Book Review: Born To Run

A new category of links has appeared in the side bar over there, it is called Books. When I’ve read something that’s relevant to this blog or that I’ve particularly enjoyed, I’ll give it a quick review here and provide a link.

Born To Run (2010), McDougall, Christopher, London: Profile Books.

This is the first book about sport that I’ve ever read and indeed I have only just realised that running is a sport.

Christopher McDougall is a sports journalist who took up running, incurred injuries and set out on a journey of discovery into the worlds of barefoot running and ultra-running, in which he meets some incredible characters.

Ultra-running is what people who are truly gifted and insane do when they tire of marathons. A marathon is 26.2 miles, right? So when you can do that and feel you’ve hardly broken a sweat, ultrarunning might be your thing, that is where you run the distance of four marathons, back-to-back. Yes, you heard me right. It is where you look at a distance of oh, about 100 miles and pull on your running shoes instead of fainting.

Barefoot running – that is where you run in extremely lightweight, wafer-thin shoes, or in sandals that you have crudely fashioned from an old car tyre and some twine, or indeed in actual bare feet.

People like this exist and what’s more they are remarkably free from the sorts of running injuries that plague every other runner that is out there in their hi-tech, over-priced Nikes, runners who think a marathon is a big deal and who worry that they need to do more cross-training.

The biggest heroes in this story are the Tarahumara Indians, an obscure and shy tribe of people who live in extremely hot, dry & inhospitable conditions deep in the canyons of Mexico. For them, running huge distances in homemade footwear is a way of life. They’ve had bad experiences with outsiders so it is with great care and patience that McDougall gradually forges a relationship with them, and his book culminates in a magnificent race involving the Tarahumara and some of the internationally-recognised, record-breaking ultra-runners whom McDougall befriends along the way: young, glowing with health and energy, inspirational. The names Jenn Shelton, Billy ‘Bonehead’ Barnett and Scott Jurek all mean something to me now.

An invigorating read. Pushes back the boundaries of your belief in human physical capability.

Tarahumara runners in home-made sandals.

Jenn Shelton & Billy Barnett, an out-of-this-world pair of athletes who don’t see breaking world records for ultrarunning as incompatible with getting outrageously drunk.

Scott Jurek, another light-of-heart overachiever who exudes happiness no matter how long the distance or impossible the terrain.

Finally, here is Chris McDougall giving an enthralling conference presentation about his book.

3 thoughts on “Book Review: Born To Run”

  1. I feel a little bit ashamed actually ………… that I am so far removed from this picture of health and achievement. More like Jabba the Hutt really!

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