Be Like Bernd (Heinrich)

By Mario Fraioli

Bernd Heinrich is something of a modern-day Thoreau—an award-winning naturalist, acclaimed author, and record-setting ultrarunner—a man who went to the woods many years ago to live deliberately and has never looked back. Now 77, he’s spent the better part of the last several decades studying the natural world around him, writing books, and running countless miles, all free from unnecessary distraction. And while living such a life is impractical—or undesirable—for most of us, there’s much we can all learn from Heinrich’s way of prioritizing the things that matter most to him.

“We live in an age that affords little time and space for communing with nature. We’re busy,” Bill Donahue writes in a recent profile of Heinrich for Outside. “Our days are fragmented. But Bernd has dug in his heels against this collective drift. He has recognized where he wants to be in old age and settled in, with purpose.

And if you’ve never read it, Heinrich’s Why We Run (originally called Racing The Antelope) deserves a spot on your bookshelf, and this short film of the same name, produced by Salomon TV a few years ago, is one of the most inspiring installments of the entire series.

“I was fascinated by running because it’s close to what many other animals do,” Heinrich says in the film. “When you see thousands of people lining up for a race, you think of all the dreams that are there, all packed into one place, and they’re all symbolically going on a hunt after the antelope, or at least take part in it.”

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