The Pursuit of Endurance [Book Club Ep. 1]
I love reading.. The way it feels like a personal, one on one conversation with the author; the meditative quality of doing absolutely nothing, but reading. But alas, I do not read as much as I would like. It can be hard to slot out the time in our modern society with so much stimulation all around us. I decided to start this little book club to share the books I’ve really enjoyed reading, and hopefully hear about some new books to pick up!
The first book in the club is “The Pursuit of Endurance: Harnessing the Record-Breaking Power of Strength and Resilience” by Jennifer Pharr Davis. I started reading this when I became interested in long thru-hikes. These are trails that can go on for hundreds or even thousands of kilometers (though they don’t have to) and you complete in one shot. I was (am still am) interested in hiking some of these trails, and had began reading several books where people shared their experiences doing just that. After a few books, I can across this gem of a book.
One way I always know a book is really excellent, is when they are able to enthrall people despite discussing a subject the reader has never been passionate, or even interested in. While I enjoyed the idea of hiking a long trail, the thought of running one never crossed my mind. I like stopping and smelling the flowers, and I just never really enjoyed running. My sport of choice was powerlifting.. One repetition. Done. Running is not one repetition. But despite this, Davis was talking about people who loved hiking in nature and trails I was interested in, so I read on. While I still don’t ever intend to vie for a record on one of these trails, the book gave me a new perspective across many fields of my life.
In the book, Davis discusses the FKT, fastest known time, attempts and successes of many people on the AT, Appalachian Trail, and the PCT, Pacific Crest Trail. She gives a history on FKTs emergence in through hiking, interviews with individuals who have set new FKTs, and some of the criticism that has been generated around FKTs on hiking trails. Many critics state “you hike these trails to enjoy nature, not to speed by everything as fast as possible.” While I share in the enjoyment from being able to stop and admire the scenery, who decided that that is the only acceptable way to enjoy the trails and nature?
Davis, herself set two record on the AT. In 2008, she set the FKT by a woman after completing the 3,500 kilometers in 57 days and 8 hours. She then followed this record up in 2011 by completing the AT again in 46 days, 11 hours, and 20 minutes thus setting the all time FKT. Her own insight into the physical and mental (not to mention social) stress of accomplishing a goal of this magnitude sheds a very personal light onto the stories of all the other athletes who’ve set previous records.
A gripping, and fascinating read about a subject not many of us get to experience in our lifetimes. This book easily made my Good Reads list as I simply could not set it down. Just over 300 pages, this book flew by as if it had been a 10 page short story. If anyone has read it, I’d love to know what you thought, and for those who haven’t read it, I encourage you to pick it up next time you see it on the shelves at the bookstore!