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Born to run: the hidden tribe, the…
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Born to run: the hidden tribe, the ultra-runners and the greatest race the… (2009)

by Christopher McDougall

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,8391752,051 (4.25)102
  1. 50
    ChiRunning: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running by Danny Dreyer (ahstrick)
  2. 30
    Why We Run: A Natural History by Bernd Heinrich (jochenB, Ronoc)
  3. 20
    Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis (zhejw)
    zhejw: Both books are stories of outsiders changing the conventional way of approaching a sport. Both authors write compelling narratives that draw the reader into the stories of the individuals who are at the center of this new way of looking at their sport.
  4. 10
    Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (bluenotebookonline)
    bluenotebookonline: There are interesting parallels between Caballo Blanco and Chris McCandless (the protagonist in Into the Wild).
  5. 00
    Runner's World Guide to Road Racing: Run Your First (or Fastest) 5-K, 10-K, Half-Marathon, or Marathon by Katie Mcdonald Neitz (Ronoc)
  6. 00
    Running by Jean Echenoz (Ronoc)
  7. 00
    A Race Like No Other: 26.2 Miles Through the Streets of New York by Liz Robbins (_Zoe_)
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English (168)  Spanish (4)  Russian (1)  Dutch (1)  Swedish (1)  All (175)
Showing 1-5 of 168 (next | show all)
Back when I was collecting mags (before my decluttering days) one of the mags I loved to read was Outside.

I am still as intrigued about barefoot/minimalist running as I was back then so I (in short) loved this book. It makes me want to fly out the door and just start running yo.

Plus chia and pinoles = new dietary considerations. And extra reading jump off points! (viz. Navajo, Kenyans and Mt Hiei Monks).

Recommended. Pretty easy to read. Plus there are a lot of shorter articles out there regarding barefoot/minimalist running by McDougall. ( )
  kephradyx | Jun 20, 2017 |
I couldn't stand the writer as I think he has a cliche-ridden, second-rate sports page style. That said, the book makes some interesting points and introduces the reader to some characters and stories that are a lot more interesting than the narrator and to some extent forgive the narration. I must admit that it is a worthwhile read for any runner or endurance athlete. ( )
  ProfH | Jun 13, 2017 |
“You don’t stop running because you get old, you get old because you stop running”

This book is an insightful, fascinating and inspirational look into the world of long distance running. There is a group of people, known as the Tarahumara, who live in the cliff sides of Copper Canyon in Mexico. This is a lawless area where Tarahumara enjoy relative isolation. The only other people who spend time in this area are the drug lords. The Tarahumara run long distances as part of their culture and tradition. They are a peaceful people who enjoy longevity and a life without crime or mental illness. They are mistrusting of the outside world, as in the past they have been exploited, enslaved and even decapitated. They eat a diet composed mostly of corn and corn beer. This novel seeks to understand the world of ultra marathoners, both of those who run as part of their culture in the case of the Tarahumara and those who are drawn to it despite their culture.

I always felt that running great distances was a detriment to one’s health, that running should be done in moderation so as not to wear out one’s body. However, this book changed my thinking. The feats that the runners in this book were capable of was awe inspiring. This book makes the reader believe and understand that we were made to run, we should run and furthermore, that running should be enjoyable.

A group of researchers back in the 1980s came to the realization that human beings were not evolved to be walkers like their closest relative, the chimpanzee. Human beings were evolved to be runners, to track their prey over long distances. This is why humans have nuchal ligaments, achilles tendons, an amazing foot structure, a stride greater than a horse’s, and a pattern of respiration that is not fixed to their stride. The injuries we see now from running did not exist prior to the advent of the modern running shoe. With the modern running shoe, feet become weaker. With the modern running shoe, pain signals are not sent to the brain to indicate improper form. Thus, poor form and injuries result. The modern day running shoe has led to an increase in heart disease, knee replacements, and more sedentary lifestyles. If we trained and ran more like our ancestors we would be much healthier and happier.

Listening to this audio book, I was enthralled by the stories, especially of the races. Who knew that telling of an account of a 100 mile race could be so riveting and exciting? Not I. At least, not until I listened to the tales of the races in this book, including Leadville races and the ultimate race in Copper Canyons. This is one sport where women can excel and often prevail over the men. Consider this statistic: 90% of females finish ultra marathons, while only 50% of the men do. There is great psychology involved in these races according to the author. The racers often think of themselves as hunter or prey in order to motivate themselves. In the case of the Tarahumara, there is the joy of sharing a tradition, running together as a people. It is “character” that the author concludes makes a truly great runner. Scott Jurek was able to find his tribe wherever he went, transcending cultures and communities, always demonstrating tremendous character.

There was were amazing pearls of advice streaming throughout this novel. I was mentally storing those I thought would be important for myself and will share some of them here. Stretching leads to more injuries. It is best to skip it. The more cushioned the sneakers, the more likely they will lead to injury. If you are running in a cushioned sneaker, try to add in some barefoot runs in dewy grass. If you start running long distances, diet should come about naturally to aid the running lifestyle. A nutrient rich vegan diet is best for a leaner, healthier body. In the beginning, especially if you are looking to take off some weight, you should run below the aerobic threshold, in the fat-burning zone. Building up endurance in this zone will make you stronger on longer runs. The best form when running is to run with a short stride and quick foot turnover. You should feel as if you have a rope tied around your middle and you are pulling something heavy. Being a good person, it seems makes you a better runner. Improving personal relationships and practicing abundance by giving back are pieces of advice given by running coaches. Vigil, a long time running coach, also advises “ask nothing from your running and you’ll get more than you ever imagined.”

The Tarahumara, a culture of the greatest runners on earth share the following core virtues: patience, strength, dedication, persistence and cooperation. Other great runners seem to share these same characteristics, bringing them together in a beautiful community. The Tarahumara is perhaps the last remaining culture on earth that still incorporates long distance running into their life and culture. They reap the benefits in health, community and joyfulness. As scientists have discovered, we were evolved to be runners. As Dr. Bramble puts it, “Just move your legs. Because if you don’t think you were born to run, you’re not only denying history. You’re denying who you are.”

This book convinced me that “running is our superpower, entrenched in the human imagination.” I have already started to run more because of this book. I am trying not to be obsessed with heart rate and pace, but to enjoy the meditative aspects of it more. I highly recommend this book to everyone who runs or is even thinking about running. ( )
  marieatbookchatter | May 24, 2017 |
I generally like travel books, but I found the travel and culture sections of this a little overwritten. What really interested me is the insight it gave into running injuries and how our unnatural approach to running is likely causing us to be injured more. I'm not a runner myself, but an avid walker in a family of runners, and I read this while trying to recover from incredibly persistent and discouraging tendonitis. It really made me think about my attitude toward physical activity and made me rethink some of the medical advice I had received that wasn't useful. McDougall is really trying to answer that universal question, "Why does my foot hurt?" ( )
  kaitanya64 | Jan 3, 2017 |
The reclusive Tarhumara Indians of Mexico's deadly Copper Canyons feature superhuman running ability 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.
  mcmlsbookbutler | Jan 2, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 168 (next | show all)
“Born to Run” is not the best book on the intricacies of the sport—my pick would be Timothy Noakes’s “Lore of Running”; for a training guide, I’d select Scott Douglas and Pete Pfitzinger’s “Advanced Marathoning”—but it’s certainly the most accessible and the best selling... the real virtue of McDougal’s book is that it reminded readers about our primal connection to running, the purest of sports. It reminded us that there are different ways to run—some of which hurt our bodies more than others. And it gave us new ways of appreciating distance running. It has, in other words, made hundreds of thousands of people look at the sport again
 
"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.
 

» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Christopher McDougallprimary authorall editionscalculated
Sanders, FredNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
The best runner leaves no tracks. - Tao Te Ching
Dedication
To John and Jean McDougall, my parents, who gave me everything and keep on giving
First words
For days, I'd been searching Mexicon's Sierra Madre for the phantom known as Caballo Blanco - the White Horse
Quotations
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
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Book description
Haiku summary
Running shoes are bad.
Run long, run easy, run fast.
Run each race for joy.

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0307266303, Hardcover)

Book Description
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.


Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Christopher McDougall

Question: Born to Run explores the life and running habits of the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s Copper Canyon, arguably the greatest distance runners in the world. What are some of the secrets you learned from them?

Christopher McDougall: The key secret hit me like a thunderbolt. It was so simple, yet such a jolt. It was this: everything I’d been taught about running was wrong. We treat running in the modern world the same way we treat childbirth—it’s going to hurt, and requires special exercises and equipment, and the best you can hope for is to get it over with quickly with minimal damage.

Then I meet the Tarahumara, and they’re having a blast. They remember what it’s like to love running, and it lets them blaze through the canyons like dolphins rocketing through waves. For them, running isn’t work. It isn’t a punishment for eating. It’s fine art, like it was for our ancestors. Way before we were scratching pictures on caves or beating rhythms on hollow trees, we were perfecting the art of combining our breath and mind and muscles into fluid self-propulsion over wild terrain. And when our ancestors finally did make their first cave paintings, what were the first designs? A downward slash, lightning bolts through the bottom and middle—behold, the Running Man.

The Tarahumara have a saying: “Children run before they can walk.” Watch any four-year-old—they do everything at full speed, and it’s all about fun. That’s the most important thing I picked up from my time in the Copper Canyons, the understanding that running can be fast and fun and spontaneous, and when it is, you feel like you can go forever. But all of that begins with your feet. Strange as it sounds, the Tarahumara taught me to change my relationship with the ground. Instead of hammering down on my heels, the way I’d been taught all my life, I learned to run lightly and gently on the balls of my feet. The day I mastered it was the last day I was ever injured.

Q: You trained for your first ultramarathon—a race organized by the mysterious gringo expat Caballo Blanco between the Tarahumara and some of America’s top ultrarunners—while researching and writing this book. What was your training like?

CM: It really started as kind of a dare. Just by chance, I’d met an adventure-sports coach from Jackson Hole, Wyoming named Eric Orton. Eric’s specialty is tearing endurance sports down to their basic components and looking for transferable skills. He studies rock climbing to find shoulder techniques for kayakers, and applies Nordic skiing’s smooth propulsion to mountain biking. What he’s looking for are basic engineering principles, because he’s convinced that the next big leap forward in fitness won’t come from strength or technology, but plain, simple durability. With some 70% of all runners getting hurt every year, the athlete who can stay healthy and avoid injury will leave the competition behind.

So naturally, Eric idolized the Tarahumara. Any tribe that has 90-year-old men running across mountaintops obviously has a few training tips up its sleeve. But since Eric had never actually met the Tarahumara, he had to deduce their methods by pure reasoning. His starting point was uncertainty; he assumed that the Tarahumara step into the unknown every time they leave their caves, because they never know how fast they’ll have to sprint after a rabbit or how tricky the climbing will be if they’re caught in a storm. They never even know how long a race will be until they step up to the starting line—the distance is only determined in a last-minute bout of negotiating and could stretch anywhere from 50 miles to 200-plus.

Eric figured shock and awe was the best way for me to build durability and mimic Tarahumara-style running. He’d throw something new at me every day—hopping drills, lunges, mile intervals—and lots and lots of hills. There was no such thing, really, as long, slow distance—he’d have me mix lots of hill repeats and short bursts of speed into every mega-long run.

I didn’t think I could do it without breaking down, and I told Eric that from the start. I basically defied him to turn me into a runner. And by the end of nine months, I was cranking out four hour runs without a problem.

Q: You’re a six-foot four-inches tall, 200-plus pound guy—not anyone’s typical vision of a distance runner, yet you’ve completed ultra marathons and are training for more. Is there a body type for running, as many of us assume, or are all humans built to run?

CM: Yeah, I’m a big’un. But isn’t it sad that’s even a reasonable question? I bought into that bull for a loooong time. Why wouldn’t I? I was constantly being told by people who should know better that “some bodies aren’t designed for running.” One of the best sports medicine physicians in the country told me exactly that—that the reason I was constantly getting hurt is because I was too big to handle the impact shock from my feet hitting the ground. Just recently, I interviewed a nationally-known sports podiatrist who said, “You know, we didn’t ALL evolve to run away from saber-toothed tigers.” Meaning, what? That anyone who isn’t sleek as a Kenyan marathoner should be extinct? It’s such illogical blather—all kinds of body types exist today, so obviously they DID evolve to move quickly on their feet. It’s really awful that so many doctors are reinforcing this learned helplessness, this idea that you have to be some kind of elite being to handle such a basic, universal movement.

Q: If humans are born to run, as you argue, what’s your advice for a runner who is looking to make the leap from shorter road races to marathons, or marathons to ultramarathons? Is running really for everyone?

CM: I think ultrarunning is America’s hope for the future. Honestly. The ultrarunners have got a hold of some powerful wisdom. You can see it at the starting line of any ultra race. I showed up at the Leadville Trail 100 expecting to see a bunch of hollow-eyed Skeletors, and instead it was, “Whoah! Get a load of the hotties!” Ultra runners tend to be amazingly healthy, youthful and—believe it or not—good looking. I couldn’t figure out why, until one runner explained that throughout history, the four basic ingredients for optimal health have been clean air, good food, fresh water and low stress. And that, to a T, describes the daily life of an ultrarunner. They’re out in the woods for hours at a time, breathing pine-scented breezes, eating small bursts of digestible food, downing water by the gallons, and feeling their stress melt away with the miles. But here’s the real key to that kingdom: you have to relax and enjoy the run. No one cares how fast you run 50 miles, so ultrarunners don’t really stress about times. They’re out to enjoy the run and finish strong, not shave a few inconsequential seconds off a personal best. And that’s the best way to transition up to big mileage races: as coach Eric told me, “If it feels like work, you’re working too hard.”

Q: You write that distance running is the great equalizer of age and gender. Can you explain?

CM: Okay, I’ll answer that question with a question: Starting at age nineteen, runners get faster every year until they hit their peak at twenty-seven. After twenty-seven, they start to decline. So if it takes you eight years to reach your peak, how many years does it take for you to regress back to the same speed you were running at nineteen?

Go ahead, guess all you want. No one I’ve asked has ever come close. It’s in the book, so I won’t give it away, but I guarantee when you hear the answer, you’ll say, “No way. THAT old?” Now, factor in this: ultra races are the only sport in the world in which women can go toe-to-toe with men and hand them their heads. Ann Trason and Krissy Moehl often beat every man in the field in some ultraraces, while Emily Baer recently finished in the Top 10 at the Hardrock 100 while stopping to breastfeed her baby at the water stations.

So how’s that possible? According to a new body of research, it’s because humans are the greatest distance runners on earth. We may not be fast, but we’re born with such remarkable natural endurance that humans are fully capable of outrunning horses, cheetahs and antelopes. That’s because we once hunted in packs and on foot; all of us, men and women alike, young and old together.

Q: One of the fascinating parts of Born to Run is your report on how the ultrarunners eat—salad for breakfast, wraps with hummus mid-run, or pizza and beer the night before a run. As a runner with a lot of miles behind him, what are your thoughts on nutrition for running?

CM: Live every day like you’re on the lam. If you’ve got to be ready to pick up and haul butt at a moment’s notice, you’re not going to be loading up on gut-busting meals. I thought I’d have to go on some kind of prison-camp diet to get ready for an ultra, but the best advice I got came from coach Eric, who told me to just worry about the running and the eating would take care of itself. And he was right, sort of. I instinctively began eating smaller, more digestible meals as my miles increased, but then I went behind his back and consulted with the great Dr. Ruth Heidrich, an Ironman triathlete who lives on a vegan diet. She’s the one who gave me the idea of having salad for breakfast, and it’s a fantastic tip. The truth is, many of the greatest endurance athletes of all time lived on fruits and vegetables. You can get away with garbage for a while, but you pay for it in the long haul. In the book, I describe how Jenn Shelton and Billy “Bonehead” Barnett like to chow pizza and Mountain Dew in the middle of 100-mile races, but Jenn is also a vegetarian who most days lives on veggie burgers and grapes.

Q: In this difficult financial time, we’re experiencing yet another surge in the popularity of running. Can you explain this?

CM: When things look worst, we run the most. Three times, America has seen distance-running skyrocket and it’s always in the midst of a national crisis. The first boom came during the Great Depression; the next was in the ‘70s, when we were struggling to recover from a recession, race riots, assassinations, a criminal President and an awful war. And the third boom? One year after the Sept. 11 attacks, trailrunning suddenly became the fastest-growing outdoor sport in the country. I think there’s a trigger in the human psyche that activates our first and greatest survival skill whenever we see the shadow of approaching raptors.

(Photo © James Rexroad)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:03 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

McDougall reveals the secrets of the world's greatest distance runners--the Tarahumara Indians of Copper Canyon, Mexico--and how 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 super-athletic Americans.… (more)

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