Hey there and happy Wednesday!
So this past weekend, I finished reading Born to Run. It was such a compelling and fascinating read, I knew that I wanted to share a full review of it here on the blog (and hopefully convince some of you to give it a try!). So saddle up, and get ready for book club time!
The description of the book on the back cover reads, “An epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt?” This struck me right away as I have dealt with my own foot injury this past summer and more recently, knee problems.
As the author later points out, I’m not alone. 65 – 80% of all runners experience an injury every year. Isn’t that just insane? You would think that with all the improvements in technology, shoe design, and gait analysis, that running injuries would be on the decline, wouldn’t you? It’s not. It’s actually gotten worse as shoes have gotten fancier.
“Only 2-3% of the population has real biomechanical problems… Every time we put someone in a corrective device [i.e., orthotics], we’re creating new problems by treating ones that don’t exist.”
If you’re like me though, you’re probably thinking there’s no way you’re going to go all natural and tackle barefoot running in the 21st century.
Hey, I have no desire to be picking bits of gravel or broken glass out of the bottom of my feet! But in my opinion, this book isn’t really about advocating one way or another for barefoot running. It’s about balance. As Christopher McDougall learns from watching the Tarahumara Indian tribe in Mexico (arguably the best ultrarunners in the world), runners stand to improve more by focusing on form and cross-training than by buying the latest Nike sneakers. Not that it’s really cross-training for the Tarahumara; for them, it’s just sprinting after a rabbit for dinner, hauling firewood, or completing a strenuous 20-mile hike through the canyons to the neighboring village. It’s simply everday life. (I won’t lie, I’m happy it’s not my everyday life, but it works for them.)
McDougall also explains the evolutionary theory behind the history of running – were humans really born to run? And if so, why are injuries so frequent? This leads into explanations of persistence hunting – tribes would single out an antelope or gazelle and literally chase it until it collapsed. These animals can beat humans in a sprint, but they don’t have our endurance. These persistence hunts typically lasted roughly 3-5 hours. Do you know what else usually consists of 3-5 hours of running?
But if that’s true and we are born to run, why do so many people hate it? In the eyes of legendary track coach Joe Vigil, it was because running was “…too much about getting stuff and getting it now: Medals, Nike deals, a cute butt. It wasn’t art; it was… a hard-nosed quid pro quo. No wonder so many people hated running; if you thought it was only a means to an end… then why stick with it if you weren’t getting enough quo for your quid?”
This passage really rang true for me. I remember loving the feeling of running around as a little kid. I wasn’t running to burn calories or get skinnier; I just enjoyed it. I still enjoy running, but I’ve definitely gotten more up-in-my-head about it, as I’ve grown up. Reading this book made me want to take a deep breath, and just go run, no GPS watch, just me and a trail to explore. Too bad all the trails around here are a little snowy for that right now. 😉
If you’re thinking that all the shoe and evolution stuff sounds kind of dry and scientific- you’d be wrong (at least in the case of this book). As I mentioned in an earlier post, Born to Run reads more like a memoir and even the most science-heavy parts of it are so clearly expressed that anyone can understand and relate to it (no biology degree required!).
So in sum, if you love running, read this book. If you don’t love running, but you enjoy a good adventure novel or have some interest in evolutionary theory, read this book. Basically, you should just read this book. It’s worth it.
Have you read Born to Run? If not, have I convinced you?
*All quotes in this review come from author Christopher McDougall in his book, Born to Run.