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Long Distance: Testing the Limits of Body…

Long Distance: Testing the Limits of Body and Spirit in a Year of Living…

by Bill McKibben

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When you earn your living writing about climate change, overpopulation, and the imminent demise of humanity, what do you do for fun? Take up the most grueling endurance sport ever devised, of course.
Master of non-fiction horror McKibben describes 12 months spent carving himself into a competitive cross-country skier. His account goes beyond (often funny) jokes about lycra, heartrate monitors, and oatmeal to give an obsessive-eye’s view of the blissful ascent into exercise addiction.
The author’s road to Nordic glory took an unexpected turn when his father was diagnosed with brain cancer. McKibben weaves his father’s slow death into the narrative with impressive restraint and almost no schmaltz.
A fascinating meditation on what our bodies can and cannot do. ( )
  seanpmurray | Apr 19, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0452282705, Paperback)

At the age of 37, bestselling author and journalist Bill McKibben stepped out of the ordinary routine of his life to spend a year in "real training" as a cross-country skier. With the help of a trainer-slash-guru, McKibben took on a regimen equivalent to that of an Olympic endurance athlete's, running and skiing for hours every day in preparation for a series of grueling long-distance ski races. What prompted this successful writer with an admitted aversion to competitive sports to push himself so hard, for so long?
Partly it was pure selfishness; after a decade as an environmental writer and activist, I needed a break from failing to save the world. But mostly it was curiosity that drove me. By year's end I hoped I'd have more sense of what life lived through the body felt like.

If Long Distance begins as a story about the transformation of the body and what it means to challenge one's physical limits, it evolves into a thoughtful lesson about a wholly different kind of endurance. Halfway through McKibben's training, his father was diagnosed with the most virulent form of brain cancer. As McKibben was reaching peak condition, his father's life lurched toward an end, forcing McKibben to snap out of his self-inflicted self-absorption. He had tried to think of endurance as "the ability to fight through the drama of pain. But now I understood it, too, as a kind of elegance, a lightness that could only come from such deep comfort with yourself that you began to forget about yourself." And the elegance of Long Distance is in its ultimate lesson that each of us has a mind, a body, and a spirit, and we must find our strength in all three realms. --Svenja Soldovieri

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:37 -0400)

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