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Publisher's Summary

Bloomsbury presents Out of Thin Air by Michael Crawley, read by Raj Ghatak.

Ethiopia is a place where I have been told that energy is controlled by angels and demons and where witchdoctors can help you to acquire another runner’s power. It is a place where an anonymous runner in the forest told me, miming an imaginary scoreboard and with a completely straight face, that he had dreamt that he would run 10km in 25 minutes. It is a place where they tell me that the air at Mount Entoto will transform me into a 2.08 marathon runner. It is a place, in short, of wisdom and magic, where dreaming is still very much alive.

Why does it make sense to Ethiopian runners to get up at three a.m. 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 10 fastest marathon times ever? 

Michael Crawley spent 15 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.

©2020 Michael Crawley (P)2020 Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

What the critics say

"Through reading this book you will come to understand that the heart and soul of running are to be found in Ethiopia." (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, author of Running with the Kenyans)

"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)

What listeners say about Out of Thin Air

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If you love running you'll love this book

Non-fiction narrative that flows very well. I really liked the narrator Raj Ghatak, I would definitely listen to more of his work.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2021-05-21

couldn't stop listening

so well written and engrossing. couldn't stop listening. great perspective on what running means to different people from another part of the world and culture.

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  • Greg Fisher
  • 2020-12-18

Excellent Book

Thie book offers a fascinating insight into Ethiopian running culture and performance. I had always assumed that Ethiopian success could be attributed to similar factors as those used to explain Kenyan running success, yet this book highlights that while there are similarities, there are also key differences. The depth of insight and nuanced perspective offered on Ethiopian running culture is really intriguing, and I loved the way the author is able to capture the voices and perspectives of Ethipioan runners in the text.

The things I found particularly fascinating about Ethiopian running culture: (1) Running is an occupation in Ethiopia; (2) Ethiopian runners place great emphasis on where they run and they draw energy from their surroundings; (3) Running on different surfaces is part of a runners development and each different surface serves a specific purpose; (4) Running is a social activity, very few serious runners ever run alone and they run in single file, or two abreast, following a leader; (5) Serious runners make careful choices about when to use a GPS and when not to; (6) They almost always use time as a key guide for how long to run (not distance).

If you enjoyed Adharanand Finn's books ("Running with the Kenyans", "The Way of the Runner") or Chris McDougall's "Born to Run" then you will really enjoy this book. It is highly recommended!!!

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  • Oscar
  • 2022-05-05

Great read

Great story about the Ethiopian running culture. Feeling like the reader is among the group of runners as they train, race, live, recover.

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  • Peter Rasmussen
  • 2021-11-28

Really a nice read

A great and respectful testimony of perhaps the greatest running nation and it’s great runners.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2021-10-07

Some refreshing perspective

Very entertaining listen. Sure to help keep your own training in perspective. Running is life!