The author’s broad-ranging interests and accumulated wisdom will appeal to a wide readership, not just runners and...

THE LONGEST RACE

A LIFELONG RUNNER, AN ICONIC ULTRAMARATHON, AND THE CASE FOR HUMAN ENDURANCE

A leading environmental activist and ultramarathoner uses the 2001 JFK 50 Mile as a staging ground for his reflections on running, aging, and saving the planet.

Running Times founding editor and publisher Ayres (God's Last Offer: Negotiating for a Sustainable Future, 2000, etc.) was 60 when he decided to run the JFK 50 Mile again, two months after 9/11. He had placed first in the ultramarathon in 1977 and wanted to see if he could still keep up with the younger competitors. His aim was not to set a world record but to determine how much accumulated experience would compensate for the inevitable attrition of age. Ayres admits he is addicted to running, but its importance for him goes beyond the physical—a race of that length is “a ritual of survival.” He had been running competitively since high school and recalled how the first JFK 50 Mile, held just months before Kennedy’s assassination, was a Cold War response to the president’s call for Americans to toughen up. While judging his pace and adjusting the rhythm of his breathing, Ayres speculated about the role played by long-distance running in the pursuit of game and the physical evolution of modern man. He drew parallels between sustaining the planet and maintaining health and vigor as we age, themes that still engage him today. He even had a few moments to muse on such mundane matters as the proper footwear for racing—not boots but flexible shoes that allow feet to sense the trail. Ayres won his age category in 2001, continues to compete at age 71 and intends to run the JFK 50 Mile again this November.

The author’s broad-ranging interests and accumulated wisdom will appeal to a wide readership, not just runners and environmentalists.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-61519-063-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: The Experiment

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.

WHEN THE GAME WAS OURS

NBA legends Bird and Johnson, fierce rivals during their playing days, team up on a mutual career retrospective.

With megastars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and international superstars like China’s Yao Ming pushing it to ever-greater heights of popularity today, it’s difficult to imagine the NBA in 1979, when financial problems, drug scandals and racial issues threatened to destroy the fledgling league. Fortunately, that year marked the coming of two young saviors—one a flashy, charismatic African-American and the other a cocky, blond, self-described “hick.” Arriving fresh off a showdown in the NCAA championship game in which Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans defeated Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores—still the highest-rated college basketball game ever—the duo changed the course of history not just for the league, but the sport itself. While the pair’s on-court accomplishments have been exhaustively chronicled, the narrative hook here is unprecedented insight and commentary from the stars themselves on their unique relationship, a compelling mixture of bitter rivalry and mutual admiration. This snapshot of their respective careers delves with varying degrees of depth into the lives of each man and their on- and off-court achievements, including the historic championship games between Johnson’s Lakers and Bird’s Celtics, their trailblazing endorsement deals and Johnson’s stunning announcement in 1991 that he had tested positive for HIV. Ironically, this nostalgic chronicle about the two men who, along with Michael Jordan, turned more fans onto NBA basketball than any other players, will likely appeal primarily to a narrow cross-section of readers: Bird/Magic fans and hardcore hoop-heads.

Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-547-22547-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

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One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

BACK FROM THE DEAD

A basketball legend reflects on his life in the game and a life lived in the “nightmare of endlessly repetitive and constant pain, agony, and guilt.”

Walton (Nothing but Net, 1994, etc.) begins this memoir on the floor—literally: “I have been living on the floor for most of the last two and a half years, unable to move.” In 2008, he suffered a catastrophic spinal collapse. “My spine will no longer hold me,” he writes. Thirty-seven orthopedic injuries, stemming from the fact that he had malformed feet, led to an endless string of stress fractures. As he notes, Walton is “the most injured athlete in the history of sports.” Over the years, he had ground his lower extremities “down to dust.” Walton’s memoir is two interwoven stories. The first is about his lifelong love of basketball, the second, his lifelong battle with injuries and pain. He had his first operation when he was 14, for a knee hurt in a basketball game. As he chronicles his distinguished career in the game, from high school to college to the NBA, he punctuates that story with a parallel one that chronicles at each juncture the injuries he suffered and overcame until he could no longer play, eventually turning to a successful broadcasting career (which helped his stuttering problem). Thanks to successful experimental spinal fusion surgery, he’s now pain-free. And then there’s the music he loves, especially the Grateful Dead’s; it accompanies both stories like a soundtrack playing off in the distance. Walton tends to get long-winded at times, but that won’t be news to anyone who watches his broadcasts, and those who have been afflicted with lifelong injuries will find the book uplifting and inspirational. Basketball fans will relish Walton’s acumen and insights into the game as well as his stories about players, coaches (especially John Wooden), and games, all told in Walton’s fervent, witty style.

One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-1686-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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