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Reviewed by:
  • Running Through the Agesby Edward S. Sears
  • Amy Polhemus
Sears, Edward S. Running Through the Ages. 2nd ed. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2015. Pp. 332. Photos, notes, bibliography, index. $45.00, hb.

Running Through the Agesdetails how running became a sport, beginning when it was used strictly as a practical way to get to places and how it advanced to become something done for fun or in competition. Early humans ran when they hunted for food. Despite the fact that humans were not as fast as some of the animals they were hunting, they were successful because of their persistence and endurance. Animals were able to outsprint all humans, but they tired quickly, making it easier to catch them.

The first part of the book covers the evolution of running for practical purposes in a historical narrative. It then proceeds to cover competitive running as it evolved through the ages and changes made by particular cultures that improved and developed the sport. Sears states that he wrote the book for runners, and, as a runner, I felt motivated by each and every one of the historic runners’ stories.

I became more interested as the book transitioned toward running becoming a modern sport, as it took on more personal meaning for me. Sears covered the evolution from unidirectional distance running to competition on stadium tracks. Race-starting procedures developed from a variety of cultural influences, like horses in starting gates, while others were held back by strings, until the development of the starter’s pistol shot years later. The evolution of the activity from necessity to a competitive sport or leisure pastime is a fascinating account. The second half of the book offers inspiring, personal stories of talented runners, many of whom endured hardships to achieve their goals, working through injuries, illnesses, challenging workouts, interfering crowds, and tough competitions. Sears elaborates on the advancement in training, the need for people to challenge themselves with high mileage, nutritional eating, two-a-day training runs, and intense interval work.

My personal interest spiked when the author introduced the advent of female runners. As a female athlete, it was compelling to read about what women’s race times were when they first started competing. Their improvements in racing are impressive, and the struggles they overcame to compete in marathons and real races are inspiring, as women overcame [End Page 127]perceptions of debility, stress, and gender discrimination to disprove antiquated notions of physiological limitations to gain greater acceptance as athletes.

Overall, this book would be beneficial for history classes because it does a great job of summarizing the evolution of the sport of running in an entertaining fashion. Individual runners’ stories are interesting and can be motivating for students.

Amy Polhemus
North Central College


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pp. 127-128
Launched on MUSE
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