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A Book Review of Christopher McDougall's Born to Run

Updated on July 7, 2012
"The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art" -Leonardo da Vinci.
"The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art" -Leonardo da Vinci. | Source

I came upon this book because my brother wouldn't stop babbling about it. What he spouted sounded like it was coming from the equivalent of the National Inquirer for Runner's World magazine. For the first time in a while though, he stopped making fun of me for wearing toe shoes. After he was done with it, I picked it up hoping I could trudge my way through it and get back into the swing of reading something that wasn't a textbook. This book really doesn't need another review. It is a national bestseller. The author was interviewed on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and I think it's already a classic among runners. Still, I felt compelled to write a review of Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall. I decided to write a hub because the resources I wanted to include could not be added to an Amazon review, and I love hubpages. I'll cut to it straight away. If you read this article, basically an excerpt from the book, and you're not intrigued, don't read the book.

Why does my foot hurt?

This is the question that started author Christopher McDougall on his epic search and lead to the writing of this skillful novel. After running and rubbing his feet in pain, after seeing podiatrists for cortisone shots, he wanted to know why running causes so many injuries. Are humans uniquely bad in the animal kingdom at running?

As with any great question, one just spawns more. Homoerectus, one of our earliest ancestors, appeared almost two million years ago, but weapons and "complex" tools only appeared about 200,000 years ago. As far as we can tell, our large brains could only come from dense caloric foods, i.e. meat. So how did we hunt animals without tools? McDougall probes cutting edge science, top research teams, and experts to see alternative views that are now becoming mainstream, but what about a more practical question?

Tarahumara men.
Tarahumara men. | Source
Tarahumara women in their native lands.
Tarahumara women in their native lands. | Source

Are there any groups of people that run and don't get injured?

McDougall seems to have a journalist's dream job as he delves into the recesses of Mexico to find a rumored tribe of Indian superathletes, the Tarahumara (pronounced tah-rah-oo-mah-rah, Spanish style). These people run multiple marathons in a day, and then wake up to do it again the next. There are almost no instances of running related injury, almost no western world diseases like diabetes, along with a society that features no crime or cruelty. The book doesn't push you into one view and say that's the answer. The information is laid out in front of you, and you can reach your own conclusions.

The tribe is so secretive that McDougall chases after a man who is said to have ingratiated himself with the Tarahumara. This man, nicknamed Caballo Blaco or the White Horse, is a mysterious Caucasian male who seems to have abandoned a previous life to live in the outbacks of Mexico and run insanely long distances. McDougall first tracks Caballo to learn some of the secrets of the diet, gear, and lifestyle of uninjured runners, but the strange and charismatic story of Caballo soon becomes a focus for the whole book.

Caballo has a plan.

It involves a 50 mile race between the best runners of the Tarahumara tribe and the best runners of the U.S. It's mostly for the love of running, but winning involves prizes and notoriety for all involved, especially for the Tarahumara. The tough part isn't the running but how to put it all together!

This story is captivating from page one and has you rooting all the way. By the end, you really feel as though you were right there with these larger than life people. You begin to feel their struggle and enjoy their success. It also gives a very unique, insider look at the Tarahumara way of life. At the very least, it makes you want to get up and run!


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