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Born to Run
A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
Christopher McDougall
read on April 1, 2010

Last November I ran the Seattle half-marathon. In my "training", I think the longest I ever ran was about 8 miles, which seemed at the time to be pretty close to 13 and so a pretty good place to stop. I was blown away by how sore I was after running the 13. I mean bad. I could barely walk that night and the next day. I really like running - I think it's peaceful and it feels really natural. Not to say it feels good or comes easy, I think what I mean is that I enjoy how basic a human function it is. It is the most quintessential exercise. No frills, no shortcuts.

Anyway, the day after the half-marathon, I decided running just isn't for me. I'm a 200 pound guy, and I feel like if I spend the next few years running then I'd pay for it for the rest of my life. Blown out knees, constant joint pain, etc. It just didn't seem worth it.

However, I was bothered and disappointed by that conclusion. If I enjoyed running because it was a core human experience, then how could it actually be bad for me? That question is exactly the premise of this book. McDougall investigates the circumstances around the world's best runners to find out what makes them tick, and why their bodies haven't yet turned to ash. It's a fantastic book that manages to do three things: 

First, it exposes a sport a had no idea even existed, Ultrarunning. Apparently, there are people that run 300 mile continuous races. Or 150 mile ones in 125 degree heat. I really cannot comprehend this. There are people that have run one marathon per week, minimum, for several years. Second, McDougall argues that running shoes are garbage, and makes a great case for it. Apparently, humans were born to run... barefoot. When using running shoes, your stride is modified because you can land on your heel. Running barefoot would never allow this because it hurts way too much. When barefoot, you land on the midsole. This shortens your stride and makes you slower- but doesn't destroy your body and gives you endurance. And lastly, the book also has a compelling narrative story about an unlikely race in the-middle-of-nowhere Mexico where the greatest runners in the world faced each other.

Anyway, fantastic book. If I do start running again, which now I hope I do, I'll need to give barefoot a try.

Author Bio:

Trained as a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press, Christopher McDougall covered wars in Rwanda and Angola before writing his international bestseller, Born to Run. His fascination with the limits of human potential led him to create the Outside magazine web series, “Art of the Hero.”