Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Book Review: "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall

I finished "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall over the weekend. For the most part, the book held my interest throughout. The book tells the story of the Tarahumara Indians, a tribe of super runners who live in the Copper Canyons of Mexico. Living among the tribe is a man knows as "Caballo Blanco (White Horse)." His dream is to put together a race involving the Tarahumara and an eclectic group of American runners. Without giving away too much of the plot, Mr. McDougall does a great job introducing the reader to the characters and how they came to be involved in this most unusual event. The climax of the book comes at the end when "Caballo Blanco's" dream is realized and the race is off and running. He does a great job putting the reader in the minds of the runners. He describes in great detail many of the highs and lows the runners experience during the race.

The story itself is great, but what is causing a stir in the running community is chapter 25, which after introducing you to "Barefoot Ted" in Chapter 24, goes on to talk about the evils of the modern running shoe industry. See, the Tarahumara run in these in flimsy sandals and their runners experience almost no injuries. This leads into a discussion about how since the invention of the modern running shoe, runners have been injured more because modern running shoes alter a runner's gait that is not natural and that the most natural way to run is barefoot.

While this part of the book is definitely interesting and food for thought, I don't think many runners will be giving up their Nikes, Asics, or Brooks to run barefoot or in Vibram Five Fingers. I know that Brandon belongs to the school of forefoot running and is thinking of experimenting with Vibram Five Fingers, but most of us will continue to be heel strikers and will run in modern shoes. This topic of shoes will be discussed on the Runner's Roundtable Podcast on July, 1. The topic of barefoot running will be discussed on August 21 with John Woodward and Mr. McDougall will be a guest on the show as well.

What I enjoyed most about the book was the evolution of this race. The paraticipants are so diverse and unusual. At the very end of the book the reader also learns the identity of "Caballo Blanco" and how he ends up living with the Tarahumara. This was my first foray into running books and it did not disappoint.


Robert James Reese said...

Our blogs posts this evening are well coordinated... I also spoke of the book, although I didn't do a full review.

I agree with you that the story itself was engaging. I really enjoyed "meeting" all the different ultra-runners.

brandonsmarathon said...

Glad you enjoyed the book, Ari! Born to Run was my first running book also and I really appreciate the fact that it is a story and not just a bunch of facts and figures. Besides, even when those do come into play, McDougall keeps it interesting and weaves it into story form.

I look forward to the RRT with McDougall!