Alex Hutchinson

Speaker


Alex Hutchinson

Human Performance Expert | Award-Winning Journalist | Bestselling Author

Many believe our limits are defined by physical traits, but Alex Hutchinson knows that limits only exist in our minds. An award-winning science journalist, Alex draws on his experiences as an elite long-distance runner for Canada’s national team and as a scientist to explore the limits of human performance and understand the subtle factors that define champions. His New York Times bestselling book Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance was recently a featured read for the Next Big Idea Club curated by Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Cain, Adam Grant, and Daniel Pink.

Shortly after competing in his second Canadian Olympic Trials, Alex decided to leave his postdoctoral physics research post with the U.S. National Security Agency to pursue a master’s degree in journalism — and has never looked back. He is currently a columnist and contributing editor for Outside and Canadian Running magazines, and also writes for the New Yorker’s Elements blog on science, endurance, health, and human performance. He is most well-known for debunking health and fitness hype as the Globe and Mail’s Jockology columnist.

In 2008, Alex received a U.S. National Magazine Award for his work covering technology for Popular Mechanics, and in 2012 he received a Lowell Thomas Award for his travel writing in the New York Times.

Alex has a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Cambridge and graduated with a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. He has given talks on endurance and human performance to audiences ranging from the Canadian Olympic Committee’s Own The Podium program to investment bankers and funeral home directors.


The Curiously Elastic Limits of Endurance

When you push to the point where you can’t go any faster or continue any farther, what’s holding you back? For centuries, physiologists assumed that the answers lay in our muscles or lungs or blood vessels. But over the past decade, a wave of new research—along with the exploits of mountaineers, freedivers, and other extreme athletes—has shown that our ultimate limits reside in the brain. In other words, endurance is simply “the struggle to continue against a mounting desire to stop”—and the resulting insights about how to push through those brain-imposed barriers apply as much in the boardroom as on the playing field.

The Quest for the Two-Hour Marathon

In May 2017, marathoner Eliud Kipchoge ran 42.2 kilometers around a Formula One track in Italy in an astounding time of two hours and 25 seconds, bringing the long-rumoured two-hour barrier within reach. This race was the culmination of a multimillion-dollar Nike “moonshot” project, and of decades of gradual progress toward the ultimate limits of endurance. Alex Hutchinson was one of two journalists granted exclusive access to the Nike project, and he presents a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at what it took to run the fastest marathon in history—and how technological innovation and human factors can work together to take performance into uncharted territory.