Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Book Review: Born To Run

BtR is about the world of running, ultramarathons, the shoe industry, and the Tarahumara (pronounced Tara-oo-mara) Indians, a secluded group of "super athletes" known for their running endurance and speed. I dare you to read it and not be inspired to run, to be healthy, to be, well, just, better.

The story begins with the author's seemingly innocent (unless you're a runner) question, "How come my foot hurts?"and ends with a race between a few elite ultra runners (including Scott Jurek) and the Tarahumara Indians in the Copper Canyons of Mexico.

In between are a number of answers, questions, and challenges.

I could not put Born to Run down. This book is both thrilling and informative. I love how it recaptured the excitement of past ulta distance races like the 1995 Leadville 100 while telling the backstories of BtR’s protagonists — Ann Trason, Ken Chlouber, Caballo Blanco (or “Micah True"),"Barefoot Ted" McDonald, Scott Jurek, Jenn “Mookie” Shelton and Billy “Bonehead” Barnett.

On another front, it serves as an indictment of the running shoe industry, specifically Nike, while also laying out a compelling case that human beings evolved to be runners—chasing prey down, out-enduring them via the persistence hunt.

Perhaps one of the most inspirational paragraphs from Born to Run contains the book’s title:

Distance running was revered because it was indispensable; it was the way we survived and thrived and spread across the planet. You ran to eat and to avoid being eaten; you ran to find a mate and impress her, and with her you ran off to start a new life together. You had to love running, or you wouldn’t live to love anything else. And like everything else we love—everything we sentimentally call our “passions” and “desires"—it’s really an encoded ancestral necessity. We were born to run; we were born because we run. We’re all Running People, as the Tarahumara have always

With Born to Run, McDougal captures an authentic human experience and conveys it directly to the reader. You are awed by superhuman athletes while still seeing their core humanity. And therein is one of McDougall’s primary takeaways: every human being was born to run, the design being coded within our DNA.

Conclusion: BtR is a fantastic read, and I whole-heartedly recommend it. I believe this is a book that will spawn the next generation of runners, and I’m optimistic that it will take barefooting (or at least minimalist footwear) mainstream. Born to Run helps us to take another step towards understanding what it means and what is required to be human.

Thank you to Christopher McDougall for telling this tale: it needed to be told!

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