Sunday, May 02, 2010

Born To Run

Subtitled, 'The hidden tribe, the ultra-runners and the greatest race the world has never seen', Born to Run is a book about the love of running. As someone who doesn't love running, but has made it one of his 2010 resolutions to do so, this was an intriguing book.

The framework of the book is Christopher McDougall's quest to find out why running was damaging his (and a lot of other people's) feet and knees, which leads to a fascination with the Raramuri (tr. 'running people') a reclusive tribe of Mexican Indians who eke out a subsistence living in the Chihuahuan Desert.

The Raramuri (more popularly known as the Tarahumara) have a culture that enshrines distance running (and by this, they're talking at least 50 miles, and often a lot more). What fascinates McDougall is that they do this wearing thin soled sandals, without any evidence of long-term muscle or joint damage.

The book's agenda is that the current trend to cushion runner's feet is having a negative effect, encouraging poor running style, and weakening our supporting musculature. He is also convinced that one of humanity's main evolutionary jumps was developing the ability to run, for which he gives intriguing (if questionable) evidence.

The book is an excellent read. Once I had relaxed into McDougall's 'pally' style of narrative, I found myself enjoying the ride as he bounces between his journeys in the Copper Canyons, to discussing running technique and the shoes we wear, through the evolution of running, all peppered with anecdotes about the ultra-runners that populate the story.

McDougall's great triumph is explaining his and other people's enjoyment of running. Not that it is easy, or always enjoyable, but because (in his opinion) we are 'built-to-run'.

Whether you end up agreeing with him or not, you will come away with a number of questions answered, and a few more to research for yourself.

No comments: