Born to Run is a wonderful non-fiction book written by journalist and avid runner Christopher McDougall. In it, he documents his journey to track down the elusive Tarahumara tribe in the Copper Canyons of Mexico, in an attempt to understand why his foot hurts and why they can run so very far. Along the way, he meets a host of colourful characters and details the equally colourful history of a number of ultramarathon events. McDougall has a real gift for their description, and his writing is entertaining and highly readable throughout.
In between the events of his narrative, McDougall lays out a well-researched argument that human beings are built for long distance running and that running barefoot is likely to reduce a lot of injuries typically faced by runners, including his own aching foot. His case for the former is more compelling than the latter. It’s unclear how much of his argument for barefoot running is actually supported by scientific evidence, and I wouldn’t recommend tossing your new running shoes in the nearest dumpster just yet, but the argument he makes is an interesting and passionate one.
I am not much of a runner and never have been. Having suffered knee and back injuries in recent years, the thought of ditching my shoes and jogging off down the sidewalk in bare feet gives me nightmares. It’s a testament to McDougall’s motivational and storytelling skill that after completing Born to Run, I was inspired to give it a go.
- Tom Hall