Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Born To Run, by Christopher McDougall

I waffled about whether or not to post again today. I'm grateful if any of you check out this blog even once and I sure wouldn't want anyone to feel inundated by my posting twice in one day. But I just couldn't help myself. I've been in love with this book since I finished it a few weeks ago.
McDougall starts off simply, by telling of his own hurt foot. He's an everyman - a tall, hulky guy who likes to run but keeps getting sidelined with injuries. Anybody out there identify? From there, his story just takes off (pun intended) as he tells of a lost tribe of super-runners who live in the Copper Canyons of Mexico and the lone outsider, a character who goes by the name Caballo Blanco, who has befriended them and lives among them.
By tracking down (more like stalking!) Caballo Blanco, the author gets the opportunity to learn about this tribe, the Tarahumara. They live what we would consider to be primitive lives, and run, virtually barefoot, sometimes for days on end.
Throughout the telling we meet some of the tribe, as well as a lot of other crazy, colorful characters, the kind of people who find ultra-races of fifty miles a welcome challenge.
As McDougall proceeds on his quest to find the key to "the right way to run" he pulls in a lot of fascinating information. We learn about the physiology and biomechanics of running as he quotes experts world-famous in these areas. We then learn how the author, time and time again, discovers amazing information that often supersedes and negates the experts' recommendations. The author's most amazing myth-busting is in his discovery of how the high-tech gels and padding of modern running shoes lead to increased injury rather than injury prevention.
The most fundamental revelation, though, is one he found through interviewing experts in paleontology and anthropology. Not only is the human body built to handle long distance, endurance running, it is designed specifically for it.
My favorite passages in the book speak to the place running holds in our collective psyches. The sheer joy of a run. While watching the Winter Olympics I can't help but feel there is something inauthentic about some of these rather contrived athletic endeavors and the host of expensive, non-biodegrable, fluorescent-colored, high-tech gear they require. The most basic exercise of all, the one our bodies actually need and are specifically designed to do, requires only one thing: a simple pair of shoes.

Great on audio, too!

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