on May 16, 2009
Born to Run succeeds at three 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 drives the narrative forward. Along the way McDougall introduces a cast of characters worthy of Dickens, including an almost superhuman ultramarathoner, 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, a heartbroken father, and of course the Tarahumara, arguably the greatest runners in the world.
Born to Run is such a rip-roaring yarn, that it is easy to miss the book's deeper achievements. 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? The author's modesty keeps him from trumpeting the novelty and importance of this thesis, but it merits attention.
Finally, Born to Run presents a philosophy of exercise. The ethos that pervades recreational and competitive running--"no pain, no gain," is fundamentally flawed, McDougall argues. The essence of running should not be grim determination, but sheer joy. Many of the conventions of modern running--the thick-soled shoes, mechanical treadmills, take no prisoners competition, and heads-down powering through pain dull our appreciation of what running can be--a sociable activity, more game than chore, that can lead to adventure. McDougall's narrative moves the book forward, his thesis provides a solid intellectual support, but this philosophy of joy animates Born to Run. I hope this book finds the wide audience it deserves.
on May 17, 2009
My wife handed me Born to Run about 24 hours ago and said "you might like this." Having run quite a bit but nursing an achilles tendon injury for about 3 years, I had almost given up on my dreams of getting back into marathon shape. 24 hours (and very little sleep) later, I feel inspired, awed, and enlightened, and I have Christopher's wonderful book to thank.
In a nutshell, I have not been this entralled by a story since Shadow Divers, Seabiscuit and/or Into Thin Air. Christopher's recounting of the forbidding Copper Canyons, the amazing Tarahumara, ultramarathoners young and old, and the greatest race you've never heard of is enough for me to give this a rave review. But like the aforementioned books, there is so much more to this story, not the least of which was Christopher's own quest (and amazing resiliency) to run without pain. Finally, he put to words many of the thoughts and feelings I've had about running but am unable to articulate. And Christopher is a great writer - I laughed out loud many times throughout. He has a style akin to a Timothy Cahill - a great wit that was obviously aided by a wonderfully intriguing cast of characters.
As the sun was coming up this morning I was a bit sad to see this book end, and am already contemplating picking it up again. But only after I strap on the old, beaten up sneaks and get in a quick jog. Thanks so much for writing this book - I hope it changes lives and perspectives in the process.
on May 11, 2009
If, when you finish with this book, you don't immediately get yourself outside and run like hell, then there's probably not a drop of living blood in you. This book is the perfect antidote to everything that's wrong with modern running and the way to find everything that's still so right with it. Even if it were all a work of fiction McDougall's tale would still be worth the price of admission. Fabulous.
on October 31, 2013
Simply put, it'll change you. But, like most things that shake your soul, don't assume it is the answer. As in, maybe you learn something, maybe it motivates you or helps you, and it will. But don't go ripping your shoes off and sprinting down hot asphalt. I'm all for and simaltanously leary of barefoot running. Yes, I changed my form and it helped me tremendously. I run with fewer injuries and faster than ever before, but I still wear shoes, occasionally going minimal shoes for speed drills, but a few years ago minimal shoes were called racing flats, and I'm sure in the future they'll be called, earth be gone's or something. We have been running this way for awhile, so don't go jumping out the door and if you do, work up to it. 1 mile to 3 miles for a week and then build.
This book is an amazing account of legends, and a legendary run that we got to peek into. It gives you not only glimpses into a race, but into humans. In the end, it's a book that compels you, much like a marathon does, to be nice to one another. I'm a runner, and it makes me a better person, simply because when your hungry and depleted and a stranger takes time off from work, or life to stand in their front yard with their kids, and hand you water that they bought with their own money, it breaks your heart. It picks you up from mile 22 and carries you until mile 26.2. I run, and I finish and I go back to the starting line and I dare people not to sprint, but to relax and put a smile on their face. Staying positive, it will make a difference, and this book gives you everything. I cried so many times as just like watching someone struggle to finish, you struggle to not feel for them. Reading pages that fly through about a person breaking apart and all you can do is hope they put one more foot down in front of the other. It's beautiful. And this book captures it, it seals stories we've never heard into a time capsule, it gives us new idea's and nutritional tips. It will, without a doubt in my mind, change you.
And it should.
It's a big bad world out there, this book is a study on humans more than it is a book on running.
Be nice to each other, and say thank you and give a high five to that kid out there on a sunday morning handing out water.
on July 27, 2011
What a game changer. I completely fell off the face of the fitness earth after college due to being burnt out on atheletics, being to busy, or just plain laziness. Attempts at lifting just didn't leave me fulfilled, what is the fun of walking from machine to machine? Reading this book reminded me of all the times I'd broken away from the pack, picked my eyes up from my feet, looked at my surroundings, felt my body working, and let myself enjoy running. No other seminar, coach, or enthusiastic friend could instill this in me. Chris MicDougall kicked my mental ass into gear by giving running a context that I'd never been able to verbalize or conceptualize, but that I must have inately had a feeling for all along.
Read this book and rediscover why you should run the long loop and take the path less traveled.
on December 27, 2009
My wife and I started jogging (in mocassins) in the early 1970's, before Adida came out with a green and white runner's shoe with soles as stiff as concrete. Over the next 25 years or so, we ran through all the latest additions and suffered most of the funrunners' injuries described by McDougall. Our 38-year-old son, a marathoner, and half ironmaner is training for his first ironman in St. George, Utah, next May. He too has suffered foot problems. I gave him this book for Christmas in hopes he can use some of McDougall's valuable insights into runners' physiology, psyche and nutrition to increase his running enjoyment. That aside, I am an inveterate reader and this book rates right up at the top of the best of the thousands of books I have read over the past 50+ years. Extremely well written, informative and humourous. I am almost overwhelmed with the pleasure and valuable information I gained from this read and hope MoDougall writes more. In the meantime, I may reread "Born to Run" until his next publication.
on January 1, 2012
I read this after not having run for 18 years, and I loved running. I burst into tears after the first chapters realizing I had maybe done the wrong thing by quitting. Doctors told me flat feet and plantar faciitis relegated me to orthotics and thick tennis shoes (which hurt my knees) for the rest of my life. But after reading this, I had the courage to start running again. First I tried the Vibram Five Fingers and got tendinitis from Too-Much-Too-Soon syndrome, but after a year of running in minimalist shoes, my feet did get stronger and this last summer I threw those off, too, and have been running barefoot ever since. I am a middle-aged woman so if I can do it, I think anyone can. I am up to 1.5 hours running on asphalt or trails, even trails with pea-sized gravel. Thanks, Chris, for a book that changed my life! There is no better feeling than running with the dirt between your toes and the wind in your hair (except maybe sex and chocolate)!
Also, it's a fascinating story AND well-written.
on April 27, 2014
Written by Christopher McDougall, this book has been sitting on my TBR pile for close to a year. Wow, I hate that it took me so long to finally read it. The information between the two covers was excellent and entertaining. I am not a runner, but after having read Scott Jurek's book Eat and Run, ultrarunners have fascinated me. McDougall's book gives a great perspective on the Tarahumara Indians, who are natural ultrarunners, but he also highlights several prominent athletes in the sport, including my favorite, Jurek. (Seriously, if I won a contest that was "meet ONE famous person of your choosing", it would be a close race <haha> between Jurek or Stephen King.)
McDougall began his journey by questioning "why does my foot hurt?" This led him on an almost epic journey to drug country in Mexico, as well as cross country, trying to talk to specialists and experts, and of course, the runners themselves. His book reads like a Who's Who for the ultimate endurance sport that requires no special equipment - just a person and a trail.
He throws out a lot of statistics and research - which the nerd in me totally loved, and now I want to read more about the running barefoot phenomenon. To run without back pain or knee pain? Yes, please! I read some reviews where all the statistics he espoused were erroneous, but I am thinking the names used and the studies he quoted are too easily verified for a publisher to allow him to falsify prominent data. But, maybe I am naive. (Riiiight).
The one semi-negative I have to say is, if you are looking for a book where everything flows easily into one cohesive story, then this is not necessarily the book for you. He did set up each chapter with the end of a chapter, but sometimes he was setting up for a chapter full of research that had nothing to do with the ultras or the Tarahumara. There was a fine tale to be told here - about the ultimate race between some ultras, Tarahumara, and Scott Jurek (see he's not just "some ultra" to me), but the telling is woven through several chapters of background on why people run. What people eat when they run. How certain ultra races were created. Still, all told, it was a fascinating book. I need to read more now about some of the other ultrarunners. But don't worry, Scott, you are always NUMBER ONE in my book!
on March 14, 2016
I wasn't sure quite what to expect with this book, but I enjoyed it from start to finish. And you certainly do not have to be a runner or athlete to do the same. Author Christopher McDougall was a strictly casual runner, but he is also a writer of some repute and has been a war correspondent and journalist - he definitely knows how to tell a story. The book was a fun and easy read. I also listened to the audiobook, as narrated by Fred Sanders and can recommend it as well.
McDougall tells the story of a very reclusive tribe of Mexican Indians, the Tarahumara, who live in a remote part of Mexico below El Paso - the Copper Canyons. They have phenomenal long-distance running ability, despite being dirt poor. They live on an extremely simple and spartan diet (except for a big fondness for corn beer!). They enjoy very good health, little disease, and none of the pressures or conflict that plagues modern civilization. McDougall, with the help of a small cast of ultra-distance runners, visits and comes to know and admire the Tarahumara, and ultimately participates in a 50 mile race with them in the Copper Canyons. Along the way, McDougall veers onto some very interesting and informative side ventures, including stories about Nike and running shoes, runners' health, the anthropology of running, and more. It makes for a delightful reading adventure.
on May 14, 2015
This book changed the way I look at my feet. Part epic journey of the author, part exploration of ancient history, part scientific research on biomechanics everyone I know has loved this book. I switched over to barefoot and now do not have to take constant pain meds for my spine. It took me a year to switch over completely but my life and the lives of several of my family members were changed. I liken this book to a journey like The Art of Zen and Motorcycle Maintenance.