‘Born to Run’ Made me Bump Up my Miles

‘Born to Run’ Made me Bump Up my Miles

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall is a fascinating and somewhat controversial book that delves into the world of ultramarathon running. As someone who has always been interested in running (and dreamed of, maybe one day possibly, getting faster) I found the book to be entertaining and eye-opening. McDougall writes in a way that is engaging and easy to follow, in fact I read the whole thing on audio book while, you guessed it… running. Plus he manages to inject a sense of urgency and excitement into everything he describes.

The book follows McDougall on his quest to uncover the secrets of the world’s best-distance runners, and how they are able to run long distances at high speeds without injury or burnout. Along the way, we meet eccentric individuals such as Caballo Blanco, the hippy American expatriate who spearheaded the ultrarunning revolution in the remote canyons of Mexico, and Ann Trason, one of the greatest ultrarunners of all time, among many others.

One of the things that struck me about Born to Run is the level of detail that McDougall goes into when describing the runners themselves. He paints an extremely vivid picture of the characters he meets on the way, and it’s easy to feel as though you know some of them intimately. From the Tarahumara Indian runners who manage to defy not just the limits of human endurance but also the stereotypes and prejudices that society places on them, to the other ultrarunners who break records and perform amazing feats of athleticism, the diversity of characters in this book is pretty neat.

There are a few reasons Born to Run is controversial. As I read along I would look up the real live people from the book and often found some criticism of McDougall’s version of the story and his glorification of the Tarahumara lifestyle. There’s also his controversial stance on ‘barefoot running’. I’m sure you remember seeing those toe-shoes people used to swear did wonders for their running. In the books McDougall spends some solid word count suggesting that modern running shoes may contribute to injury and fatigue by encouraging heel striking instead of landing on the forefoot, something that many other running enthusiasts and experts dispute. While I’m not rushing to ditch my Hokas, I did start to wonder whether the maximalist shoe design was a counter trend to the toe-shoes.

Born to Run is a neat read for anyone who is interested in running, or even just adventure stories. And if you’ve been looking for some motivation to bump up your weekly mileage, Born to Run will remind you just how much farther you could go.