Rob'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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's review
May 26, 12

bookshelves: own, 2010, evolution, running
Recommended to Rob by: Amy
Read from March 14 to 21, 2010 — I own a copy, read count: 1

Every other review of this book that you read will sum this up pretty well: that this book is a briskly-paced, well-executed tale of running, of a "secret tribe" in Mexico that has basically made an art of ultra-running, of the people world-wide that are truly passionate about putting their bodies into motion and not stopping for hundreds of miles. Also, that your fancy shoes are the reason you're getting plantar fasciitis.

So if you want the details on all that, and if you want to get pumped up about barefoot running (you pervert) then have right at it.

Instead, I want to put out there a serious question about what seems like a pretty big inconsistency in the text that I'm having trouble reconciling:

First -- there is quite a bit in the text where it seems that McDougall is suggesting that a vegetarian diet is the way to go for the elite ultrarunner. Put down your lean meat and go after the beans and pinole. Runner after runner in chapter after chapter, all of them seem to say that they've gone and eschewed meat, that they "eat like a poor person", and they've never felt better, and never run better (nor run longer). And yet...

Second -- there is this section where McDougall starts talking about the evolution of Homo sapiens, and this conjecture that we "defeated" our Neanderthal cousins in the evolutionary arms race because we "ran our prey to death". In other words, our species learned to run so that it could more easily obtain meat, and the improved access to meat was a huge driver behind the survival of our species, behind the further development of our brain.

But this contradiction isn't really explored. Evolution has strong feedback effects built in. So if we're running to get meat, why eschew the meat hundreds of thousands (millions?) of years later? Does the access to the meat simply open the door and once through it we're better off without it? Or is there more to this story?

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Update: Longer version of this review on my blog.
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Reading Progress

03/15/2010 page 39
13.59%
03/18/2010 page 100
34.84% "Sometimes McDougall's similes are longer than the rest of the sentence."
03/21/2010 page 245
85.37% "Chapter 28 actually made me WANT to run — how perverted is that?"
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