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Out of Thin Air

Running Wisdom and Magic from Above the Clouds in Ethiopia: Winner of the Margaret Mead Award 2022

Bloomsbury Sport

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ISBN10: 1472975294
ISBN13: 9781472975294


272 Pages



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Longlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award
Longlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize

Why does it make sense to Ethiopian runners to get up at 3am to run up and down a hill? Who would choose to train on almost impossibly steep and rocky terrain, in hyena territory? And how come Ethiopian men hold six of the top ten fastest marathon times ever?

Michael Crawley spent fifteen months in Ethiopia training alongside (and sometimes a fair way behind) runners at all levels of the sport, from night watchmen hoping to change their lives to world class marathon runners, in order to answer these questions. Follow him into the forest as he attempts to keep up and get to the heart of their success.


Praise for Out of Thin Air

“Inspiring . . . evocative and easily paced . . . Out of Thin Air peels back the layers of one of the world's most extraordinary and unexplored sporting cultures, and reveals a powerful simplicity at its core.”The Guardian

“Superb . . . one of our favourite books . . . recommended reading for anyone with an interest in distance running.”Athletics Weekly

Out of Thin Air is a must-read . . . We'd happily recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in the sport. For the keen runner, it's a must-have!”Trail Running

“Through reading this book you will come to understand that the heart and soul of running are to be found in Ethiopia. I welcome everyone to experience the Ethiopian love of running, and to come and have the same life altering experience that Michael had. Running is life!”—Haile Gebrselassie

“Full of wonderful insights and lessons from a world where the ability to run is viewed as something almost mysterious and magical.”—Adharanand Finn

“An evocative and clear-eyed portrait of Ethiopian running”—Ed Caesar

“A deep dive into the rich and complex culture that produces some of the best runners the world has ever seen.”—Alex Hutchinson, author of Endure

Out of Thin Air is marvellous. Crawley is a superb writer, runner and anthropologist. On every page, you'll learn something new about running, and about the culture of the people in the world who do it best.”—Nick Thompson, CEO, The Atlantic

“Fascinating . . . This big-hearted tale will resonate with readers regardless of whether they've ever laced up a pair of running shoes.”Publishers Weekly