Born to run by Christopher McDougall
No sooner do we learn to walk as toddlers, but ‘hot on the heels’ of that achievement comes the ability to run……or in the case of toddlers, to scamper and tumble in headlong mindless enthusiasm. But seldom do they really hurt themselves. Their bodies are so light and flexible that falls are sustained with the minimum of fuss.
So, is the thesis of this book a glaringly obvious observation: ie. that ‘we are born to run’? Well, I suppose that the writing of a 300 page book is based on the assumption that it is not. That the majority of people today see running as an unnatural activity, a huge inconvenience, and one to be avoided at all cost, is surely proof that very few (if any) are born to run. But, of course, we all know people (and you might be one of them) who run marathons, jog daily, train with a local athletics clubs…….but, still, they are a minority. McDougall’s thesis, after studying and running with the Tarahumara community in the Copper Canyon in Mexico, is that we have lost something that was genetically inherent in homo sapiens, and that is the ability to run to survive.
The Tarahumara people are a remnant (and there is another similar community in the Kalahari Desert) who have preserved their ancestral ability to run for hours and days with little, or no, rest and sustenance…..just as their forebears had done as hunter gatherers. Through them he learns about man’s innate ability to run prey into the ground, even the fastest and most elusive of prey like the antelope. They never hunted with spears or bows and arrows…..they simply pursued their prey relentlessly until it lay down with exhaustion.
Through many examples of modern world champion ultra runners competing against people of the Tarahumara race, he strives to prove to us that the raw skills of long-distance running are still alive and well, though there is much to learn from our primitive forebears.