Book review – Born to Run

Born to run coverI’ve become a little obsessed with reading running books recently, the logical extension of being running obsessed I guess. I’m reading more books than I have in a long time and doing less online reading and it’s been quite nice if I’m honest to take a step back from the screens for a while. What also helps is that having never read any of the classic running related books I have a good few to get started with.

This new found love for books nicely coincided with those fine people at Write This Run starting up a virtual book club of sorts and choosing Born to Run as the first book to read. So after reading this review why not head over to their site and see what other people thought of it.

This book is also known as the barefoot running book which if I’m honest put me off reading it, I always have an adverse reaction to the latest hyped up trend and tend to run in the opposite direction (excuse the pun). But actually this book at its heart is about why we run and the thrill of running free without thinking about times or distances. It’s also simply a fascinating story that explores the lives of a mysterious tribe of Mexican Indians called the Tarahumara who are famed for their long distance running.

The Author sets off to find the tribe and also an elusive white man who apparently lives in the same canyons and can help connect him to them. What follows is a magical mystery tour of the history of ultra running including Leadville 100, the tribe themselves, some barefoot running and then culminating in a trail race smack down between the tribe and the best of the western runners.

I’d heard about these running Indians before having just read Scott Jurek’s Eat and Run which covers a little bit of the same story and in particular the race at the end where he was the star of Westerners. What I hadn’t realised was that the Chia seeds that make up my running nutrition at the moment also have the roots with this tribe. They eat small handfuls while on a run to keep them fuelled, I quite like¬†having that connection between my running and these natural born runners.

I really enjoyed learning some of the history of the famous US 100 mile races, it gives some perspective on the heritage and why they’ve become so big in the ultra scene. I also loved the storytelling, I mean who doesn’t like reading about people who share the same passion as them? However not sure I believe some of the tales about young ultra runners getting deliriously drunk at night and then running long races in the heat the next day. Maybe that’s a little of the journalistic style coming out from the author?

But I was reflecting on the book while running my first ultra at the weekend, something interesting to keep the mind busy, I found myself focusing on standing straight and strong while running and trying to land lightly. Just like the Tarahumara are observed to do in the book and in fact as the author learns to do. The message in the book about running because it makes you happy rather than obsessing with a time is a value I like to think I have in my approach to running too.

So faith in chia seeds confirmed, history of ultra running learnt and I know that I never want to go running in the canyons of Mexico! I’m also unlikely to rush out to buy some Vibram’s any time soon but if you want to read a running book that is more novel than how to run then this is the book for you.

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