Born to Run is an extremely motivational book that every runner, aspiring runner, or health & fitness enthusiast should add to their bookshelf. The author, Christopher McDougall is a writer for Men’s Health magazine and a former war correspondent for the Associated Press. His writing style, witty sense of humor, and real-life story to tell had me thoroughly entertained and locked into his tale from page 1.
The premise of his non-fiction story is this: If mankind is so advanced, why are poor tribes running hundreds of miles a week, injury-free, while those in expensive running shoes and orthotics are constantly plagued with running injuries?! As an avid distance runner, his hypothesis had me intrigued and his book is a fantastic story / thesis that will provoke quite a bit of thought with runners and walkers of all levels.
On a writing assignment to the Copper Canyon of Mexico that would change his life, McDougall set out to uncover the secrets of the super-runners: The Tarahumara (pronounced Tara-ooo-mara) tribe. Their abilities are legendary, but so is their reclusiveness. Not since their appearance and dominance at Colorado’s 1994 Leadsville 100-mile Ultramarathon had they gotten any exposure to the international community. And there were many questions to be answered: What did they eat? How did they train? Why did they not suffer the Achilles Tendonitis, Plantar Fasciitis, Runner’s Knee, and Shin Splints that all of us distance running fanatics battle? And if his book was a transcript of that interview, I would not have bothered writing this Born to Run book review. This book is the tale of a man that took the task of research, training, and experiencing first-hand, so that the reader can reap the fruits of his discoveries!!
Not only are the story and discoveries fascinating, but the real-life characters are as colorful as they get. Aside from the author, there’s Caballo Blanco (The Tarahumara’s ‘adopted American’); Ted McDonald (Barefooted Ultrarunner…google him…he’s a riot); Scott Jurek (7-time Western State Champ & 3x Utrarunner of the year!); Jenn Shelton & Billy Barnett (Elite Ultrarunners / Party Animals); The class-acts of the Tarahumara; and many more…
Born to Run starts with Christopher McDougall’s attempt to discover the secrets of the Tarahumara and becomes a soul-searching mission to see if he has it within himself to accomplish the same results. His coach and friend, Eric Orton does a superb job of motivating McDougall, giving him a “tribal makeover”, and preparing him for the race of his life. Woven throughout the main story line is a well researched ‘thesis’, which I find to be a very compelling and convincing argument that we were all actually Born to Run. So much so, that I’ve altered my own training to include among other things some barefooted workouts!? (My kids have given me a good dose of teasing for my Vibram 5-finger shoes…but they’re cool…and from the looks of it…catching on!). And Coach Joe Vigil’s advice of “Eat like a poor person” has me looking at the specialty store in search of things like pinole and chia seeds.
This book woke me up and reminded me that my running was more than a calorie-burner and evening ice-cream enabler. Running can be a source of joy, camaraderie, and pure exhilaration. I’ve found myself thinking about Caballo’s advice of Easy-Light-Smooth form during my daily workouts. And I can’t help think of Eric Orton’s advice on my long runs: “If it feels like work, you’re working too hard”. This book reminded me that running is much more than an opportunity for individual reflection, but it’s a sport that we as a human race share. Running has been bringing man together since the beginning of time…from tribal group hunting to the modern masses that run marathons together. Read the book and rediscover the joy of running!