Books Ring Mah Bell's Reviews > Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
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Apr 01, 12

bookshelves: favorites, sports
Read in August, 2011

Truly, I cannot recall the last time I read a book that I loved as much as this.

Should you think this book is for serious runners alone, please think again. I am not by any means a runner. I ran track in high school, but the runs I did were short, sweet, sprints. After high school, I had a difficult time finding 200 yard dashes to race in, so I did a few 5k's... I didn't love them much at all. There was no way I was going to win a 5k, not ever. The distance just sucked. (In retrospect, some training may have helped.) I looked at most distance runners as mentally ill - something was wrong with those people. They were running from something, I decided, maybe from being fat, or being sad, maybe running from addictions or desires. Nuts. All of them. (Maybe I was just jealous of their slow twitch muscle fibers.) Most of the time I found the races to be miserable, and looking at most of the runners, it seemed they did too. Grimaces, frowns, bloody nipples, knee braces... yeah, FUN!

This book jogged my memory of those few times I did find running to be fun. One of those times was during a 5K called "Hair of the Frog", put on by a local brewery. It was early spring, it was cold, raining ice, There was thunder and lightning. I'm not sure if it was oxygen deprivation, or perhaps that amazing runner's high, but midway through the race, I was in nirvana. The trees around me looked beautiful encased in ice. I felt.... amazing. Alive. Primal. It did not matter that I was not going to win this race. (In fact, this race even had an award for finishing DFL, Dead F-ing Last.) It was then that I got it. I understood why some people really love to run. Had it not been for the pints of beer waiting at the finish line, I'm pretty sure I would have rerun the course with glee. Over time, I forgot about that sensation, busy with life, I rarely ran. I remember now.

Author Christopher McDougall writes about and participates in extreme adventure sports. He struggles with running injuries. The doctors suggest shots, orthotics, and offer the advice, "if it hurts, stop doing it.".

While in Mexico on an assignment, McDougall discovers the Tarahumara, an anthropological gem - a superhuman species, hidden deep in the formidable Sierra Madres. These people run extreme distances, and they run into old age, when the rest of the world resigns to rocking chairs. McDougall sets out to find these people, to discover how they run without injury, how they continue to run into old age. In the process, meets a man, Caballo Blanco, who wants to set up a race between these superhumans and the elite ultra runners of the United States.

There is so much more to this book than people running. This book talks about culture, society, obsession, science.

One of the most compelling parts of the book - the evidence presented that we are indeed born to run. One scientist points to the nuchal ligament on the back of our skulls, which fast moving animals have to keep the head in place while running. The topic of persistence hunting comes in to support the point and it is utterly fascinating. Running on two legs may not make us as fast as the quadripeds, but it does allow us to breathe more efficiently. And all these fabulous sweat glands we have? We can run longer without overheating, unlike the mammals not as well equipped with such a cooling system. we may not be fast enough to run down a deer in minutes, but after enduring for several miles, we can overtake the deer as it drops from overheating and exhaustion.

The cast of characters is simply amazing. I have already mentioned my thought that serious runners are a bit off in the head. The group of ultrarunners mentioned in the book may make the case for me. We meet Jenn and Billy, two surfer kids turned ultrarunners, that party all night to the point of puking, and get a few hours of sleep (by passing out) and rise, ready to go for a VERY long run. Jack Kirk, an elderly trail runner, is mentioned briefly, but was so fascinating I had to google him. ( http://runtrails.blogspot.com/2007/02... ) There's Barefoot Ted, running trails sans shoes (or if his feet need protection, he uses Vibram Five Fingers). And the mastermind behind the race, Caballo Blanco, a gringo who indeed was running from something.

This story is so, SO worth reading.
The only thing that could have improved the book... pictures.

Now, if you'll excuse me, there's a trail calling me to run.

Maybe I am a runner after all.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 2: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Great review, Bellsy. I wonder if it's good on audio.


message 3: by Mary (new) - added it

Mary Wescott Great review!!! Most of my gf's are runners and they are constantly inviting me to go with them and I always tell them "that's why God invented horses!"


Books Ring Mah Bell It might be good... very good story.

:)
Mary, I LOVE your response. When asked, "do you run?" I am guilty of using the tired response, "Only if I am being chased."

har har har.
:)


message 5: by Mary (new) - added it

Mary Wescott Where's the Freaking LIKE button? Sometimes I think Goodreads would benefit from facebook - I mean flattery really is the highest compliment right?


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