I love running, it’s been a consistent pleasure and inspiration which is a good way to describe Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall.
McDougall was a journalist for Men’s Health but found himself constantly being injured despite wearing top quality running shoes. The question began to form as to whether the shoes were in fact part of the problem.
So he began to research the history of barefoot running given for large parts of human history that would have been how we ran; barefoot. In doing so he came across the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico. A tribe that had developed a culture with running at the heart and despite not being professional athletes would occasionally turn up at ultraraces and blow the field away in nothing but thin rubber soled sandals.
Born to Run then is a rollicking mix of investigation into barefoot running and the danger of shoes, an introduction to the remarkable running people of Mexico, a testament to ultra-running and some of its greatest exponents, and the story of a quite remarkable race.
As McDougall learnt more about the Tarahumara, he also learns of the mysterious Caballo Blanco, aka Micah True, a wandering American who had made himself at home in the Copper Canyons and learnt to run with the greatest runners of them all. True sets up a race between his Tarahumara friends and invites some of the top ultrarunners of America including one of the greatest Scott Jurek.
Each race is brought to life and given genuine tension and drama, each character is vividly portrayed and each discovery shared with conviction. There’s no question that in some places it’s all a bit overblown but it certainly doesn’t stop it from being incredibly enjoyable.
I’m not sure I’m quite persuaded to take up barefoot running but if you enjoy running, reading this just makes you want to get out there and run and if you don’t the effect might be the same. Great fun.