Running Through the Ages by Edward S. Sears

Publisher: McFarland
Publication date: June 8, 2015 (revised edition)
ISBN-10: 0786473398

Review by Molly Upthegrove

Not previously a runner myself, I read this book on the recommendation of my local librarians. From the first chapter, on early physical adaptations that make humans uniquely suited for long-distance running, to the last chapter, on modern running achievements, this book is well-researched, well-written, and sprinkled liberally with practical, charming illustrations. Sears examines Greek literature and early 20th century newspapers for exceptional running times and significant anecdotes, and later includes interviews with the foremost runners of the last 50 years or so.

What I find most impressive about the book is its ability to convey the author’s love of the sport. Sears writes of running with an eloquence and respect that reminds me of Carl Sagan’s tone when he wrote about science, and I feel convinced of running’s place in humanity, just as Sagan convinced me of the role of science. The last chapter includes a section “Running Is for Everyone” and a quote from Sagan himself, “The open road still softly calls. . .”. I’d be surprised if anyone can read this book and not feel that call.

This is one of those rare non-fiction books I’ll reread every couple of years because, like the open road, it gives me a sense of freedom and joy.