Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

If you are a runner, I guarantee you will find this book impossible to put down.  Even if you aren’t a runner, you may still have a hard time putting it down.  Christopher McDougall, like any good non-fiction author, effortlessly makes the reader feel like they are part of a world that would otherwise seem strange and foreign.  In this case, we are introduced to the most extreme runners out there, those who regularly run races of 50 miles or longer.  Yet while so-called ultramarathons are a relatively new phenomenon in America, for the Tarahumara, a tribe of indigenous Mexicans, running extreme distances has long been an integral part of their culture.

The main question McDougall explores in Born to Run is what makes the Tarahumara such excellent runners.  Certainly their cultural focus on running doesn’t hurt.  Yet they rarely get injured, despite regularly running distances that are mind-boggling.  This leads McDougall into a fascinating exploration of perhaps the most unique aspect of the Tarahumara – the fact that they run barefoot.  Indeed, McDougall is a strong advocate of the idea that running barefoot may severely reduce injury rates and completely redefine the experience of running.  And whether or not running barefoot is the sole reason for the running prowess of the Tarahumara, when you read the breathtaking account of the race McDougall sets up between the best American ultramarathonners and the best of the Tarahumara runners, you will be forced to admit that there is something to their running philosophy.

Born to Run is a book that is not only fascinating and difficult to put down, but also inspiring as well.  It asks fundamental questions about why we run, and provides a path for any reader to completely redefine the way they exercise.  I have already made my own tentative steps towards becoming a barefoot runner, and I suspect a lot of people who read this book will do the same!

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