Thursday, January 21, 2010

Born to Run A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

by Christopher McDougall

Thumbs Up.

This books takes the reader on a tour of the American ultra-marathon circuit, with detailed descriptions of the routes and challenges. We meet a generous handful of the colorful runners who frequent these amazing races.

We pay a couple of visits to the Copper Canyons of northwestern Mexico. We encounter drug runners, local characters, and super-athletic Tarahumara Native Mexicans.

McDougall does an excellent job pulling the reader along to find out what happens next while he relates his quest for pain-free running.

To sum up the things he learned:
  1. run barefoot
  2. eat vegetarian traditional diet
  3. vary workout to "surprise" your body in order to increase reflexive reactions
  4. in order to achieve optimal fat burning, run at just below cardio-vascular workout level
If you can do all these things, according to McDougall, you will be able to run for hundreds of miles without any running related injuries and, as a bonus, never get cancer.

One has to ignore the anti-capitalist sentiment expressed with some amount of vitriol against particularly the Nike corporation. They ruined everyone's feet by marketing increasingly specialized running shoes. And the evolutionary explanations for various aspects of physiology are a little overdone in some parts.

An obvious inconsistency to an astute reader, was the glorification of a traditional vegetarian diet, while in other places in the book McDougall explains that the Tarahumara tribesmen developed their great reflexes and amazing endurance while hunting. They regularly chase down rabbits on foot and follow deer until the prey tires and can be overcome.

A final commendation for anyone with limited discretionary time: the book, although nearly 300 pages long, was a very quick read.

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