Tuesday, March 09, 2010

READ IT: Born to Run

I read this book by Christopher McDougall in January when I was starting to plan out my race schedule for the year - and I picked it up not a minute too soon. I have to admit that following my October marathon I was feeling a bit burned out. I wasn't injured or anything, I just couldn't seem to force myself outside for a run. All the things that I'd been missing out on while training (sleeping, drinking, Sunday window shopping trips) were now consuming my life in abundance.
It took this book to kick my ass back to the road.
And it didn't do it in a preachy, "if you don't run you'll be a fat lard and no one will like you" kind of way. Rather, it kind of made me fall back in love with running for fun. Cheese, but whatever. During my training I was a slave to my stopwatch. I ran with long, involved audio books to take my mind of the arduous hours of running by myself. Like a good librarian I recorded every single detail about my run into an elaborate spreadsheet. It was all too much! Since reading this book I really have focused more on the act of running - my posture, my foot strike, the feeling in my legs, the exhilaration of going really fast - just tuning into my body and turning off my iPod have made a huge difference to how much I like running. Not that I still don't have off days, because I do. But now I don't let them ground me for weeks at a time. 

McDougall writes about running like a poet. The story focuses on the running traditions of a Mexican tribe known as the Tarahumara. An isolated tribe known for running barefoot or with very rudimentary footwear, they are superfantastic ultra-runners with a running style that somehow makes them impervious to injury. He goes pretty indepth into their nutrition and in particular into their consumption of the miraculous chia seed. I of course, was sold immediately and ran out to Noah's to buy a pack. But that's a story for another day.

He also has a rather lengthy and interesting conspiracy theory about the running shoe industry. In particular the evil Nike. He's rather convincing in his arguments for barefoot running and while I still love my Brooks I am willing to concede that sometimes running on a cloud of cushioning isn't necessarily the best thing for the body.  One of the ultra runners in the book runs wearing a pair of Vibram Five Fingers (shown here) - they look freaking weird but people that wear them swear by them. I just saw a guy wearing them this past weekend in a half-marathon I ran. He passed me. Quickly. They may warrant more investigating.

This book was an excellent story, I tore through it within a few days and would highly recommend it as a motivational read. McDougall introduces several hilarious characters of ultra running. He tours us through ultra races around the country and to the (sometimes filthy) habits of their participants. But let's just face facts here - among stories of long distance running there is always going to be graphic discussion of inopportune bowel explosions. Not your bag? Yah, then put this book back on the shelf.

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