I’m not a big reader. In fact, if indeed I do pick up a book, it usually takes me a few months to finish it. I have to be in the right mood, I’m tired at night if I read in bed, and I’d almost always be moving around, going for a run, or cleaning something instead of reading. But I’ve always wanted to be a reader. I hear of people joining book clubs and finishing off books quickly and then engaging in meaningful dialogue about them; I’ve wanted to put a green reading lamp with a yellow pull-chain over a favorite, worn-in chair and curl up in the evenings with a cup of tea; I’ve wanted to stretch my mind and vocabulary by reading more. But I’ve always pushed reading and it’s never happened too easily. Until, that is, I read Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run. There was something about this book that grabbed me, that had me finishing the book in tears and completing it in a weekend, that even turned my non-running husband into a wanna-be-runner…it’s just that good.
Because it’s changed my running style and approach to running so much in such a short amount of time, I wanted to share my personal review on this book with you and ask about other books you all would recommend – running-related or not!
- Book Premise: As the back of the book reads, Born to Run is “an epic adventure that began with one simple question: ‘Why does [Chris’] foot hurt?’” The award-winning author journalist who writes for Men’s Health, Esquire magazine (a regular contributor to the “Restless Man” columns), and reported from three war zones for the Associated Press had done a lot of intense, “hard core” sports in his lifetime but after jogging a few miles down the street would be crippled by pain. Apparently suffering from cuboid syndrome among other ill effects from running, McDougall wasn’t pleased when multiple doctors told him he needed to continue to get cortisone shots in his foot or buy a bike. As a result of past assignments, he had been to Mexico’s isolated and deadly Copper Canyons and made contact with some of the Tarahumara Indians, a people group who have “honed the ability to run hundreds of miles without rest or injury.” The result is a subsequent trip to Mexico full of crazy (real life) characters that help weave the history of running (from before running shoes and related running injuries to the present) with stories from science labs at Harvard and ultra-runners who have tapped into the ability to go long. I would best describe McDougall’s book as an historical-inspirational-novel that tries to prove the point that we were, all of us, from 2,000 years ago to today, born to run.
- Initial Thoughts: Specific adjectives come to mind when I think of this book, including engaging, motivational, historical, and thought-provoking. I learned a lot that I didn’t expect to read about, including stats about how many runners are injured per year (8 out of 10!); how the invention of the running shoe by Nike changed the way we run and thus the type of injuries we sustain; and why the Tarahumara (as well as many other peoples around the globe and across time) can run for literally hundreds of miles without pain, in loose, strappy sandals, and without the gels and Powerades we consume. I also didn’t expect the book to give so much background on running as an ingrained part of society (which we continue to move away from, in many respects, as more convenience and “processed life,” as I’ll put it, moves in) and was surprised at how engaging the people in the book were. From ultra-running stars to average lab scientists who also like to run and Caballo Blanco to sports medicine doctors, I was thoroughly drawn to the people in the book and fascinated that they were real – such characters! But the most surprising to me? Reading this book made me want to run – long and for fun. Moreover, it even made my self-proclaimed, non-running husband want to run! How incredible is that? We completed the book in 3 days while hiking along the Rockwall Trail in BC’s Kootenay Mountains and had almost couldn’t wait to make camp every evening so we could pull out the book while we cooked dinner and read until late into the night.
- Impact: As I’ve already said, this book motivated me to run without the “politics” of running. I no longer worry about putting my miles toward training for a race (unless I get the urge to sign up for one – then of course I will) – no pressure from myself or by comparing myself other runners. Although I still time my runs (habit?) I’m less motivated by my pace and more so by listening to how my body feels. I celebrate movement more than exercise and when my body’s hurting I smile – try it! – to help remind me of why I’m out there. Since I don’t belong to a gym or have a treadmill at home (and because it’s summer!), I’ve just been loving being outside and embracing early alarm clocks and making time for running. Mikey is up to running 35 minutes per run and we’re both working on our form – more forefoot strikes (wearing my Vibram Five Finger shoes helps with this!) and less clomping heel-toe. The long and short of it is that reading this book not only made me realize that maybe I am a reader, it gave me renewed interest in how to run, the history of running, and why I run.
Mikey running post-backpack trip and post-reading – he continues to run a few times a week!
Overall, it was a great read. Although I’m not fully sure that we are all created to run and I really believe it’s okay that not everyone enjoys this activity, McDougall’s book brings up some interesting points that make me wonder if we’ve gone about this running-business wrong since the 70’s. Read the book and tell me what you think…I would love to have a discussion on this topic, especially after hearing mixed reviews about the book from others. I think this book appealed to Mikey and I so much because it’s adventurous and reads more like an epic expedition (intermingled with history and musings on running plus incredible people) and motivated us to run from our hearts.
Have you read “Born to Run?” What did you think of it? And could you recommend any other books in a similar vein (or something totally different! I want to read “The Help” next)?
I hope you’ve been having a great week so far…we’ve had a beautiful one mixed with friends from different circles in our lives this week and it’s been incredible – community is really where it’s at. Have a great weekend and thanks for popping in! More on the Healthy Living Summit, a weekly recap of fun events, and my Simply Bar taste reviews to come. For now though, I’m off to bed – gotta get up and run in the a.m! Sleep easy,