My friends, like me, tend toward the sedentary. I do, however, know a few folks who are athletes or who actively engage in physical activity. So I have been hearing good things about Born to Run for quite awhile, but interestingly only from hard core runners. I’m not a runner, so each time I’ve heard someone mention its merits, I've filed the title away for possible future reference.
I’m still not a runner, but no matter. Born to Run is more than just a book about a race. McDougall’s journey begins with his own frustrations over persistent running injuries. Then while on assignment he becomes interested in the Tarahumara, an ancient people who are natural ultradistance runners. While trying to find some of these very private people he becomes equally fascinated with Caballo Blanco, a mysterious American who had long ago befriended the Tarahumara. Miraculously, McDougall befriends Caballo and the two eventually set up a race between some of America’s best ultrarunners and the Tarahumara. In the telling, McDougall intertwines the history of ultramarathoning, some Tarahumara sociology, mini-biographies of his team, and culminates in the unraveling of the mystery of Caballo Blanco.
No doubt the story is a little romanticized. For example, McDougall says of Caballo, “There was something terribly sad, yet terribly uplifting, about watching the prophet of the ancient art of distance running turning his back on everything except his dream, and heading back down to ‘the best place in the world to run.’ Alone.” And the mention specifically of Vibram’s five finger running shoe felt like a mini-commercial. Still there is so much here to fascinate and enjoy.
Fans of Jon Krakauer and Peter Stark will relish these tales of man vs his own body.