Saturday, August 22, 2009

Another Born to Run book review and Video Clip

Another book review of Born to Run and provides some additional insight into the book. Also a brief video clip of Christopher McDougall explaining why he was born to run.

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Posted Jul 12, 2009 @ 10:27 AM

"Born to Run"
By Christopher McDougall
Alfred A. Knopf

Why wear shoes when you run?

Whether you're a weekend jogger or serious marathoner, the answer's easy, right? We wear shoes to protect our feet and provide the cushioning necessary for an activity that puts enormous pressure on vulnerable joints.

Yet if that's the case, Christopher McDougall argues in his new book, "Born to Run," why has the rate of running injuries increased even as shoes provide ever more padding?

One tidbit sure to stop a few people in their tracks: Studies show that the more expensive your running shoe, the more likely you are to be injured.

McDougall, a runner who beat his own chronic injuries, makes a compelling case that ditching those pricey running shoes in favor of bare feet, or at least far more basic running apparel, may be the kindest thing you ever do for your body.

But McDougall's book is far more than a treatise on what runners should - or shouldn't - wear on their feet. He uses an extended portrait of one of the world's least known cultures, the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico's Copper Canyons, to put modern American running under an exacting magnifying glass.

"Born to Run" starts with a simple question he kept asking his doctors: "How come my foot hurts?"

Their response: Your foot hurts because you run, and running is one of the most stressful things you can do to the human body.

McDougall's not satisfied, however, and so we get our introduction to the Tarahumara Indians, a retiring tribe renowned for their members' ability to run long distances - really long distances, 50 and 60 miles at a time - in little more than sandals. No $150 running shoes, no bottles of sports drink strategically placed along their running routes, no stretching.

Above all, no injuries.

The Tarahumara channel our evolutionary ability, unique in the animal world, to run long distances without overheating. It's a skill that came in handy when the earliest humans chased down prey that might have had the upper hand - or leg - at shorter distances, but were outmatched the longer the hunt went on.

McDougall, a former Associated Press reporter who covered the war in Rwanda, travels to Mexico where he meets some of the best Tarahumara runners. Along the way, we encounter America's top ultramarathoners, those runners who turn their noses up at the paltry 26.2 miles of a traditional marathon and regularly race distances of 50 to 100 miles or more.

McDougall has a knack for storytelling, and the stories of these amazing runners and their races make some of the most entertaining reading of the book.

McDougall uses these tales to pose tough questions about the state of U.S. running. Why is it, he asks, that in the early 1980s a single track club in Boston boasted half a dozen world-class marathoners alone, and yet less than 20 years later, not a single American man could meet the Olympic marathon qualifying time?

The solution to this puzzle is complicated, but McDougall places a big chunk of the blame on the influence of money, especially the billion-dollar running shoe industry.

Lost in the financial greening of the sport: the feeling experienced by anyone who ever dashed around the backyard as a child.

"That was the real secret of the Tarahumara: they'd never forgotten what it felt like to love running," McDougall writes. "They remembered that running was mankind's first fine art, our original act of inspired creation."

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