Born to Run, written by Christopher McDougall, was published in 2009 and in a short space of time amassed something of a cult following in the running fraternity.
What they say
Taken from the Amazon listing:
At the heart of Born to Run lies a mysterious tribe of Mexican Indians, the Tarahumara, who live quietly in canyons and are reputed to be the best distance runners in the world; in 1993, one of them, aged 57, came first in a prestigious 100-mile race wearing a toga and sandals. A small group of the world’s top ultra-runners (and the awe-inspiring author) make the treacherous journey into the canyons to try to learn the tribe’s secrets and then take them on over a course 50 miles long. With incredible energy and smart observation, McDougall tells this story while asking what the secrets are to being an incredible runner. Travelling to labs at Harvard, Nike, and elsewhere, he comes across an incredible cast of characters, including the woman who recently broke the world record for 100 miles and for her encore ran a 2:50 marathon in a bikini, pausing to down a beer at the 20 mile mark.
About the Author
Christopher McDougall is a former war correspondent for the Associated Press and is now a contributing editor for Men’s Health. A three-time National Magazine Award finalist, he has written for Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, Outside and Men’s Journal. He does his own running among the Amish farms around his home in rural Pennsylvania.
What I say
Firstly, I want to point out that I must have read this book in a matter of days. It’s not a huge book, so that’s not really a huge achievement I guess, but it is simply a book that I didn’t want to put down.
McDougalls writing style is nice, it seems succinct whilst still able to portray the full story. I liked that the author writes predominantly in first person, but yet the book is not an ego-trip about himself. Rather, it takes the reader on a voyage of discovery about the very history of running.
As the book descends into the genetic makeup that makes us different from other mammals, and the key reasons as to why homo-erectus evolved whilst Neanderthal man died out, you kind of need to be sitting down. McDougall explains the concept clearly, but the premise of what he is explaining – that all humans were built for long distance (barefoot) running – needs a little concentration to fully absorb what is being pointed out.
The book is almost a few books in one, a wonderful history of the Tarahumara and the characters who joined them for an incredible race. It is a history/science book, laying the foundations that really did shake up my thinking on distance running. And finally it is an exponent for the barefoot movement – perhaps still considered a ‘fad’ although one that seems to be lingering longer than it has before – it is a movement that has become more popular in recent times predominantly on the back of this very book.
In summary, it is a delight to read. McDougall has a great tone throughout, some great ideas and concepts to explore, and when I put the book down the only thing I wanted to do was go out and run. Not to pound the pavements, but to be at one with the world, with nature, and enjoy the feeling of putting one foot in front of the other for as long as I jolly well pleased. It has not sparked an urge to run unshod though.
I could not recommend this book enough