Book Review: Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

Every trail runner I know has by now heard of the book, Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall. And with good reason.

It’s the story of the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s Copper Canyons. It’s also the story of the author’s quest to cure his running injuries. And it’s the story of one of the coolest ultra races ever recorded, and the lucky few who ran it.

What I love about this book is the way in which McDougall weaves his tale.

There is adventure, mystery, and murder.  It is played out by richly painted characters fresh from fiction, who also happen to be real: Barefoot Ted, Caballo Blanco, and Jenn Shelton.

And there is great running knowledge too, about stride, injuries, the shoe industry, nutrition, and what to do if one is lost, hungry and face-to-face with what appears to be a gunky pond of bacteria.

The book is funny, entertaining and telling.  I loved it!  I couldn’t put it down.

McDougall comes across as “one of us”.  Just a guy who likes to run and gets annoyed when his foot hurts.  He wants to go farther, but it hurts.  All of that leads him to Mexico, and the little-known, very quiet, Tarahumara, who are arguably the greatest runners on earth.  It also leads him to Caballo Blanco, another guy “just like us”, who happened to decide that living hidden in the mountains – running everywhere – was a better way to go.  And the list and stories go on.

They all converge in the dramatic conclusion; a race that matches Scott Jurek (not just like us) with the greatest of the Tarahumara runners.

It’s an adventure that any one of us would have loved!  It was almost as fun to read as it must have been to experience.  OK.  Maybe not.  But this one is worth it.

Most enjoyable running book I have ever read, without question.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Cynthia says:

    I loved this book too- couldn’t put it down! Running is just so cool. I get really frustrated with so many people these days who have bought into the belief that interval/weight training is the only good kind of exercise and who bash “chronic cardio” or steady state aerobic exercise as stupid. I think this book actually helped some of them see running as possibly appealing in spite of their preconceived ideas.

    Ironically, though I am a mostly midfoot striker, I’ve been having a foot problem of late, on again and off again, that is interfering with my running fun! Feels like plantar fasciitis- I can feel the ligament just in front of the heel bone is inflamed and complaining, but not all the time. It’s weird. Did you have this experience? I’m trying to stretch my calves more, but something is still not right with this foot. I was considering doing the Headlands 50 or 100 mile last weekend, but with my flaky foot, decided that would be a mistake (plus that is just a very hard event), and with the cancelation of Headlands 50 K this year, I am bummed out.

    Do you know about the Stevens Creek 50K on Sept 13? It’s a fairly challenging course but much more affordable than most races. I did really horribly last year (it was super hot that day) and so have to try to redeem myself this year.

  2. Cynthia says:

    Oh, I just realized that the Utah marathon you’re doing is only a week later, so that might not be such a good idea…

    Your race schedule sounds like fun. I helped put on the Bizz Johnson Marathon a few years ago (back when Eric Gould was still running it, though he was sick that fall and David actually orchestrated the whole thing, certifying and marking the course and setting up aid stations and everything.) It was a tremendous amount of work -shlepping water cans and tables to all of the aid stations, driving to access points on logging roads (and getting lost). Made me appreciate my regular job.

    Anyway, I might want to try your Mt Madonna Challenge, except I will want to wait to see how cool it will be first (I’m a wimp!).

  3. runrunrunrun says:

    Hi Cynthia

    Totally agree on the book. I do have foot pain off and on, but nothing too major. I want to try some barefoot running, just to see. I had no idea there was a Stevens Creek 50K! I am finding new races all the time these days! Maybe I will add that one next year. Speaking of, I am hoping to do Headlands 100 in 2010. Hard hard hard, but I want to do it anyway.

    Please come to Mt. Madonna! It is a very fun, very low key, event. Lots of canopy, so the heat hopefully won’t be an issue. We have 133 registered runners as of today.


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