Review: Out of Thin Air by Michael Crawley

In his book Out of Thin Air, Michael Crawley takes readers on a journey into the world of Ethiopian long-distance running. Crawley, a former runner himself, spent 18 months living and training with some of Ethiopia’s top runners.

Through his observations and interviews, Crawley provides a fascinating glimpse into the culture of Ethiopian running, as well as the physical and mental demands of training at the highest level.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part, “The Land of Running,” provides a historical and cultural overview of Ethiopia’s running tradition. Crawley discusses the role of running in Ethiopian society, the country’s unique training methods, and the factors that have contributed to Ethiopia’s dominance in long-distance running.

The second part of the book, “The Runners,” profiles several of Ethiopia’s top runners, including Haile Gebrselassie, Kenenisa Bekele, and Tirunesh Dibaba. Crawley tells the stories of these athletes’ lives, from their humble beginnings to their rise to international stardom.

The third and final part of the book, “The Journey,” is Crawley’s own personal account of his time in Ethiopia. He writes about the challenges and rewards of training and racing in Ethiopia, and he shares his insights into the Ethiopian running spirit.

One of the most striking things about Ethiopian running culture is the emphasis on community. Runners train together, eat together, and support each other through the ups and downs of competition. This sense of community is essential to the success of Ethiopian runners, who often come from humble backgrounds and have little financial support.

Another key aspect of Ethiopian running culture is the importance of nature. Ethiopian runners often train in the mountains, where the thin air and challenging terrain help them to build strength and endurance. Crawley writes that “the mountains are a metaphor for the challenges that Ethiopian runners face in their lives.”

Out of Thin Air is an inspiring and thought-provoking book that offers a unique perspective on the world of Ethiopian long-distance running. Crawley’s writing is clear and engaging, and he does an excellent job of conveying the passion and dedication of the Ethiopian runners he profiles.

Whether you are a runner yourself or simply interested in the sport, Out of Thin Air is a must-read.

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