Saturday, November 14, 2009

Baby, I Was Born to Run...

Stop what you're reading right now and find a copy of Christopher McDougall's Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. Seriously. This book will change your life. It's one of the best books I've read all year.

Now I have to give you a disclaimer. My husband Thad is an ultrarunner and I have spend weekends camped out in remote forests, ready with packs of power gel and salt tablets for when he comes bursting through the trees. I am familiar with races like the Leadville 100 and I also really enjoy running myself. (My longest run is still 1/10 of Thad's longest run, but he does set the bar high.) So that being said, if you like to run, or like to read about running, or if you can appreciate a good story, stop what you're reading right now and find a copy of Born to Run. (In fact, come to Little Shop and buy your copy here!)

I could go on and on (and I have) about my love for this book, so for the sake of keeping myself on track, here are the top 4 reasons why Born to Run is this year's must-read adventure journalism.

1. Amazing characters: From surfer girls who sprint down the beach naked to expats living in the middle of nowhere to Olympic athletes who brake world records to tribes in the isolated Copper Canyons in Mexico, Born to Run will make you fall in love with the crazies who get up in the morning and say, "Hmm. I think I'll run 26 miles today," and then go do it. Barefoot. I personally developed a small crush on Scott Jurek, the badass who holds the record for the Western States 100 Mile Run (the oldest 100 miler) and two-time winner of the Badwater Ultramarathon (a 135-mile race through Death Valley.) And even Christopher McDougall himself was a fantastic character to root for as he increased his runs from 5 miles to 50 miles as training for "the greatest race the world has never seen." --more on that later.

2. Inspiration: Years ago my dad read Into Thin Air and decided to become a mountain climber. He even did several of the Seven Summits (the tallest mountains on each continent) before moving on to his next pursuit. I didn't understand how a book could inspire someone to something so physically demanding until recently. After concluding chapter after chapter about how much fun running is, I would be motivated to lace up my shoes and hit the road. Not, obviously, for hundreds of miles, but I am content to pound the pavement for long stretches of time. The book spends a lot of time explaining the biology behind why humans were created as running beings and we should embrace that part of our heritage happily, enjoying the very act of running. Plus, after hearing a story about someone who had never run a marathon before and ended up breaking world records, running a few miles seemed like the least I could do.

3. Fun Facts to Know and Tell: Did you that over a long enough distance you can out run a horse? Or a dog? Or even a deer? Did you know that the more expensive your shoes, the more likely you are to be injured? Did you know that women's bodies handle long (and by long I mean looooong) distances better than men's because they have more fat to burn?

4. Adventurous Plot: Born to Run builds up to and culminates with a race (the greatest race the world has never seen, according to McDougall) pitting a rag-tag band of elite American ultrarunners against the Tarahumara, the Mexican running people who inhabit the Copper Canyons. After giving background information on all of the runners (see my comments above about the amazing characters), McDougall writes a page-turning climax of the race through the dangerous and deadly Canyons. It will make you stand up and cheer, wishing you could be there to urge the runners on. Come to think of it, I might get a chance to do so one day. Thad's considering the Copper Canyon run in the future...


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