Born to Run is a non-fiction book written by Christopher McDougall and published in 2009. The book chronicles the stories of two men whose lives cross paths while in search of the same thing on different journeys: the secret behind running. As we follow these two men the author also gives us background information on the revolution of not only running, but human’s ability to run. Through the events that take place on these pages the reader immediately finds themselves wondering, were we really all born to run?
Christopher McDougall was your average American man. With a stable job as a journalist contributing to magazines such as Men’s Health, The New York Times, Esquire and many others, he had a pretty good life. Like most people these days he took good care of his body and health. His only problem was injury; he loved running but somehow could never get into it without injuring some part of his body. One night after reading an article in an old sports magazine about a tribe of super runners known as the Tarahumara found out in the deadly Copper Canyons of Mexico, he found himself thinking how could these humans run hundreds of miles almost each day and never get hurt? That one question soon took Christopher on the adventure of a lifetime around the most isolated part of Mexico in search of the many secrets behind the Tarahumara tribe, their rich history in the world of running and the key to any successful super athlete.
Caballo Blanco, White Horse in English, is a legend out in the Copper Canyons. He is said to be, by locals, the only foreigner that the Tarahumara have ever accepted as one of their own. Years ago he took off running from a dark past that he desperately wanted to escape and never stopped running since, literally. Completely captured by the twisted beauty of the Copper Canyons, Caballo plans the ultimate race of his dreams; one so deadly and risky that only the most insane ultra marathoners would ever attempt such a suicide run. With no way to ever get word out about his plan, some would consider it a miracle the day he stumbled upon Christopher McDougall, a fellow running enthusiast, who was desperate for a guide who could take him to the heart of the Tarahumara tribe. The two of them, Christopher and Caballo, soon become inseparably tangled while helping each other along their separate journeys.
Christopher McDougall was born in 1962 and is best known for his book Born to Run. Born to Run was written from his own personal experience. After quitting his high school basketball team and taking up rowing in his last year, he managed to work his way into Harvard, studying primarily journalism. After graduation it is no doubt that his history with Harvard had a helping hand in landing him an interview with Susan Linnee the Madrid bureau chief for the Associated Press. Since then he has written for New York Times Magazine, Men’s Health, Esquire and other popular magazines. He wrote his first book “Girl Troubles” after the New York Times Magazine sent him to track down fugitive Mexican pop star named Gloria Trevi, but it was Men’s Health that let him explore the mysteries of the Tarahumara tribe. Today Christopher lives and runs in the Amish farmlands near his home in rural Pennsylvania, with his wife and two daughters.
If I am being completely honest, the reason that I chose this book still eludes me. I never liked running; in fact, I would go as far as to say I hated running. I admired those who were good at it, but the thought of going out for a jog never appealed to me in the slightest. Despite this fact something inside me clicked the day that I saw the title of this book. To think that all humans could possibly have been born with the predisposition to run seems a little far fetched, but I will admit I was curious. Immediately after reading just a few pages, I knew this was my type of book. This was not just a non-fiction book based on facts and handfuls of information being forced down your throat. This book was something special, to the point where you find yourself questioning whether the events that took place really happened. I was absorbed by the stories of ultra marathoners who run for days on end, races that I consider suicidal, triumphs and perseverance from humans that I never even thought to be possible and the general strength that these runners had. The thing about Born to Run is that Christopher McDougall doesn’t paint these athletes as abnormal in our minds. He doesn’t make them out to be extraordinary. The only thing that makes us think that they are out of the ordinary is their accomplishments. He writes about them in a way that convinces you that you are just the same as them. That even you have the potential to do what they are doing. Maybe not win ultra marathons, but at the very least run them, and maybe just maybe, enjoy them. Thinking back to whenever I was halfway through this book I knew even then that I would start running after I was done reading it. That alone speaks of the power and influence this book has imbedded in it. I can confidently say that I am in love with this book.
The citation I chose from this book captures perfectly what I think the book stands for: how to love running. It is a piece of advice given by Ann Trason, one of the best female, and male for that fact, ultra marathoners to date. She truly was an undeniable force of nature. She used to run anywhere between 30 to 55 miles a day. Not for training purposes, but because running was something she loved deeply. In fact she loved it so deeply she once told a group of her friends that running to her was “romantic”. Not exactly comforting words to her friends who already thought she was insane due to her crazy running obsession. But this is what Ann had to say about learning to love to run:
…her friends didn’t get it because they’d never broken through. For them, running was a miserable two miles motivated solely by size 6 jeans: get on the scale, get depressed, get your headphones on, and get it over with. But you can’t muscle through a five-hour run that way; you have to relax into it, like easing your body into a hot bath, until it no longer resists the shock and begins to enjoy it. Relax enough and your body becomes so familiar with the cradle rocking rhythm that you almost forget you’re moving. And once you break through to that soft, half levitating flow, that’s when the moonlight and champagne show up: “You have to be in tune with your body, and know when you can push it and when to back off,” Ann would explain. You have to listen closely to the sound of your own breathing; be aware of how much sweat is beading on your back and ask yourself, honestly and often how you feel. What’s more sensual than paying exquisite attention to your own body? Sensual counts as romantic right? (McDougall 69)
This piece of advice is something that I’ve actually applied since I’ve started running. I can safely say she speaks only truth here which is why I chose it. The book is called Born to Run. It is not a book that outlines only athletes who run, it is a book that shows us that we can all run, every single one of us. This quote shows the difference between the people who are extreme runners and the person I was whenever I picked up this book. It is all about attitude; it’s not about your physical condition. Today we see people who are as old as 100 years of age and still running; they are proof that your ability to run is not halted by your physical shape. Your mentality that you have going in can determine so much of your outcome with not only running but with almost all sports and that is what Ann is trying to say, if you’re going to love running your mentality has to change and this book does just that. It completely changes your mentality.
McDougall, Christopher. Born to Run. New York: Vinatge books, 2009. Print
McDougall, Christopher. Christopher McDougall. Christopher McDougall, 2011. Web.