I've just finished reading "Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen" by Christpher McDougall, as recommended by Jon. I have to say I didn't get caught immediately into the story, as the start seemed a bit too random to be true but too slow for a fiction. But once I got into it, I couldn't let the book down!

born to run

The story line is build upon the succession of events leading to the first Tarahumara long-distance race where some Gringos were invited. The Tarahumara live in the Barranca del Cobre (Copper Canyon) in the Sierra Madre mountain range in Mexio, and are well-known for their superior abilities in long-distance running. In fact, running is still an essential part of their lifestyle. This frame allows the author to bring together a large number of facts and anecdotes about ultrarunning that are more or less related to the race. Those include for example famous runners, (Emil Zápotek, Ann Trason, Scott Jurek, ...), coaches, sport scientists, and mythic races (Leadville 100, Badwater, ...).

The book is clearly on the same line as "Survival of the fittest" (Mike Stroud), as they both argue that the human is designed to run, and our current lazy lifestyle is the cause of a large number of diseases. Although both authors are keen on anecdotes, McDougall writes in a much more colloquial American style compared to Stroud's doctoral British English. Their approaches differ significantly as well: rather than scientific and teleologic evidence, we're provided with a converging beam of examples. Furthermore, while "Survival of the fittest" argued that the human body was designed to run, the key contribution from "Born to run" is to precise that it is designed to run barefoot.

Indeed, the Tarahumara run in extremely thin sandals and don't seem to get into any trouble without protective cushioning and motion control technologies. Barefooting is advocated throughout the book through the voice of Barefoot Ted, a barefooting/Vibram Five Finger aficionado. The logic is quite simple: the human have been running for millions of years without shoes, and running in cushioned shoes alters the natural stride, leading to problems that may even never have occurred otherwise, and that might need to be compensated further...

To be read again!

Ultra I-want-to-go-running book