As a long distance runner, I’ve been in situations in the middle of races where I’d much rather have a nice little lie down instead of taking another painful step. I have never to this day not finished a race, but I have found myself wanting to more and more the older I get. So this book was right up my alley. How do I find the mental strength to keep going?
Examining how some of the usual suspects (pain, heat, thirst etc) actually have an impact on our performance, Hutchinson describes both the physical aspect and the mental one. There are several theories out there as to just how much the brain can affect said suspects, the best known perhaps “The central governor theory” by Tim Noakes. In an overly simplified nutshell, we all have our physical limits, but it’s our brain that decides how close to them we can get. As it turns out, our actual physical limits are much further away than we think. By “tricking” ourselves in different ways, we can squeeze results out of our bodies that we didn’t think possible. Of course, the opposite is also true: if we are mentally fatigued, our results will unfortunately reflect that as well.
This was a well researched book, where scientific studies take turns in the spotlight with examples of humans both failing to surpass and successfully surpassing their perceived limits. As interesting as the science behind all this is in itself, it makes for a vastly more readable book to include these examples, as well as the red thread of Kipchoge’s attempt (as orchestrated by Nike) to break the 2 hour limit at the marathon distance.
This was an interesting book, albeit a compact, nerdy one. I appreciated the (unfortunately too few) jokes – I do enjoy some random injections of humour in an otherwise serious, scientific text because I am not a scientist and my brain starts hurting if I read this kind of text for too long. I’d recommend the book to anyone who’s interested in human endurance.