Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Book Review - Born To Run (Chris McDougall)

I gotta tell ya, I'm a huge fan of Chris McDougall's new book, Born To Run. I just finished the audiobook on my iPod (expertly told by Patrick Lawlor), and all of the facts and characters are still swimming around in my head. Chris really did a phenomenal job of combining the history and unique lifeview of the Tarahumara indians, the experience of ultrarunning, the conspiracy of the multi-billion dollar running shoe industry, his personal experience fixing injuries with barefoot running, ultrarunning characters like Ann Trason, Scott Jurek, Barefoot Ted, Luis Escobar, the crazy antics of Jenn Shelton and Billy Burnett, all cumulating in "the greatest race the world has never seen". Chris is a total pro, and each chapter is packed full of facts, quotes, and antics that will get you laughing, thinking, and inspired to run. I think it's one of the best running books I have ever read.

This is definitely on the "must" list. If you're tapering down for States, get your long runs in vicaruously through this great read/listen! It's on sale at Zombie for $17.

And if you're out running, watch out for bears.

- SD


  1. Scott, I interviewed McDougall on my blog...check it out if you can. The book is definately an interesting read. Soooo many topics about running, and the personalities to with it.

    See you at States!


  2. I'm really looking forward to reading it! Sounds like an awesome book.

  3. I hope in the book he does a better job (than in the Time interview) of explaining the tension between his adoption of the advice "if it feels like work, you're running too hard," along with the assertion the ultrarunners he ran with were relaxed and simply enjoying the moment, and his description of one of these model nonracing races (which included a hard last ten miles, running out of water, and a man pushing on and drinking his own urine rather than stopping). In my opinion he comes off in the interview as a type A individual disingenuously trying to preach some sort of type B philosophy. Then again maybe that's how all us runners seem to most of the population if we ever use words like "soothing" and "easy" to describe the activity.

  4. A chance to run with the Grizzly Bears -New 100-miler in NW Montana, "swancrest100.com". It says carrying bear deterrent spray mandatory while on course.

  5. Hi Scott,

    On the bear story, the mauled runner Tom was out there to join Danielle Coffman on a training run. Danni is training for Western States this year, here is her blog:


    I am currently reading Born to Run which is an unusual experience. I raced the Copper Canyon Ultra. last year so I know most the characters. It's much like reading a friends race report but written for a wider audience. Very fun, a great read and I love that I can picture all the people, places sights and sounds so clearly in my head.

    Chris McDougall gave a great talk and Luis Escobar gave a wonderful slideshow at Western States Camp.

    Cheers, Paul

  6. Audiobook huh? Interesting concept. I'm sure your pace quickened significantly at times while running and listening to it.

    Just got the book and started reading it myself. Though struggling to stay upright while reading it on the trail;)

  7. Agree with Anonymous #1.

    It was a good book in general, but would not go as far as Scott D. in the level of praise.

    The book is a bit fantastical and doesn't make the case for barefoot running (although it tries to really really really really really hard).

    For anyone who does not know anything about the Tarahumara or the Leadville races they were in, you will enjoy a real pager turner there.

    Anonymous #2 - Can we bring along a shotgun as well on this new NW Montana 100 miler?

    Because there ain't no bear "deterrant spray" that is going to save anyone from an irritated/angry grizzly bear on the trail if it comes to that.

    "Bear deterrant spray". That's pretty funny.

    Prayer beforehand to a Higher Power or Wakan Tanka might be a more effective strategy. Or not running in that one at all.

  8. I loved the book, and only had a couple of small disappointments regarding it, which I won't mention here.

    I'm sure Chris McDougal put a lot of time into the book, and I hope others enjoy it and Chris McDougal reaps some financial reward for the work he put into the entire thing.

    Maybe that can support his further research into his next writing project, or just help feed himself and his family!

  9. scott..... loved the book so much, I am re-reading it..and on some long trail runs, i am imagining myself running in the tarahumara's pitter patter style and attacking mountains (only hills here0 and running to the sky.....totally inspirational and fun read....

  10. What a different world; instead of warning for BEARS I remind people to watch for aggressive TAXI's. Keep up the writing!


  11. I loved the book and thought that McDougall made a great arguement for barefoot running - the scientific research, the raramuri, the 2 million years of human evolution...

    I've long had my doubts about modern shoe companies and the such...

  12. Totally agree. Excellent book, also a good speaker. Heard him talk in Seattle right after finishing the book. I thought the barefoot running was fairly solid. I would also recommend "Why we run" to this crowd. An excellent book with a bit more science than Born to Run.

  13. Although I am a big proponent of the minimalist shoe, I also knwo it is not for everyone. That being said I also know that barefoot running is indeed not for everyone.

    Unfortunately, 2 million years of human evolution has gone awry since the inception of McDonald's and processed foods, take a look next time you enter your local mall. However, we are not going to introduce new people to exercise or running for that matter by eschewing the evolution of the running shoe. I mean if you want to blame someone, blame the Roman's for making roads.

    It's easy to talk specificity when you have such a head start on the general population, but coming from someone who deals with 95% client base that can't afford to walk around their house barefoot for 30 minutes, there is no modern shoe conspiracy.


  14. I don't know why it always has to come down to an "either/or" argument. Barefoot Ted says there's a conspiracy, Hal Koerner says there's no conspiracy, etc. etc. There is a balance to be found in all things. If you've ever tried running barefoot at the end of a long day on the trail with rugged shoes, it feels wonderful. But I wouldn't want to kick the rocks up on the mountain with my bare feet. Every serious runner should incorporate barefoot running into their routine. If you don't have glass-free grass or sand or dirt, then buy some Vibram Five Finger shoes. If you do have a glass-free area, then forget the Five Fingers and just run barefoot. And then when you hit the trails, where the type of shoe that best suits you. If you weigh 140, then cut off the heels of a New Balance 790, a la Krupicka; if you weigh 185 and it's rocky, then wear Montrail Hardrocks. It doesn't have to be such an all-or-nothing argument. It's so simple, just like all of life. To every thing there is a season, and nothing is black or white, it's all gray. The Kenyans in the Rift Valley, the Raramuri in the Copper Mountains, and the Boston Athletic Club on the streets of Massachusetts...it's all running, and no one is right or wrong.

  15. I'm in agreement with Mr.Wisdom. I just got a pair of Vibrams last month, and they have vastly improved my enjoyment of going out, not just for a run, but even just shopping and stuff. They feel so much like being barefoot that I feel a little wicked walking around in stores with them. Take it slow your first couple times out though, especially if you aren't used to being barefoot. I posted my full review of the Vibrams here.

  16. I just read this book last week and LOVE it. I am struggling to overcome various injuries and have decided to incorporate barefoot running into my regular running schedule. I just take my shoes and socks off at the end of a regular run and run for a half mile or so on grass. After my second barefoot run, my longstanding plantar fascitiis disappeared. Coincidence?....I can also say in all honesty that my feet feel better than they ever have. If you want to see if barefoot running is for you, just take your shoes and socks off and jog--slowly--on a foot-friendly surface for no more than a half mile.

    Do it a couple times a week to start. If you don't like it then you never need to do it again.

  17. Or it's $9.99 on a Kindle without the dead trees. I've only read a tiny bit of it, so no opinions yet.

  18. "Born to Run" is one read you have to do before you die. I was great for the running community to have the author Christopher McDougall on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. What it does for the runners everywhere is show us that running shoes do not actually improve our running. And in fact, running shoes might hurt our running. This website tells more on the subject www.barefootmotion.com

  19. I loved this book and I thought your review was great. Would you mind if I linked to your blog from my blog (panhandlingforamillion.blogspot.com)?


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