Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I award five stars to this book based largely on the "you must read this" influence it had on me. I think I've told just about every thinking person that I've encountered, "You must read this book!"
Change your shoes; change your life. That's an ever-present theme, and it's one that hit home with me for sure, based on the drama of my crazy feet and all they've been through. Ever since a riding accident in 1992, in which a shattering impact on asphalt caused all the bones in the navicular area of my right foot to go, "KABLOOEY," and the subsequent surgeries, years of casting, surgical hardware and yes, even bone grafts, I have been on a constant search for the magical shoe that will give me the greatest mobility with the least discomfort. And always, no matter how short a time I'm in them, my first priority upon getting home is to GET THE SHOES OFF. It turns out that my "there is no shoe that feels better than...well, NO SHOES" philosophy was pretty much right on target.
I'm doing even better since discovering these babies, which I'd have done much sooner if I'd read McDougall's book earlier!
While there is tons of material here regarding the biomechanics of gait and movement, which I personally found fascinating, there's also plenty of storytelling, and the subjects are well worth the time spent running off on tangents in the middle of other tales. (Heck, I'd read a whole collection of short stories, just about the characters in this book, mainly the Tarahumara and the Gringo distance runners, but also the scientists, coaches, and other visionaries.) From some reviews I read, this tangential storytelling style rather annoyed some readers, but to me it felt completely organic to the flow of the larger theme. This could be a personal interpretation, since this is pretty much the way I myself tell stories...I have to make a few pit stops along the way to the destination, visit a few side trails, maybe stop at a Stuckey's for a pecan log. I can honestly say that there wasn't a time that, after one of McDougall's "detours," I thought, "Well, that was pointless." It was all woven in very naturally, to me.
Do yourself a favor, and read this book. Please don't think that just because you're not a runner (I'm not, not since "Frankenfoot"), this book won't speak to you. It seems to have something for everyone. You have to get close to the end before you get into what, for me, was the serious payoff--the examination of evolutionary evidence of homo sapiens' destiny of distance running. That was a game-changer for me, and the proof offered for that thesis is compelling. I was stunned to learn what we share in common, physiologically, with horses and dogs and other "running" animals, as opposed to chimps and other "walking" animals. We really were "born to run!"
So, the short version: Yes, McDougall is given to hyperbole. Yes, he tends to meander a bit while getting to his point. But sometimes, when you're on a long trip, you've just gotta stop and see the world's biggest ball of twine and maybe get a pecan log, right? Read this book, and be prepared to want to just run right out your front door and keep going...possibly with no shoes on.
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