Born to Run – Christopher McDougall

This book actually has a ridiculously long title; Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. 

Christopher McDougall was once a war correspondent, but has since branched out into the world of running, fitness and general ethnography. In this book McDougall explains the journey he has gone on in search of a cure to his running injuries, the attempt to interview a lost tribe, and the emerging sport of ultra-marathon running. The story all starts with McDougall visiting his doctor having suffered a number of injuries when running; from this point he then tracks down various people to discuss his injuries, their causes and the ways to overcome them. He leads us on through a number of stories about his conversations with ultra-marathon runners, scientists, and tribesmen.

McDougall’s writing style makes this enjoyable for everyone, I had actually bought this book for my brother, then decided to read it myself; I think he would be far more interested in the content, but I was engrossed. He visits the Tarahumara people of Mexico, a tribe renowned for their ability to run long distances without serious injury, journeying to meet them and attempting to find out the secret to their success. As well as discussing the stamina of this tribe he also looks at their lifestyle, diet and a little at their history. The Tarahumara don’t wear running shoes, they use a single strapped sandal made from a rubber tyre; on goes McDougall to the next part of his book. maxresdefault

How many people do you know who own a pair of running shoes? Just about everyone I know has a pair; mine a currently languishing in the bottom of a suitcase! McDougall looks into why we all have running shoes, and how these effect our bodies when we are wearing them. Looking into the history of the running shoe, McDougall traces it back to Nike in the 1970s, he questions our need for them. By looking into the evolution of the human body; using research by Harvard and Utah University scientists, McDougall discusses how they came to the conclusion that we are actually designed to run long distances. He then looks at the way in which running shoes actually counteract some of the aspects of our body that have evolved, especially the soft cushioned soles.

Born to Run is written in a manner that expertly combines these assertions with stories about the personalities within the history of ultra-marathon and legends of the Tarahumara region. When McDougall tracks down the Tarahumara and the legendary Caballo Blanco, an elusive gringo living in Mexico, he becomes involved in the organising of a ultra-marathon that is the ‘Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen’. The Caballo Blanco’s dream is to pit the Tarahumara against ultra-marathon runners, some of whom are now professional athletes. This race adds drama to the book; McDougall himself takes part, and uses the accounts of his fellow races to build the story. The winner of the race in the end seems inconsequential, the race, and the story of getting there, is all we really need.

Chris McDougall clearly loves running, this is purely a book fed by his interest in the subject.Throughout the book he does go on tangents but these are always linked back to the point he is trying to make. He has a story to tell, one that is told with passion and feeling, but is articulate and well thought out. I think it might be time to get the running shoes out!


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