Born to Run starts out with author, Christopher McDougall’s quest to run better and without pain. Like most of us, he was duped into accepting the common ideas like needing “high tech” runners, runners need more padding and old age is a reason to stop running. After consulting several doctors and constantly taking pain killers, he sought out the mysterious Mexican tribe of super athletes known as the Tarahumara.
These super athletic people would hardly train, run over 100 miles at a time, play a game of kicking a wooden ball for days and drink large amounts of corn beer. Their diets were mostly beans and corn and the men were so shy, that the author wondered how they ever had children.
As McDougall describes his own pain-free running transformation, he reveals his own theories and research about running. Some of it ties in what I learned 30 years ago: practice running barefoot, beat your feet up and that your feet are designed to take shock. Before the lore of highly technical footwear, I used to run with thin soled runners. And I often ran barefoot to toughen up my own feet. Little did I know, I was actually strengthening the small muscles of the feet. McDougall also talks about nutrition and how so many ultra runners are vegetarian. While I am not totally convinced of that lifestyle, I admit that more fresh vegetables seem to make me more alert and relaxed. I never did buy into that claim that pasta or carb loading gave more energy.
The book makes a strong case on how running is actually natural for humans and not the crippling activity that so many experts insist that it is. McDougall claims that it was the homo sapiens running ability that enabled them to outlast the bigger, stronger, more intelligent Neanderthals.
Another part of the book is about this amazing race and the amazing racers who competed in it. From the straight A college party girl (who runs 20 miles a morning) to the former prizefighter who turned his back on civilization. I love their characters and the parts about how they “sneak a run in” or carry on so casually despite danger like dehydration or dodging drug enforcers. There is drama, tragedy and humor throughout.
Finally, I want to express my thanks to this book for being so entertaining and enlightening. I am back to regular running and preparing for another race. As one of the book’s quote explains: “You don’t stop running because you get old, you get old because you stop running.”