Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen (Review)

June 6, 2011

Book cover for "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall.Title: Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

Author: Christopher McDougall

Narrator: Fred Sanders

Publication Year: 2009

Pages: 304 (audio length: 11 hours 9 minutes)

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Audiobook version purchased from Audible.com

From the cover:

Full of incredible characters, amazing athletic achievements, cutting-edge science, and, most of all, pure inspiration, Born to Run is an epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt? In search of an answer, Christopher McDougall sets off to find a tribe of the world’s greatest distance runners and learn their secrets, and in the process shows us that everything we thought we knew about running is wrong.

Isolated by the most savage terrain in North America, the reclusive Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s deadly Copper Canyons are custodians of a lost art. For centuries they have practiced techniques that allow them to run hundreds of miles without rest and chase down anything from a deer to an Olympic marathoner while enjoying every mile of it. Their superhuman talent is matched by uncanny health and serenity, leaving the Tarahumara immune to the diseases and strife that plague modern existence. With the help of Caballo Blanco, a mysterious loner who lives among the tribe, the author was able not only to uncover the secrets of the Tarahumara but also to find his own inner ultra-athlete, as he trained for the challenge of a lifetime: a fifty-mile race through the heart of Tarahumara country pitting the tribe against an odd band of Americans, including a star ultramarathoner, a beautiful young surfer, and a barefoot wonder.

With a sharp wit and wild exuberance, McDougall takes us from the high-tech science labs at Harvard to the sun-baked valleys and freezing peaks across North America, where ever-growing numbers of ultrarunners are pushing their bodies to the limit, and, finally, to the climactic race in the Copper Canyons. Born to Run is that rare book that will not only engage your mind but inspire your body when you realize that the secret to happiness is right at your feet, and that you, indeed all of us, were born to run.

I kept coming across mentions of this book, namely a lot of mentions of it being essentially the. book. that spawned the barefoot running movement. And since I’m definitely interested in learning more about running and how I can run more (and longer, and continue running until I’m old), I was intrigued.

I’m not sure what I expected this book to be, but it wasn’t what I got. I think that maybe I expected it to be a scientific treatise explaining how the human body was built to run without running shoes, or how we have evolved to become (or stop being) natural runners. I really think that I expected it to be very scientific and expository. That’s not what it was, though, and I’m glad, because that would likely have bored me after about twenty pages.

Instead, Born to Run turned out to be a story that spanned many stories. There was the story of the author, and his search for answers. There was the story of the mysterious Caballo Blanco. There was the story of the elusive Tarahumara tribe in Mexico. There were also stories about ultra-marathoners and ridiculous races that I’d never even dreamed existed.

And it was a great read.

(Or, well, a great listen. I liked Sanders’ voice as the narrator – it was simple yet expressive, and it didn’t overpower the story nor take me out of it.)

I think that, in the end, Born to Run read a lot like an adventure story. There were lots of different characters and encounters, lots of pitfalls and challenges, and also lots of personal successes along the way. If you’re into running, or interested in learning about those isolated tribes who live in the middle of nowhere, you might enjoy this book. I know that I did.

Rating:

6 Comments

  • Helen Murdoch June 6, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    I’ve had this book on my kindle for AGES and keep forgetting that I have it (out of site is out of mind in my life). I’ve heard good things about it though so I’ll get to it someday

  • Jen - Devourer of Books June 6, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    I’ve always sort of assumed this book isn’t for me because I’m not a runner, but you make it sound really interesting!

  • PragmaticMom June 7, 2011 at 8:11 am

    My husband is reading this book and can’t put it down. He keeps saying that it makes him want to run and he’s is NOT a runner! He says it’s an amazing book. Thanks for your review!

    A similar book that he loves is How Soccer Changed the World.

    I put a list of his favorite books on my Father’s Day Gift Idea post http://www.pragmaticmom.com/?p=17769

  • Emma June 10, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    I also enjoyed that book very much; unfortunately, I listened to it in 2009, when I was not a serious blogger yet! Emma @ Words And Peace

  • Amy September 2, 2011 at 4:49 am

    I loved this book! I’m glad you liked it as well. It’s definitely one I want to re-read. It’s so inspirational, and the stories are intriguing. Here’s my review.

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