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Born to Run - Christopher McDougall: A Review

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Born to Run - Christopher McDougall: A Review

There is only one way for me to start this blog and that is by a book review. After all, it was a book that started my whole exploration of fitness, health, movement and running. The person who I can thank for introducing me to Born to Run is my Wife, Liz. Bought on a whim for a cold nights reading in December, I’m not sure she fully realised the effect it would have on our lives for the years to come. She devoured it in a matter of days (whilst mainly in the bath…) and recommended I read it. If you’ve read my first blog post you’ll realise that BTR sparked an interest in fitness and health that has consumed much of my thoughts and spare time ever since.

Having spent many years working the music industry, in artist management and touring, I’d never been too far from excess. This came to a head when I spent the evening in a cardio ward for a suspected heart attack… (it turned out to be a stomach ulcer…. My god it hurt, hence my collapse in the road on a manchester street). From that event, the dangers of an unhealthy life style appeared very real.

Born to Run represents freedom of thought, removing the shackles from your body and coming to the realisation that you have control over your health and you don’t have to physically go downhill after 30.

Perhaps Liz is best placed to review it, she’s the most natural runner I’ve come across. She makes it look effortless and always has a big smile on her face no matter what mile we are at.

Liz’s Review:

Born to Run was published in 2009 and has already become a classic that has greatly influenced running and fitness in the UK and the world. The energy and adventure of the book picked me up and pulled me in to a story that is unmissable and hard to put down. I sat in a bath for hours reading and ignored everyone around me until I had finished the book, I then told anyone who would listen that they must read this book.

I was shopping for Christmas presents when I came across Born To Run, I picked it up almost at random just because I liked the title and, of course, I love to run. I have always felt a sense of guilt that running can take over my life and have, at times, needed to run almost daily. I am always happiest running in light shoes or completely barefoot whenever I can and I always hated padded and built up running shoes.

This book has influences that appear elsewhere in the work of Phil Maffetone and Pavel Tsatsouline who do not exclusively train runners but who also put forward the idea of working with your own body and what can be achieved when this is done intelligently.

This is not the perfect book- you can fault the science and various dietary intake inconsistencies of the Tarahumara people, Chris Mc Dougall really dislikes Lance Armstrong - but lets be honest- he has been a bit of a let down... What it does show is the sheer labour of love and the time and energy that Chris Mc Dougall put into writing the book. He spent a great deal of time getting to know both the Tarahumara and the larger that life characters in the endurance athlete community including the famous late Caballo Blanco. Just finding the tribe was an adventure in itself.

The book proposes the idea that humans evolved to run, that we lost our fur and worked as a team to persistence hunt our prey- go out running with a dog and you’ll soon realise that the average human will out endure even a fit dog. We are taught by modern life that our bodies are weak and require constant nurturing - Born to Run reminds us of just how tough we can be and I love that.

The evolutionary theory in the book suggests that by hunting and working as a pack our brains increased in size. Humans evolved and developed larger frontal brains giving us a greater ability to solve problems and making us arguably the most effective predatory and colonizing animal on the planet. Whether this is true or not there any runner will tell you about the tribal nature of running, the solidarity of runners, the crowds that cheer that marathon runners - from the elite to those at the back of the pack. Running it seems is an integral part of what it is to be human...this book made intuitive sense to me.

Throughout the book the idea of working with your body is all pervasive, the idea of “no pain, no gain” is debunked. More importantly it is a mantra for those who refuse to be cowed into being afraid of our own bodies. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis that is thankfully in remission. The worst moment for me at diagnosis was being told that I would never run again but once the disease was controlled, I got straight back out running, have completed a couple of marathon's since diagnosis and will be running the Royal Parks half marathon in September. Whoever you are and whatever your health and fitness status, this book will make you fall in love with adventure and with your own physicality; it is after all in our genes.

Liz Paul: In 2015 I had the opportunity to meet Chris (in a shoe store, of course) and not only is he a lovely bloke, he's also huge. I can see why running technique is essential for him.

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