Backyard Adventures

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

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

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

As the sun was going down, I was a bit sad to see this book end, and am already contemplating picking it up again for reference. But only after I strap on my running moccasins and get in a quick run. Thanks so much for writing this book - I hope it changes lives and perspectives in the process. The book centers around trying to unearth the secret of the Tarahumara Indians- how are they able to run long distances on insufficient nutrition on bad terrain with little foot protection without injury. While doing this, McDougall winds through the entertaining history of ultra running and its quirky athletes along with scientific evidence for the health benefits of endurance running, and barefoot endurance running in particular. This book is funny, mesmerizing, thought-provoking, and, if you thought you were not cut for running, may make you give it another go.

Born to Run succeeds at many levels. First, it is a page turner. The build up to a fifty-mile foot race over some of the world's least hospitable terrain in Mexico's Copper Canyon drives the narrative forward. Along the way McDougall introduces a cast of characters, including an almost superhuman ultra marathoner, Scott, Jenn and the Bonehead--a couple who down bottles of booze to warm up for a race, Barefoot Ted, Mexican drug dealers, a ghostly ex-boxer Cabrillo, a heartbroken father, and of course the Tarahumara, arguably the greatest runners in the world.

At a second level, McDougall introduces and explores a powerful thesis--that human beings are literally born to run. Recreational running did not begin with the 1966 publication of "Jogging" by the co-founder of Nike. Instead, McDougall argues, running is at the heart of what it means to be human. In the course of elaborating his thesis, McDougall answers some big questions: Why did our ancestors outlive the stronger, smarter Neanderthals? Why do expensive running shoes increase the odds of injury? And the author's modesty keeps him from trumpeting the novelty and importance of this thesis, why do my feet hurt? You don't stop running because you get old, you get old because you stop running. Just move your legs, because if you don't think you were born to run, you're not only denying history, you're denying who you are. I give it five stars.


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