Friday, October 2, 2009

REVIEW: Born to Run

Just like most of us, Christopher McDougall got injured when he ran. His feet hurt, his knees hurt, he tried lots of fancy expensive shoes, he had gait tests done to figure out if he pronates, and so on. Doctors told him to stop running; it’s not natural and humans weren’t meant to do it.

In the quest to find answers about why this is, McDougall went on an incredible journey that he chronicles in his book “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greastest Race the World has never seen”. In it he travels to the deserts and mountains of Mexico in search of an ancient tribe of people (the Tarahumara) and a mysterious man named Caballo Blanco.

McDougall’s writing style can be a little distracting because while the book does loosely follow the timeline of Caballo Blanco, the story jumps around from time to time and he goes off on some incredible tangents and side stories. All the material is very interesting and by the end it is clear McDougall is using the timeline to build suspense to the grand finale race that the book closes with.

The book mixes journalism, science, the history of running, incredible anecdotes, evolutionary theory, and just a dash of controversy over corporate America. As a doctor/scientist/runner, I found the review of contemporary scientific literature on running and evolution to be the most interesting content. He references paper I covered a couple months ago about Distance Running and the Evolution of Homo, but goes into the background of the authors and how the paper came to be. The science definitely challenged my understanding of running and made me think twice about what my next shoe purchase will be. (Vibram?)

I highly recommend the book, which spans 9 CD’s if you buy the audiobook version.

If you have already read the book and want to indulge more into the history, images, and people in the book, Caballo actually has an incredible website with touching photos and TONS of info. He doesn't have any fancy Web 2.0 eyecandy, flash animations, or rounded corners, but it's a touching addition to Manuel Luna, Caballo, Scott, Jen and the Bonehead, Ted and all the others.


US News and World Report review

Barefoot Ted, one of the book's characters

Caballo Blanco

Scott Jurek

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