Friday, July 31, 2009

Some thoughts about "Born to Run"

I first came across Christopher McDougall's Born to Run on the blog, View from the Park. I thought it looked interesting, so I checked to see if we had it at the library. We didn't, so I set the thought aside and forgot about the book until the next day, when I saw the order of new non-fiction books - with Born to Run on it. I placed my hold on it and had it in hand about a week later.

I didn't actually have very high expectations of the book. I thought it would be kind of technical and boring, but that perception changed with the very first pages describing a search for a loner in the middle of Mexico's Sierra Madre who would be the secret to finding information about the Tarahumara Indians, who call themselves the Raramuri: The Running People.

There seemed to be a lot of mystery about it all: The Tarhumara, who possess seemingly superhuman running abilities, wish to insulate themselves from outsiders, and the loner, who calls himself Caballo Blanco, is similarly almost impossible to find. But there isn't that much mystery when you come down to it: These people run and enjoy it. They use the human's body's natural abilities to their fullest and don't care about medals or Nike deals or losing weight. And although they race, the competition of racing against each other does not stand in the way of the enjoyment of running together.

The book follows the author as he helps Caballo organize a 50-mile race between the Tarahumara and the U.S.'s greatest ultra-runners. Almost every other chapter is a side note giving background information about past races, scientific studies, and personal training. It goes so many places with these chapters but is remarkably on track throughout. While reading, I would get interested in barefoot running, look it up on the internet, try it out myself, discover Vibram Five-Finger shoes, and then a few days later read about Barefoot Ted in the book and see that he wore Vibram Five Fingers himself. Ot I'd start doing Google searches for running biomechanics and man's evolutionary history and then a week later come to that chapter in the book, reading about the same scientists whose articles I had seen online. It was great to see it all brought together in one book with a story to tie it all up.

At times I felt as if the characters' quirks were overemphasized. Barefoot Ted and the "surfer kids" seemed like charicatures more than people, as if the author took over with a bit too much storytelling with them, although I grant that these ultrarunners are probably a unique brand of people who are more quirky than your average Joe. In any case, his own story of going from not being able to jog without extreme footpain and being told "The human body just isn't made for running" to completing a 50-mile race in a brutally hot environment with the greatest runners in the world is nothing short of inspiring. I think it did so much to my perception of what I am capable of. As I read this book, my long runs kept getting longer and longer. And I focused more on enjoying running. My last 5K was done for fun, without the need to achieve a certain time, and I ended up enjoying it more than any other race I've ever run, AND I beat my PR by 7 or 8 seconds. That says a lot.

If you like to run, I'd definitely recommend this book. That's coming from me as a librarian and a runner.

As for my running lately, I took two days off after Monday's long run. I waited until late after work yesterday to do what I wanted to be 4.5 miles, but I ended up cutting it down to 3.5 miles because I wasn't feeling well. I was feeling so rotten that if I had my cell phone, I probbaly would have called home and asked for someone to come and pick me up. I was actually contemplating what I would do if I couldn't make it home in time. Did I know anyone on that road well enough to ask to use their bathroom? Luckily I didn't have to. When I really didn't think that I could go further without being sick, I stopped running and walked for 3 or 4 minutes. When the cramps and all related GI goblins mysteriously vanished, I started running again - stronger and faster than before. It wasn't a very good run, but I should be clear of these types of problems for the 5K race next Thursday. Today I might go for an easy 5 miles on the road. tells me that the humidity is 92%, so it might not be a very comfortable run, but Ill probably give it a try if my tummy doesn't bother me too much.

No comments: