I once considered myself to be fairly knowledgable in the sport of running. I come from a family of runners, run almost every day and have participated in a full marathon and too many half marathons to try to count. People often come to me for advice on training, injuries, races and gear, and until a few weeks ago, I thought I had sufficient answers. Few books have challenged me, to change my preconceived ideas about something I once considered an area of "expertise", but my ideas about running immediately changed when I was given a copy of Born to Run by my father. An avid runner himself, he told me this book would change my life, and indeed it has.
Written by journalist and oft-injured runner Christopher McDougal, the book narrates his journey as he follows a tribe of mysterious, almost reclusive runners known as the Tarahumara. Living in some of the harshest conditions in the mountains of central Mexico, the Tarahumara practice running techniques that allow them to run hundreds of miles without rest or injury, making them arguably the best ultra-runners in the world. During the course of the book, you are introduced to numerous characters, both in the crazy world of ultra-marathons and also within this unknown tribe, that keep you turning the pages. You honestly can't make these people up and it is this human element that really makes the soul of this book.
Using a mix of medicine, evolutionary and genetic science and common sense observations, the book explains that humans are in fact built to run. It is how we have existed for thousands of years and contrary to popular belief, it will not hurt your knees, give you arthritis, or plague you with injuries. In all actuality, it is the opposite of running (or a sedentary lifestyle) that will cause these things. Everything we have come to know about modern-day running, mainly the footwear we choose, is completely inaccurate, and I argue anyone to disagree with these findings after having finished Born to Run.
This book was one of the most entertaining and informative books I've read in a long time and it took me back to my childhood, and reminded me of why I enjoy running. Like being 6 years old on the playground were all of the activities we played involved going from one place to the other at the highest speed possible. It sounds crazy to most people, but I've always looked at a good, long run as a form of mediation. I don't have to think about what I'm doing and my mind can fall asleep while my body does the rest. Now, even more than ever, I look forward to every mile, and I am beyond inspired to make running even more a part of my daily routine. Though I may leave the 50 milers to the Tarahumara. For now.