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Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seenby Christopher McDougall
Born to Run is the one of those books you just can't keep to yourself. In fact, it's probably the one title I've recommended more than any other in the last two years. It has a little bit of everything: adventure, travel, history, science, and sport, all wrapped up in a fun, quick-reading package. Trust me. After reading this book, you will not be able to stop talking about it.
Synopses & Reviews
Full of incredible characters, amazing athletic achievements, cutting-edge science, and, most of all, pure inspiration, Born to Run is an epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt? In search of an answer, Christopher McDougall sets off to find a tribe of the world's greatest distance runners and learn their secrets, and in the process shows us that everything we thought we knew about running is wrong.
Isolated by the most savage terrain in North America, the reclusive Tarahumara Indians of Mexico's deadly Copper Canyons are custodians of a lost art. For centuries they have practiced techniques that allow them to run hundreds of miles without rest and chase down anything from a deer to an Olympic marathoner while enjoying every mile of it. Their superhuman talent is matched by uncanny health and serenity, leaving the Tarahumara immune to the diseases and strife that plague modern existence. With the help of Caballo Blanco, a mysterious loner who lives among the tribe, the author was able not only to uncover the secrets of the Tarahumara but also to find his own inner ultra-athlete, as he trained for the challenge of a lifetime: a fifty-mile race through the heart of Tarahumara country pitting the tribe against an odd band of Americans, including a star ultramarathoner, a beautiful young surfer, and a barefoot wonder.
With a sharp wit and wild exuberance, McDougall takes us from the high-tech science labs at Harvard to the sun-baked valleys and freezing peaks across North America, where ever-growing numbers of ultrarunners are pushing their bodies to the limit, and, finally, to the climactic race in the Copper Canyons. Born to Run is that rare book that will not only engage your mind but inspire your body when you realize that the secret to happiness is right at your feet, and that you, indeed all of us, were born to run.
In his first book, journalist and former war correspondent Christopher McDougall suggests — or proves, depending on your degree of skepticism — that running extremely long distances barefoot is the key to health, happiness and longevity. Brand-name footwear, with its gel-based cushioning and elaborate architecture of super-advanced support, is a common cause of athletic injury, he argues. And running... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) steadily for hours at a time is not only therapeutic but also natural. Primitive humans did it constantly, catching and killing quarry simply by exhausting them in a marathon hunt. Reading all this is enough to make a modern American feel fat, stupid and lazy, especially given the hyper-toned, swift-footed focus of "Born to Run," an operatic ode to the joys of running. McDougall's subject is the Tarahumara, a tribe living frugally in the remote, foreboding Copper Canyons in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The Tarahumara are legendary for their ability to run extreme distances in inhospitable conditions without breaking a sweat or getting injured. They are superathletes whose diet (pinole, chia seeds, grain alcohol) and racing method (upright posture, flicking heels, clearheadedness) would place them among elite runners of the developed world even though their society and technology are 500 years behind it. It's a fascinating subject, and the pages of "Born to Run" are packed with examples of McDougall's fascination. Running is his religion (he's a contributing editor at Men's Health magazine and has written for Runner's World), and he approaches the sport with the reverence and awe of a disciple encountering the face of his god. In this case, the god is the Tarahumara. The book flows not like a race but like a scramble through an obstacle course. McDougall wends his way through the history and physiology of running, occasionally digressing into mini-profiles of top-tier racers and doctors, spinning off into tangents about legendary races like the Leadville Trail 100 Ultramarathon, while always looping back to the main narrative. Back on course, he describes his pursuit of the bashful, elusive Tarahumara and their secret to success on foot; his befriending of an eccentric gringo who became part of the tribe and is the key to McDougall's communication with it; and the realization of the eccentric's dream to pit big-name, corporate-sponsored American marathoners against the near-primeval Indians in a super ultra-marathon in the Copper Canyons. A race to end all races, in other words. A sprint to the finish between old and new. The scenario is a writer's dream. McDougall found a large cast of crazy characters, an exotic setting for drama and discovery, and a tailor-made showdown with which to cap the book. By and large it's a thrilling read, even for someone who couldn't care less about proper stride and split times and energy gels. McDougall's prose, while at times straining to be gonzo and overly clever, is engaging and buddy-buddy, as if he's an enthusiastic friend tripping over himself to tell a great story. He writes, for example, of a fellow-runner who "sluiced sweat off his dripping chest and flung it past me, the shower of droplets sparkling in the blazing Mexican sun." A relentless and experienced reporter, McDougall dramatizes situations he did not directly witness, and he does so with an intimacy and an exactness that may irk discerning readers and journalistic purists. "Born to Run" uses every trick of creative nonfiction, a genre in which literary license is an indispensable part of truth-telling. McDougall has arranged and adrenalized his story for maximum narrative impact. Questions crop up about the timing of events and the science behind the drama, but it's best to keep pace with him and trust that — separate from the narrative drama — we're actually seeing a glimpse of running's past and how it may apply to the present and the future. McDougall makes himself a character in the book without distracting from the story. He's our hero, a runner stricken with injuries until he began investigating the Tarahumara, who led him to startling revelations about the way we run and the way they run. McDougall finds that running is a danger if done incorrectly and a salvation if done properly. The stories he tells of the Tarahumara and of the world's greatest mainstream runners all herald a return to the basics: running barefoot or with the cheapest, flattest sole possible; and running not for money or celebrity or victory but for camaraderie and the sheer joy of using our bodies for a basic, essential purpose. "Born to Run" is an examination of sport, an allegory of cross-cultural understanding and a catalog of philosophies of living. At this point in history, life is not necessarily about the survival of the fittest, or even survival of the fastest. We're past survival now; there's no need to run down prey or outrun a predator. But that's no reason, McDougall says, to stay rooted to the couch. Dan Zak is a writer for the Style section of The Washington Post. Reviewed by Dan Zak, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"Compelling. . . . Entertaining. . . . [McDougall] uses an extended portrait of one of the world's least known cultures, the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico's Copper Canyons, to put modern American running under an exacting magnifying glass." San Francisco Chronicle
"Equal parts quest, physiology treatise, and running history. . . . [McDougall] seeks to learn the secrets of the Tarahumara the old-fashioned way: He tracks them down. . . . The climactic race reads like a sprint. . . . It simply makes you want to run." Outside Magazine
"Galloping along through a multi-faceted landscape that is by turns exhilarating, funny and weirdly absorbing, Born to Run is a breathless read, but sheer endorphinous pleasure." John Gimlette, author of Panther Soup
"I love Christopher McDougall's Born To Run! The book is wonderful. It's funny, insightful, captivating, and a great and beautiful discovery. There are lessons here that translate to realms beyond running. The book inspires anyone who those seeks to live more fully or to run faster." Lynne Cox, author of Swimming to Antarctica
"Born to Run is a fascinating and inspiring true adventure story, based on humans pushing themselves to the limits. A brilliantly written account of extraordinary endurance, far from home — that also explains how anyone can run better — it's destined to become a classic." Sir Ranulph Fiennes, author of Mad, Bad and Dangerous To Know
"Quite simply the best book you'll ever read about running. . . . Brilliant, and brilliantly life-affirming." Lloyd Bradley, author of The Rough Guide to Running
Part adventure, part extreme sports, all inspiration, Born to Run is a riveting story about one journalist's quest to discover the secrets of the world's greatest distance runners — a reclusive Indian tribe living deep in the Copper Canyon of northern Mexico.
Isolated by near-impenetrable terrain, the Tarahumara Indians are one of the most healthy and serene people on the planet and perhaps the greatest runners — able to cover hundreds of miles without rest. With the help of a man called Caballo Blanco — an almost mythical Westerner who lives among the tribe — Christopher McDougall was able not only to uncover the secrets of the Tarahumara but to join them on a fifty-mile trail race through this rugged landscape with an international gathering of ultramarathoners.
In a razor-sharp narrative McDougall describes the growing worldwide popularity of this grueling new sport, takes us through the dizzying preparations for the climactic race with the Tarahumara, and chronicles the truly awesome event itself. It's a story filled with surprise, near-death experiences, crazy prerace drinking sessions, obsessed — some would say mad — runners, and, of course, the Tarahumara themselves, who make it all look easy.
Galvanizing from start to finish, Born to Run will leave you breathless.
About the Author
Christopher McDougall is currently a contributing editor for Men's Health and a writer-at-large for Runner's World. He has written for Esquire,The New York Times Magazine, GQ, Outside, Men's Journal, and New York. He lives in Pennsylvania and is an obsessed ultramarathoner.
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