Saturday, August 15, 2009

"Born to Run" Book Review

I finally finished Christopher McDougall's phenomenal book, "Born to Run" on Friday night. Let me preface it with this: I very rarely read much more than my staple running magazines like Runner's World or my favorite magazine of all time, UltraRunning, but this book hooked me from the beginning and I think I'll probably read it again. Those who don't know will say it's just a running book for the obsessed. I think it's more about a book that indirectly gets to the core of why I and so many other fellow ultra-runners do what we do. It's that deep-rooted, passion about becoming one with the trail and mentally immersing us in God's creation out there for hours on end. It's not religious on any page nor does it mention God like I just did, but hey...He did create it all, ya know! The book just resonated with me so well. It didn't make it any easier to answer the "why?" question I get day in and day out, but it sure did answer the question for the reader. Certainly, it made and continues to make me want to get out there and run for hours on end. It also was chock full of scientific evidence about our physical bodies and how we are built to run. People with far greater brain power than I spent years analyzing bones, muscles, tendons, etc. in our bodies and comparing those things to the other running animals on the planet compared to the "walkers" on the planet and they conclusively determined that yea, it all leads to the fact that we were all built...BORN...to run.

The book also had a ton of great quotes that if you're on Facebook, you noticed I was throwing them out there as I read through them. Here are some of my favorites:


Coach Vigil once said: "The reason we race isn't so much to beat each other...but to be with each other."

"You don't stop running because you get old, you get old because you stop running." - Dipsea Demon

"Ultras are just eating and drinking contests, with a little exercise and scenery thrown in." - Sunny Blende, ace ultra nutritionist

"Something odd began to happen: as the runners got slower, the cheers got wilder. Every time a racer struggled across the finish...they immediately turned around and began calling home the runners still out there." - the author was writing about the finish line of the race

"From high on the hill, I could see the twinkle of the red and green lights strung above the road to Urique. The sun had set, leaving me running through that silvery-gray dusk of the deep canyons, a moon-like glow that lingers, unchanging, until you feel everything is frozen in time except you." - Christopher McDougall, author, writes about his final trek before the finish line...similar feeling that I had just before crossing the finish line at the Kettle Moraine 100 in June.

Scott Jurek (world-class ultra-runner) talking to the author after the finish about going slow in the ultra: "I've been there, man. I've been there a lot. It takes more guts than going fast."

"Born to Run" also talked a lot about barefoot running and running with minimal protection on our feet. The Tarahumara Indians wore sandals when they ran...not the $150 super-engineered running shoes we run in today. Their injury rates and ability to go for incredible distances without injury was a big focus in the book. I was intrigued by the repeated references to how the body immediately converts into a "perfect" stride when removing the protection of our running shoes: we strike mid-foot (the most efficient place to strike), we center our torso over our body instead of leaning forward or back, and we become much more efficient when forced to run with just ourselves and the earth and nothing much in between. It was one of the best indirect advertisements for a product that I have ever seen: Vibram FiveFingers. Locally here in northeast Ohio and at Vertical Runner in Hudson, they're all the rage and flying off the shelf. I have to say that after trying them on a few months ago, I decided against them. After reading the book now, I am compelled to give them another shot. I think I'd like to run some short distances around home in them, maybe try them on some trail, and just wear them around town. I have no desire to replace my trusty trail shoes but I think I could benefit and my running efficiency, stride, gait, and overall form could benefit. I think it's time to teach my body some new "stuff" and get it back to its roots as a natural-born runner. If I get them, I'll be sure to write about it.

This upcoming Tuesday, August 18th, the author of "Born to Run" will be on Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" so stop right now and set your DVRs to record it! There is also a video on YouTube that is published on his publisher's website that is a sub-2 minute synopsis of his book. You can also see the Vibram FiveFingers right at the end of the video.


I hope you have a chance to pick up this book and read it or listen to the audio book. Believe it or not, the race that the book celebrates at the end actually exists today and remains pure and true to its heritage in the mountains of Mexico. Now THIS would be a dream to participate in some day.

Happy Trails, everyone!

1 comment:

Sensationally Red said...

I'm dying to read this book. Bob bought it and is slowing putzing through it, a few pages a night--not from lack of interest but because he's so tired from running!! I told him to hurry it up...I'm dying to borrow it. Really...I totally believe in the benefit of running with minimal cushion, but those 5-toed ballet slippers are about the funniest looking things I've ever seen.