The adage shapes much of the story and science in Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run. I first came across the story of the hidden tribe of the Tarahumara and the idea of barefoot running in McDougall’s Men’s Health article in 2005. It’s always stuck with me, so I was thrilled to see a more detailed explanation of how 50 year old Native Americans can run ultramarathons in their sandals.
The book is part sports biography, part memoir, and part science textbook. McDougall is a washed up marathoner, to injured to ever run again, who travels to the Copper Canyons of Mexico in search of a lost tribe, that apparently eats corn, drinks beer, and never gets injured. Much of the book is made up of his stories of navigating drug country and foreign cultures. Beyond that, he tells stories of the American cult of ultrarunning, seemingly superhumans with the ability to run over a hundred miles a day.
One main thesis of the book is that human beings are natural born runners. From an evolutionary standpoint, we’ve got the ability to outrun any prey. Our only hindrance is running shoes, which allow our feet to atrophy and our heels to unnaturally strike. If we ran correctly, we could go for days, and never get injured.
The book is enthralling, addicting and will inspire you to put on your gym shorts, ditch your Nikes and hit the trail.