Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen - Christopher McDougall

It all began with a simple question that no one could answer. ... "How come my foot hurts?"

The title was the first thing to catch my eye, listed in a Powell's newsletter with a link to this article by McDougall. Since my wife and I took up running about a year and half ago, we've built up to a half-marathon and are hoping to keep it up. Still, I'm not a huge fan of running. I do it for some of the same reasons I majored in math: I'm okay at it, and it's a good foundation for other things. But when I read the story about "Mookie" and "Bonehead," two hard-partying kids who somehow managed to become tops in ultramarathoning, I was hooked.

McDougall set out looking for answers when he suffered a foot injury while running. A writer for Men's Health, he put some of his connections to use and started finding the most interesting stories about the most interesting people. A lot of the book revolves around the Tarahumara, a tribe hidden in Mexico's Copper Canyons. In one of the most inhospitable places on earth, the Tarahumara are the ultrarunners that nobody sees. They start running as kids and don't ever seem to stop, and they have huge races that sometimes last for days ... and they do it all while wearing sandals made from old tire treads.

But before McDougall managed to track them down (with the help of a mysterious figure who went by Caballo Blanco), he encountered all sorts of other crazy people in the world of ultrarunning. Besides the aforementioned Party Kids, there's Barefoot Ted, who decided that the main reason so many people get injured while running is shoes. Or Scott Jurek, maybe the best ultrarunner in America, who starts his runs with a giant war whoop and seems to run for the sheer pleasure of it.

The big conclusion, of course (and I'm not really spoiling the book to tell you this), is that we're doing it wrong. The reason we have so much heart disease and diabetes and obesity is that we're built to run but we don't. And the reason runners have so many injuries and so few people enjoy doing it is because we're wearing clunky shoes that keep us from feeling the ground, forcing us to strike the ground with our heels extra hard. Plus there's the attitude: the people McDougall writes about all share a love for running that call to mind the old line from "Chariots of Fire": "God made me fast, and when I run, I feel his pleasure." It's about people who run because they love it, not because they have to.

I won't repeat everything here, but McDougall builds a pretty convincing argument for making drastic changes in the way we run and the shoes we wear. Along the way, he tells some really good stories. It's pretty much a given that a sport that involves running a hundred miles in the desert is going to turn up some pretty wild characters, and McDougall's writing really brings them to life.

If you're a runner, you definitely need to check out this book to see what you're missing. If you're not, read this book and you might be inspired to start.

Fed to jonathan's brain | July 13, 2009 | Comments (0)


Post a comment

Remember Me?