05 August 2011

Born to Run

(Of the two acquaintances who mentioned this book to me, one had started running barefoot because of it, and the other had turned vegan...)

In Born to Run, Christopher McDougall recounts his personal quest to learn to run (and learn to love running) without injury. McDougall's thesis is that the human body is purpose built for running long distances. This seems unbelievable when you realize that, in any given year, most runners will injure themselves while running. Every year. And most people find running to be a necessary evil, not something that feels good. So what is going on?

When McDougall's research led him to a band of quirky long-distance (ultramarathon) trail runners, and an elusive tribe called the Tarahumara who live in the Copper Canyons of Mexico, he sought to learn their techniques— everything from posture to diet. Perhaps the most surprising among those: Tarahumara of all ages run for hours or days on end in thin rubber sandals and sustain injuries at a rate that is close to zero. McDougall advances the case that we're built to run barefoot, not in padded shoes (which change one's running posture and provide insulation from proper ground contact).

The science in Born to Run is somewhat sparse, and the writing can be overdramatic and incoherent. At times the book feels like a way-too-long magazine article. But it is nothing if not entertaining, and the conclusions are eye-opening. Mildly recommended.


  1. > At times the book feels like a way-too-long magazine article.

    That's exactly how I felt about it. The end of every chapter was a manufactured cliffhanger. But, I still enjoyed it overall. Bernd Heinrich wrote a less "light", but more interesting book called "Why We Run" which talks about similar issues.