm fifty."
                --Clarence DeMar

24.   "The feature that differentiates hominids from other primates is not large brain
        size, but the set of characteristics associated with erect bipedal posture and
        a striding gait."
                --Biologist David Carrier

25.   "Fatigue is not an enemy.... In fact, it's quite friendly and only wants you to be
        more comfortable.  It wants you to stop and lie down, for God's sake...." 
                --The Longest Race

26.   "Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory."
                --William Barclay

27.   "Stone-age humans and their predecessors didn't have smart phones, but they
         were smart on their feet, far longer than post-industrial people have been."
                --The Longest Race

28.   "We can't reach old age by another man's road."
                --Mark Twain

29.   "The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art."
                --Leonardo da Vinci

30.   "Now bid me run, and I will strive with things impossible."
                --Shakespeare, "Julius Caesar"

31.   "You don't so much outrun your opponents as outlast and outsmart them, and
         the toughest opponent of all is the one inside your head."
                --Joe Henderson

32.   "In training (as opposed to racing) you don't want to let yourself run out of fuel totally,
        but you do need to make yourself adapt to running farther with less."
                --The Longest Race

33.   "Without patience, you will never conquer endurance."
                --Yiannis Kouros, holder of multiple world ultra records, as quoted in

34.   "Man is a distance runner as a consequence of hundreds of thousands of years
        of chasing antelopes, horses, elephants, wild cattle, and deer."
                --Paul Shepard

35.   "Paradoxically, ultrarunhners have (and need to have) less body fat than
         most other people--yet the little we hve is of great value.  Fat is
         the ultrarunner's secret friend."
                --The Longest Race

36.   "Come what may, bad fortune is to be conquered by endurance."

37.   "No matter how lean you might be, unless you are actually starving, you will
         have enough fat to go for days."
                --The Longest Race

38.   "Heroism is endurance for one moment more."
                --George F. Kennan

39.   "A secret of Superbowl quarterbacks and long-distance runners alike: to go faster,
        Slow the game."
                --The Longest Race

40.   "America may yet learn to endure, not from its pundits and politicians, but from its
        endurance athletes."
                --The Longest Race

41.   "Bodily decay is gloomy in prospect, but of all human contemplations the most abhorrent
        is body without mind."
                --Thomas Jefferson

42.   "There is only one cardinal sin: impatience.  Because of impatience we were driven out
        of Paradise.
                --W. H. Auden

43.   "The human cardiovascular system evolved as part of the physiology of
        [prehistoric] hunters, who ran for their lives."
                --Paul Shepard

44.   "We had seen God in his splendour.... We had reached the naked soul of man."
                --Ernest Shackleton, as quoted at

45.   "Some of the events in the Olympics are about as athletic as a hotdog-eating   
         contest.  Yet, there's no 100k run!
                --The world's ultrarunners

46.   "The law of conservation of energy tells us we can't get something for nothing, but
        we refuse to believe it."
                --Isaac Asimov

47.   "Pushing your body past what you thought it was capable of is easy;
         the hard part is pushing yourself even further"
                --Rex Pearce, as quoted by a blogger I've lost track of, for which I apologize.
                   Blog on!

48.   "A lot of animals evolved through blind adaptations.  We didn't.  When we
        felt the breeze pass across our  nostrils and chests, we were already envisioning
        what awaited us far ahead on the trail or over the horizon."
                --The Longest Race

49.   "If you fall, then you crawl.  What is it about finishing?"
                --Chapter subtitle from The Longest Race

50.   "Here are some who like to run. They run for fun in the hot, hot sun."
                --Dr. Suess, quoted by @We_Run

51.   "When men do not run they are likely to die prematurely from dysfunction of the heart
        and vascular systems or from disabling chronic disease."
                --Anthropologist Paul Shepard

52.   "The most useful thing for a competitive runner to know about fatigue is that it is
        fundamental to nature.  Fatigue is not an enemy, and if you fight it as if it were, you
        squander what little energy you still have."
                --The Longest Race

53.   "We think running is one of the most transforming events in human history."
                --Dennis Bramble, professor emeritus in the biology department of the
                  University of Utah, commenting on how humans evolved as long-
                  distance-running "persistence hunters"

54.   "Some people never get their feet on the ground,
         They're either sitting in a chair or theyre laying down...."
                --Folk singer Phil Ochs, in his song "50-Mile Hike"

55.   "Everyone who has run knows that its most important value is in...removing tension
        and allowing released from whatever other cares the day may bring."
                --President Jimmy Carter, after recovering from his collapse in a Maryland road race

56.   "The body of a runner, like the engine of a car, has to get rid of waste heat as rapidly as
        it's generated, or else fail."
                --The Longest Race

57.   "I couldn't help but note that the notion of spending a bunch of money on something
        'minimalist' was more than a touch ironic."
                --Stacey Gordon

58.   "The now-too-neglected secret, I knew, was that the body's output, like industry's, was
        more strongly determined by energy efficiency than by supply."
                --The Longest Race

59.   "Sweat cleanses from the inside.  It comes from a place showers will never reach."
                --Dr. George Sheehan

60.   "Ultrarunning won't save the world, but it's a practice of the kinds of skills and
         outlooks that could ultimately help change the world's course and will almost
         certainly change yours."
                --"Notes for an Aspiring Ultrarunner," an appendix to The Longest Race

61.   "You can hurt more than you ever thought possible, then continue until
        you discover that hurting isn't that big a deal."
               --Seven-time Western States 100-Mile winner Scott Jurek, quoted
                  by Can't Stop Endurance

62.   "In almost anything worthwhile, and especially ultrarunning, rushing to achieve success
        is a big mistake."
               --"Notes for an Aspiring Ultrarunner," an appendix to The Longest Race

63.   "Long-distance running is not separate from the rest of life.  It will affect
         your overall vitality, endurance, and patience, and may also affect your
         relationships and worldview.  You will very likely becomed less complacent,
         more questioning, more adventurous, and more reconnected with your youth."
                --The Longest Race

64.   "If we fail to encourage physical development and prowess, we will
        undermine our capcity for thought, for work, and for use of those skills vital
        to an expanding and complex America."
                --John F. Kennedy

65.   "Is this level of athletic competition the ultimate distraction from real life?  Or
        is it a form of prayer?"
                --Norah Vincent, on the Olympics, submitted by Mark Pynt

66.   "I suppose if you could have only one thing, it would be that--energy.  Without it, you
        haven't got a thing."
                --John F. Kennedy

67   "The Greeks understood that mind and body must develop in harmonious proportion to
       produce a creative intelligence."
                --John F. Kennedy

68.   "I always loved running.... It was something you could do by yourself and under your
       own power."
                --Jesse Owens

69.   "There's no fountain of youth, and there's no anti-aging pill.  But there is a secret strategy
         that does work to a remarkable degree, and is free: continuing to learn with an open
         mind and unobstructed heart."
                --The Longest Race

70.   "For a long-distance runner, the end of the race is when you pause for rest before
        beginning a long and patient preparation for the next race and that sense of rebirth
        it will bring."
                --The Longest Race

71.   "Not less than two hours a day should be devoted to exercise."
                --Thomas Jefferson

72.   "If 95 percent of the runner's success is achieved before he or she even goes
         to the starting line, then 99.9 percent is done before the finish line is even
         within sight."
                --The Longest Race

73.   "It's ironic that Olympic spectators will never have seen Yiannis Kouros, the greatest
         Greek athlete since Pheidippides"
                --Ed Ayres, during the London Olympics in 2012

74.   "What are my running shoes for?  The journey from barefoot hunter to "boots
        on the ground" to where I am now"
                --Chapter subtitle in The Longest Race

75.   "If you want to win something, run 100 meters.  IF you want to experience something,
        run a marathon."
                --Emil Zatopek, winner of four Olympic gold medals

76.   "Learning from Quarterbacks: the Slower-is-faster Phenomenon"
                --Chapter subtitle in The Longest Race
77.   "The more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in battle."

78.   "Mental will is a muscle that needs exercise, just like the muscles of the body."
                --Lynn Jennings

79.   "The reason we race isn't so much to beat each other...but to be with each other."
                --Christopher McDougall

80.   "The Blessing and Curse of Competition: Why Vince Lombardi Was Dead Wrong"
                --Chapter subtitle in The Longest Race

81.   "Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live
        life to the fullest."
                --Haruki Murakami

82.   "I'm a minimalist.  I'd rather run naked than over-clothed and over-equipped.

83.   "I'm a minimalist.  I don't want a GPS; I want to develop the ancient skill of mental

84.   "May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most
        amazing view."
                --Edward Abbey

85.   "We who run...are different from those who merely study us.  We are out there
         experiencing what they are trying to put into words."
                --Dr. George Sheehan

86.   "That's the beauty of this great sport (track), though--it's such a fine line between success
        or not, which makes the sweet moments that much more worth savoring."
                --Nick Willis, U.S. 1500-meter Olympian, 2012

87.   "In the year 2025m, the best men don't run for president, they run for their lives."
                --Stephen King, in The Running Man

88.   "The will to win means nothing if you haven't the will to prepare."
                --Juma Ikanga, 1989 New York Marathon winner

89.   "Every man dies, but not every man really lives."
                --William Wallace, as played by Mel Gibson in "Braveheart"

90.   "Becoming a Persistence Hunter: the Long Day of Tracking, the Grateful Kill,
        the Celebration"
                --Chapter subtitle in The Longest Race

91.   "This knowledge, the knowledge that the physical well-being of the citizen is an important
        foundation for all of the activities of the nation, is as old as Western civilization itself. But
        it is a knowledge which today, in America, we are in danger of forgetting."
                --John F. Kennedy, 1960

92.   "If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon."
                --Kathrine Switzer, first woman to run the Boston Marathon

93.   "Running is the greatest meaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it."
                --Oprah Winfrey

94.   "You have brains in your head.
          You have fee in your shoes.
          You can Steer yourself any
          Direction you choose!"
                --Dr. Suess

95.   "I had as many doubts as anyone else.  Standing on the starting line, we're all cowards."
                --Alberto Salazar

96.   "Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory."
                --William Barclay

97.   "Listen to your body.  Do not be a blind and deaf tenant."
                --Dr. George Sheehan

98.   "Years ago, women sat in the kitchen drinking coffee and discussing life.
         Now they discuss the same topics while they run."
                --Joan Benoit, first winner of the women's Olympic marathon

99.   "These two looked light on their feet, relaxed, conversing amiably--just a couple of
         young people enjoying the day, in a world that might have a future yet."
                --The Longest Race

100.   "Without fellow humans, there's no foot race.  Without a healthy planet, there's no
          human race."
                --The Longest Race, out in October