Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

4.4 942
by Christopher McDougall
     
 

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An epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt?
 
Isolated by Mexico's deadly Copper Canyons, the blissful Tarahumara Indians have honed the ability to run hundreds of miles without rest or injury. In a riveting narrative, award-winning journalist and often-injured runner Christopher McDougall sets out to discover their secrets

Overview

An epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt?
 
Isolated by Mexico's deadly Copper Canyons, the blissful Tarahumara Indians have honed the ability to run hundreds of miles without rest or injury. In a riveting narrative, award-winning journalist and often-injured runner Christopher McDougall sets out to discover their secrets. In the process, he takes his readers from science labs at Harvard to the sun-baked valleys and freezing peaks across North America, where ever-growing numbers of ultra-runners are pushing their bodies to the limit, and, finally, to a climactic race in the Copper Canyons that pits America’s best ultra-runners against the tribe. McDougall’s incredible story will not only engage your mind but inspire your body when you realize that you, indeed all of us, were born to run.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Some runners get injured frequently; others, seemingly never. It was this question and the throbbing pain of his foot that inspired Christopher McDougall to track down Mexico's Tarahumara, a group of long distance runners who had earned an enviable reputation of excelling without injury. His trip to the Copper Canyons to learn from them and run with them reads like both an instruction process and a runner's pilgrimage. Indeed, the lessons that these sturdy Native Americans teach him possess almost a spiritual quality. A gentle guide for serious runners; now in trade paperback and NOOK Book. Editor's recommendation.

Dan Zak
The scenario is a writer's dream. McDougall found a large cast of crazy characters, an exotic setting for drama and discovery, and a tailor-made showdown with which to cap the book. By and large it's a thrilling read, even for someone who couldn't care less about proper stride and split times and energy gels. McDougall's prose, while at times straining to be gonzo and overly clever, is engaging and buddy-buddy, as if he's an enthusiastic friend tripping over himself to tell a great story.
—The Washington Post
Kirkus Reviews
A journalist's adventures in a secluded Mexican community of the best endurance athletes in the world. On an unrelated assignment, Men's Health contributing editor McDougall (Girl Trouble: The True Saga of Superstar Gloria Trevi, Her Svengali, and the Secret Teenage Sex Cult that Stunned the World, 2004) uncovered the legend of the Tarahumara Indians, a tribe of astonishingly fit runners concealed deep within the Copper Canyons of Mexico. Determined to learn their secrets, McDougall braved uncharted territory and encounters with lethal drug-smugglers in search of Caballo Blanco, one of the only outsiders to befriend the bashful natives. The colorful Caballo recounts an enthralling story involving the arduous Leadville ultra marathon and Rick Fisher, a greedy, hotheaded opportunist who bribed the Tarahumara out of hiding to compete. The exploited tribesmen participated in the grueling event three times before they disappeared back to their villages for good. An inspired Caballo followed the Tarahumara back to Mexico, where he ran the local trails and lived peacefully in isolation. His dream was to draw the top American contenders to this remote locale to lock horns with the clan in the ultimate endurance exhibition, and he wanted McDougall's help to make it happen. The author returned to the Copper Canyons with a handful of prominent distance champions, including Scott Jurek and Jenn Shelton, and the story culminates in a final 50-mile showdown. McDougall's background as a magazine writer is readily apparent-his prose is light and airy, informative without being pretentious. Most passages are short and engaging with extra doses of drama and exclamatory phrases thrown in to great effect.McDougall wisely grounds the narrative in his own struggle to engage in the concluding race-he was frustrated with his tendency to get injured-and he offers insightful sidebars on a variety of topics, from the development of the modern running shoe to an evolutionary argument that humans are literally "born to run."A terrific ride, recommended for any athlete. First printing of 75,000. Author tour to Boston, Boulder, Colo., Denver, New York, Portland, Ore., Salt Lake City, San Francisco. Agent: Larry Weissman/Larry Weissman Literary
From the Publisher
"A tale so mind-blowing as to be the stuff of legend." —The Denver Post

"McDougall's book reminded me of why I love to run." —Bill Rodgers, San Francisco Chronicle

"Fascinating. . . . Thrilling. . . . An operatic ode to the joys of running." —The Washington Post
 
“It’s a great book. . . . A really gripping read. . . .Unbelievable story . . . a really phenomenal book.” —Jon Stewart on The Daily Show

"One of the most entertaining running books ever." —Amby Burfoot, Runnersworld.com
 
“Equal parts quest, physiology treatise, and running history. . . . [McDougall] seeks to learn the secrets of the Tarahumara the old-fashioned way: He tracks them down. . . . The climactic race reads like a sprint. . . . It simply makes you want to run.” —Outside Magazine
 
“McDougall recounts his quest to understand near superhuman ultra-runners with adrenaline pumped writing, humor and a distinct voice...he never lets go from his impassioned mantra that humans were born to run.” —NPR
 
Born to Run is a fascinating and inspiring true adventure story, based on humans pushing themselves to the limits. It’s destined to become a classic.”–Sir Ranulph Fiennes, author of Mad, Bad and Dangerous To Know
 
“Equal parts hilarity, explanation and earnestness—whisks the reader along on a compelling dash to the end, and along the way captures the sheer joy that a brisk run brings.” —Science News
 
Born to Run is funny, insightful, captivating, and a great and beautiful discovery.” —Lynne Cox, author of Swimming to Antarctica
 
“A page-turner, taking the reader on an epic journey in search of the world’s greatest distance runners in an effort to uncover the secrets of their endurance.” —The Durango Herald
 
“Driven by an intense yet subtle curiosity, Christopher McDougall gamely treads across the continent to pierce the soul and science of long-distance running.”—Hampton Sides, author of Blood and Thunder and Ghost Soldiers

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307271914
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/05/2009
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
14,966
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt

To live with ghosts requires solitude.
—Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces

FOR DAYS, I’d been searching Mexico’s Sierra Madre for the phantom known as Caballo Blanco—the White Horse. I’d finally arrived at the end of the trail, in the last place I expected to find him—not deep in the wilderness he was said to haunt, but in the dim lobby of an old hotel on the edge of a dusty desert town. “Sí, El Caballo está,” the desk clerk said, nodding. Yes, the Horse is here.

“For real?” After hearing that I’d just missed him so many times, in so many bizarre locations, I’d begun to suspect that Caballo Blanco was nothing more than a fairy tale, a local Loch Ness mons - truo dreamed up to spook the kids and fool gullible gringos.

“He’s always back by five,” the clerk added. “It’s like a ritual.” I didn’t know whether to hug her in relief or high- five her in triumph. I checked my watch. That meant I’d actually lay eyes on the ghost in less than . . . hang on.

“But it’s already after six.”

The clerk shrugged. “Maybe he’s gone away.”

I sagged into an ancient sofa. I was filthy, famished, and defeated. I was exhausted, and so were my leads.

Some said Caballo Blanco was a fugitive; others heard he was a boxer who’d run off to punish himself after beating a man to death in the ring. No one knew his name, or age, or where he was from. He was like some Old West gunslinger whose only traces were tall tales and a whiff of cigarillo smoke. Descriptions and sightings were all over the map; villagers who lived impossible distances apart swore they’d seen him traveling on foot on the same day, and described him on a scale that swung wildly from “funny and simpático” to “freaky and gigantic.”

But in all versions of the Caballo Blanco legend, certain basic details were always the same: He’d come to Mexico years ago and trekked deep into the wild, impenetrable Barrancas del Cobre—the Copper Canyons—to live among the Tarahumara, a near- mythical tribe of Stone Age superathletes. The Tarahumara (pronounced Spanish- style by swallowing the “h”: Tara- oo- mara) may be the healthiest and most serene people on earth, and the greatest runners of all time.

When it comes to ultradistances, nothing can beat a Tarahumara runner—not a racehorse, not a cheetah, not an Olympic marathoner.

Very few outsiders have ever seen the Tarahumara in action, but amazing stories of their superhuman toughness and tranquillity have drifted out of the canyons for centuries. One explorer swore he saw a Tarahumara catch a deer with his bare hands, chasing the bounding animal until it finally dropped dead from exhaustion, “its hoofs falling off.” Another adventurer spent ten hours climbing up and over a Copper Canyon mountain by mule; a Tarahumara runner made the same trip in ninety minutes.

“Try this,” a Tarahumara woman once told an exhausted explorer who’d collapsed at the base of a mountain. She handed him a gourd full of a murky liquid. He swallowed a few gulps, and was amazed to feel new energy pulsing in his veins. He got to his feet and scaled the peak like an overcaffeinated Sherpa. The Tarahumara, the explorer would later report, also guarded the recipe to a special energy food that leaves them trim, powerful, and unstoppable: a few mouthfuls packed enough nutritional punch to let them run all day without rest.

But whatever secrets the Tarahumara are hiding, they’ve hidden them well. To this day, the Tarahumara live in the side of cliffs higher than a hawk’s nest in a land few have ever seen. The Barrancas are a lost world in the most remote wilderness in North America, a sort of a shorebound Bermuda Triangle known for swallowing the misfits and desperadoes who stray inside. Lots of bad things can happen down there, and probably will; survive the man- eating jaguars, deadly snakes, and blistering heat, and you’ve still got to deal with “canyon fever,” a potentially fatal freak- out brought on by the Barrancas’ desolate eeriness. The deeper you penetrate into the Barrancas, the more it feels like a crypt sliding shut around you. The walls tighten, shadows spread, phantom echoes whisper; every route out seems to end in sheer rock. Lost prospectors would be gripped by such madness and despair, they’d slash their own throats or hurl themselves off cliffs. Little surprise that few strangers have ever seen the Tarahumara’s homeland—let alone the Tarahumara.

But somehow the White Horse had made his way to the depths of the Barrancas. And there, it’s said, he was adopted by the Tarahumara as a friend and kindred spirit; a ghost among ghosts. He’d certainly mastered two Tarahumara skills—invisibility and extraordinary endurance—because even though he was spotted all over the canyons, no one seemed to know where he lived or when he might appear next. If anyone could translate the ancient secrets of the Tarahumara, I was told, it was this lone wanderer of the High Sierras.

I’d become so obsessed with finding Caballo Blanco that as I dozed on the hotel sofa, I could even imagine the sound of his voice.

“Probably like Yogi Bear ordering burritos at Taco Bell,” I mused. A guy like that, a wanderer who’d go anywhere but fit in nowhere, must live inside his own head and rarely hear his own voice. He’d make weird jokes and crack himself up. He’d have a booming laugh and atrocious Spanish. He’d be loud and chatty and . . . and . . .

Wait. I was hearing him. My eyes popped open to see a dusty cadaver in a tattered straw hat bantering with the desk clerk. Trail dust streaked his gaunt face like fading war paint, and the shocks of sun- bleached hair sticking out from under the hat could have been trimmed with a hunting knife. He looked like a castaway on a desert island, even to the way he seemed hungry for conversation with the bored clerk.

“Caballo?” I croaked.

The cadaver turned, smiling, and I felt like an idiot. He didn’t look wary; he looked confused, as any tourist would when confronted by a deranged man on a sofa suddenly hollering “Horse!”

This wasn’t Caballo. There was no Caballo. The whole thing was a hoax, and I’d fallen for it.

Then the cadaver spoke. “You know me?”

“Man!” I exploded, scrambling to my feet. “Am I glad to see you!”

The smile vanished. The cadaver’s eyes darted toward the door, making it clear that in another second, he would as well.

It all began with a simple question that no one in the world could answer.

That five-word puzzle led me to a photo of a very fast man in a very short skirt, and from there it only got stranger. Soon, I was dealing with a murder, drug guerrillas and a one-armed man with a cream-cheese cup strapped to his head. I met a beautiful, blonde forest ranger who slipped out of her clothes and found salvation by running naked in the Idaho forests, and a young surf babe in pigtails who ran straight toward her death in the desert. A talented young runner would die. Two others would barely escape with their lives.

I kept looking, and stumbled across the Barefoot Batman ... Naked Guy … Kalahari Bushmen ... the Toenail Amputee... a cult devoted to distance running and sex parties ... the Wild Man of the Blue Ridge Mountains ... and ultimately, the ancient tribe of the Tarahumara and their shadowy disciple, Caballo Blanco.

In the end, I got my answer, but only after I found myself in the middle of the greatest race the world would never see: the Ultimate Fighting Competition of footraces, an underground showdown pitting some of the best ultra-distance runners of our time against the best ultrarunners of all time, in a 50-mile race on hidden trails only Tarahumara feet had ever touched. I’d be startled to discover that the ancient saying of the Tao Te Ching — “The best runner leaves no trace” — wasn’t some gossamer koan, but real, concrete, how-to, training advice.

And all because in January, 2001, I asked my doctor this:

“How come my foot hurts?”

I’d gone to see one of the top sports-medicine specialists in the country because an invisible ice-pick was driving straight up through the sole of my foot. The week before, I’d been out for an easy, three-mile jog on a snowy farm road when I suddenly whinnied in pain, grabbing my right foot and screaming curses as I toppled over in the snow. When I got a grip on myself, I checked to see how badly I was bleeding. I must have impaled my foot on a sharp rock, I figured, or an old nail wedged in the ice. But there wasn’t a drop of blood, or even a hole in my shoe.

“Running is your problem,” Dr. Joe Torg confirmed when I limped into his Philadelphia examining room a few days later. He should know; Dr. Torg had not only helped create the entire field of sports medicine, but he also co-authored The Running Athlete, the definitive radiographic analysis of every conceivable running injury. He ran me through an X-Ray and watched me hobble around, then determined I’d aggravated my cuboid, a cluster of bones parallel to the arch which I hadn’t even known existed until it re-engineered itself into an internal Taser.

“But I’m barely running at all,” I said. “I’m doing, like, two or three miles every other day. And not even on asphalt. Mostly dirt roads.”

Didn’t matter. “The human body is not designed for that kind of abuse,” Dr. Torg replied.

But why? Antelope don’t get shin splints. Wolves don’t ice-pack their knees. I doubt that 80% of all wild mustangs are annually disabled with impact injuries. It reminded me of a proverb attributed to Roger Bannister, who, while simultaneously studying medicine, working as a clinical researcher and minting pithy parables, became the first man to break the 4-minute mile: "Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up,” Bannister said. “It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn't matter whether you're a lion or a gazelle - when the sun comes up, you'd better be running."

So why should every other mammal on the planet be able to depend on its legs except us? Come to think of it, how could a guy like Bannister charge out of the lab every day, pound around a hard cinder track in thin leather slippers, and not only get faster, but never get hurt? How come some of us can be out there running all lion-like and Bannister-ish every morning when the sun comes up, while the rest of us need a fistful of Ibuprofen before we can put our feet on the floor?

But maybe there was a path back in time, a way to flip the internal switch that changes us all back into the Natural Born Runners we once were. Not just in history, but in our own lifetimes. Remember? Back when you were a kid and you had to be yelled at to slow down? Every game you played, you played at top-speed, sprinting like crazy as you kicked cans, freed-all and attacked jungle outposts in your neighbors’ backyards. Half the fun of doing anything was doing it at record pace, making it probably the last time in your life you’d ever be hassled for going too fast.

That was the real secret of the Tarahumara: they’d never forgotten what it felt like to love running. They remembered that running was mankind’s first fine art, our original act of inspired creation. Way before we were scratching pictures on caves or beating rhythms on hollow trees, we were perfecting the art of combining our breath and mind and muscles into fluid self-propulsion over wild terrain. And when our ancestors finally did make their first cave paintings, what were the first designs? A downward slash, lightning bolts through the bottom and middle — behold, the Running Man.

Distance running was revered because it was indispensable; it was the way we survived and thrived and spread across the planet. You ran to eat and to avoid being eaten; you ran to find a mate and impress her, and with her you ran off to start a new life together. You had to love running, or you wouldn’t live to love anything else. And like everything else we love — everything we sentimentally call our “passions” and “desires” — it’s really an encoded ancestral necessity. We were born to run; we were born because we run. We’re all Running People, as the Tarahumara have always known.

Soon, I was setting off in search of the lost tribe of the Tarahumara and Caballo Blanco -- who, I would discover, had a secret mission of his own.

From the Hardcover edition.

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From the Publisher

Chapter One


The Population Problem and the Pill


In 1950, five years after the Second World War, Margaret Sanger, leader ofthe American birth control movement and chief promoter of the developmentof the oral contraceptive, forecast `that the world and almost all ourcivilization for the next twenty-five years is going to depend upon a simple,cheap, safe contraceptive to be used in poverty-stricken slums and jungles,and among the most ignorant people'. Echoing this view four years later,the Catholic obstetrician-gynaecologist John Rock, who ran some of theearly clinical trials of the first oral contraceptive, declared that such a pillwould be the leading weapon against starvation and war: `If it could bediscovered soon, the H-bomb need never fall.' Rock saw such an oral contraceptiveas providing the `greatest aid ever discovered to the happinessand security of individual families — indeed of mankind'. According toRock, `the greatest menace to world peace and decent standards of lifetoday is not atomic energy but sexual energy'.

    Spoken at a time when the Cold War (1945-91) was intensifying, bothSanger's and Rock's statements highlight the political and economic contextin which the pill was initially developed. The years between 1948 and1953 had been a time of particularly grave tensions between the UnitedStates and the Soviet Union. During this period not only had the Sovietsattempted unsuccessfully to blockade the Western-held sectors of Berlin(1948-9), but the United States and its European allies had formed theNorth Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949, a military alliancedesigned to curb theSoviet presence in Europe. The Soviets had alsomanaged to explode their first atomic bomb, ahead of the time predicted bythe West and ending the American monopoly on this weapon. In addition,Chinese communists had taken power in mainland China (1949) and theSoviet-supported communist government of North Korea had invadedAmerican-supported South Korea (1950), launching a bitter war that was tocontinue until 1953. Elsewhere in Africa and Asia, pressures were alsogrowing for independence from the imperial powers of Britain, France, theNetherlands and Belgium. Two of the most populous nations in the world,India and Indonesia, had achieved independence in 1947 and 1949 respectively,after long and bitter struggles. Moreover, it was unclear whatpolitical and economic direction these newly formed states would take, andmany within the Western bloc feared they would adopt communism andbecome allies of the Soviet Union.

    For those living through the 1950s the stability and future of the worldtherefore seemed far from secure. Not only were tensions increasingbetween the United States and the Soviet Union, anxieties were intensifyingabout the growth of population around the globe. At the heart of theconcern was the noticeable increase of population in less developed partsof the world. Population growth in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America,for instance, appeared not only to be accelerating far more rapidly than inmany developed countries, but seemed far more rapid than that experiencedin any part of the world prior to 1950. Representing more people tofeed, clothe, shelter and later to provide work for, the babies being born tothe poorest and most impoverished women in the world appeared to many,such as Rock and Sanger, a potential threat to world stability. What theyfeared most were the pressures population growth would put on developingnations, providing ammunition for discontent and communism.

    Anxiety about excessive fertility was not confined to what was happeningin the developing world. Much concern was also expressed about the highbirth-rates among the indigent poor within developed countries, which itwas feared could fuel economic dislocation and disorder closer to home. Bycontrast with the poor, the fertility of the upper and middle classes was notseen as a threat; rather it was to be encouraged precisely because itprovided people who would uphold the values of the `civilized' world. Whatwas ultimately at risk was the middle- and upper-class way of life. Asone of Sanger's supporters, Mrs Harry Guthman, pointed out in 1950,population increase prevented economic progress and any means ofraising the standard of living.

    Guthman and Sanger, like many other contemporaries, attributed therecent explosion in population growth to advances in medical science. Thishad cut the number of deaths and improved the chances of infant survival,while doing nothing about curbing fertility. As Rock put it in 1954, `Theunion of Science and Humanitarianism is increasingly successful in theexemplary prevention of premature death which in the evil past restrictedpopulations. Can this same union do nothing now to prevent [the]smothering of mankind by Man, before evils of the past inevitably againtake over?' Seeing overpopulation as a menace, he was convinced that theonly way forward was for more scientific research into simpler methods ofbirth control such as an oral contraceptive. Having caused the problem inthe first place, science now had to come up with a solution. Yet not everyonewas going to agree with the scientific solution adopted. Not only wasthe oral contraceptive to meet great opposition from the Catholic church onreligious grounds; it was also opposed by many communist governmentswho equated the technology with imperialism and capitalism.

    The development of the pill was therefore powerfully intertwined withthe politics and rhetoric of the Cold War and the threat of overpopulation.Symbolically it was more than just a tool for contraception. From the startit was linked with science and the hopes that it could curb populationgrowth and bring about world stability. Questions about population growthand its implications for social stability, however, were not new in the postwarera. Indeed, many social reformers and statesmen had been concernedwith the links between population and national economic wealth, socialorder and military strength since the nineteenth century. Yet the nature ofthis discussion changed radically after the Second World War, shiftingfrom equating large populations with economic and military strength toseeing them as a danger to global security. This debate had a profoundeffect on the development and adoption of the pill.


The population question and differential fertility


Population size has been a matter of political and social interest for centuries.Some of the most influential ideas on population have been drawnfrom the writings of the British clergyman-turned-economist ThomasMalthus in the late eighteenth century. Believing that the global populationdoubled in size every twenty-five years, Malthus feared that populationgrowth would soon outstrip the world's resources. Moreover, he arguedthat the population had already reached its maximum limit and that a catastrophewas imminent. For him, famine, poverty, pestilence and war werethe natural means of keeping population growth in check. Accordingly heargued against the provision of social welfare or food to the poor becausehe saw it as interfering with a natural process. While gaining great popularity,Malthus's writings were not entirely original, but were partiallybased on the ideas of the French philosopher Condorcet. Condorcet, however,while pointing to population expansion, had a different interpretationof its implications. Unlike Malthus, he did not believe that populationgrowth had reached its upper limit, and felt that any further increase couldbe overcome by the intelligent use of science, social reform and humanreasoning, as well as contraception. The differing positions of Malthusand Condorcet helped shape population debates in subsequent years.

    By the late nineteenth century the focus in Europe had shifted to theproblem of fertility decline. Some of the earliest concerns about thedecrease in the birth-rate occurred in France which experienced perhapsthe most drastic decline in Europe after 1870. The fear of Germaninvasion, reinforced by the French defeat during the Franco-Prussian war(1870-1), haunted French politicians, many of whom equated France'sweakness with the country's falling fertility rate. Such anxieties also dominatedthe politics of other countries. Heightened anxieties about the sizeand health of the population, for instance, dominated British politics in theaftermath of the South African war (1899-1902).

    Far more dangerous than unchecked fertility was the apparent class differentialaffecting its trend. What was most disturbing to many socialreformers was that the statistics implied that those who were reproducingleast were the better educated and more economically successful middleand upper classes. The poor, regarded as the most ignorant, unhealthy,unfit and immoral members of society, were continuing toprocreate at very high rates. In the United States, anxiety focused on whatappeared to be the greater reduction in the birth-rate of white nativemiddle-class Americans relative to that of the ethnic immigrant poor.Wherever the debate took place, worries about differential fertilitywere exacerbated by the wider social and economic upheavals of theday, such as mounting political discontent and radical unionism amongthe working class, and the escalating costs of social reform, which manysaw as inadequate to curb the ominous threat of poverty and discontent.Added to this were accelerating international economic and military competition,the collapse of empires and worsening economic depressions.

    Some of the most vocal participants in the population debate wereneo-Malthusians and eugenicists. Originally started in Britain and primarilyled by upper middle-class, white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant and educatedleaders, the neo-Malthusian and eugenics movements were ideologicallycomplex, and the ways they perceived population issues and the solutionsthey offered were diverse. Both ideological movements feared that thedifferential in fertility signified the degeneration of the physical and mentalhealth of the nation. Some neo-Malthusians attributed the problem tothe social and economic upheavals caused by rapid urbanization and industrialization.On the other hand, some eugenicists attributed the problemto recent advances in medical science, especially public hygiene, andgenerous social policies, which they believed had promoted the greatersurvival of the inherently `weak' and `inferior' members of society. Forthem this represented a disturbance of the natural order of evolution andthe survival of the fittest as outlined by Darwin, on whose account theirideas were based. Moreover, some eugenicists saw the higher fertility of thelowest socioeconomic classes not only as an economic burden on thenation, but also as a genetic aberration. Seeing differential fertility inbiological terms, eugenicists and neo-Malthusians promoted the idea thatfitter members of society should be encouraged to `breed' in greater numbers,while those deemed less fit should have their fertility controlled.Within this context, human reproduction was to be scientifically managed.Known as selective breeding, this policy was considered vital to theimprovement of the `race' and the health of the nation.

    Eugenics and neo-Maltusianism provided a convenient means ofexplaining and resolving many of the social and economic difficulties of theday, ranging from immigration problems to what was thought to be a deteriorationin health and living standards, and a decline in military and economicstrength. These ideas attracted support across the political spectrumin both Europe and the United States, gaining the attention of a number ofprominent political figures, as well as well-to-do professionals, physicians,social workers, clerics, writers and professors, notably in the biological andsocial sciences. Not everyone, however, agreed with their ideas and thesolutions they proffered. Moreover, the degree to which eugenicists andneo-Malthusians were able to influence policy varied enormously, and wasgreatly dependent on the politics of individual countries and how well theirideas fitted in with more general perceptions about how to tackle populationquestions.


Different solutions adopted


By the interwar years various countries; in Europe as well as the UnitedStates were developing different strategies to address the population issue.One of the most popular was to promote more births among the `fit' andthe healthy within the nation. Indeed, such births increasingly becamepolitically equated with a nation's economic and military survival. Knownas `pronatalism', this policy found some of its most forceful promoters inthe fascist countries of Spain, Italy and Germany. Here a range of incentives,including government loans, were provided to encourage higher fertilityamong the `fittest' members of society. While less extreme than thesetotalitarian regimes, many other European governments also adoptedpronatalist approaches during these years. In Sweden, for instance, theintroduction of maternity relief in 1937 aimed to increase the population.Similarly, in France special government premiums were paid to encouragecouples to have more babies. The rise in maternal and child welfareprovision during this period in countries such as Britain, France, Denmark,Sweden and the United States was essentially part of a pronatalistprogramme.

     In Europe as well as the United States the emphasis on pronatalismthwarted attempts to legalize abortion and increase access to contraceptionduring the interwar years. Many politicians and social reformers saw abortionand contraception as the equivalent of national suicide. In 1920France passed a law which prohibited the sale of contraceptives. During theSecond World War, with the German occupation of France, the collaborationistFrench Vichy government also passed laws declaring abortion to bea `crime against society, the state and the race — an act of treason punishableby death'. Similarly, in 1941 Franco's regime in Spain elevatedabortion to a crime against the state and severely restricted access tocontraception.

    The advocacy of pronatalism, however, should not be equated with anargument for the reproduction of children at any cost. In the case of NaziGermany, pronatalist policies were intrinsically tied to questions of antinatalism,the prevention of births deemed `unsuitable'. An instruction putout by Goebbels's Ministry for Propaganda highlights the belief of manypronatalists during these years: the goal is not `children at any cost', but`racially worthy, physically and mentally unaffected children of Germanfamilies'. Germany was not the only country to twin antinatalism with itspronatalist policies. During the early twentieth century, while manygovernments across Europe and in the United States were making increasingprovision for mothers and their infants and encouraging motherhood,compulsory sterilization was also gaining increasing ground.

    Some of the earliest antinatalist measures were undertaken in theUnited States, where 3,233 people were compulsorily sterilized between1907 and 1920. Among these were epileptics, the insane, and habitual orconfirmed criminals who had been incarcerated for drug addiction or sexualoffences, such as rape. By the 1920s the average rate of sterilizationhad reached between 200 and 600 per year. This shot up to 2,000 to 4,000per year after 1930. Such policies had mass appeal around the country. In1937 the American magazine Fortune reported that 37 per cent of citizensin the United States endorsed compulsory sterilization of habitual criminalsand 66 per cent were in favour of sterilizing those regarded as`mentally defective'. In 1941, 36,000 people were sterilized, and, manyfamilies facing the prospect of going on welfare feared they would besterilized.

    Sterilization was not a project confined to the United States. Sweden, forexample, pursued a rigorous sterilization policy from the interwar yearsright up to the 1970s, leading to the sterilization of 60,000 people in total.Most were those classified as mentally defective, but this category wasloosely defined so that a very wide range of people were sterilized, includingthose who were considered to be `displaying undesirable racialcharacteristics', to have poor eyesight, or to be living a vagabond life.Single mothers and habitual criminals were given no right of appealagainst sterilization. Other countries also attempted to institutethe practice. Britain, for instance, tried but failed to pass sterilization lawsin 1913 in association with its policies related to mental deficiency. Duringthe 1930s Norwegian socialists also favoured the use of sterilization, seeingit as part of a planned socialist society.

     Taken to even greater and more horrific extremes were the sterilizationmeasures implemented in Germany under National Socialism. In 1933 theNazi regime passed a Eugenic Sterilization Law which was based on theModel Sterilization Law developed by the Eugenics Record Office in theUnited States. The German law, however, went far beyond the policiesimplemented in the United States. By 1937, 225,000 people had beensterilized in Germany, almost ten times the number sterilized over theprevious 30 years in the United States. The brutal sterilization procedurealso resulted in the death of approximately 5,000 people, over 90 per centof whom were women. Over half of those sterilized were categorized as`feeble-minded' or `mentally deficient'. Many of the victims included thosesuffering from `schizophrenia, epilepsy, blindness, severe drug or alcoholaddiction, and physical deformities that seriously interfered with locomotionor were grossly offensive', or with hereditary defects. By 1939 apolicy of euthanasia had replaced sterilization, leading to the shooting ofvictims and then to the erection of gas chambers. Those killed not onlyincluded thousands of inmates from psychiatric clinics and other institutionswho were considered too old, ill or handicapped to work, but alsothose considered racially inferior, particularly Jews, gypsies and blacks.

    While the zeal for sterilization faded in the light of the Nazi atrocities, itis important to remember how popular ideas of selective breeding wereduring the interwar years. For instance, although brutal in its impact onwomen, sterilization was favoured by many feminists during this period.Margaret Sanger, for instance, who championed her cause in the hope ofenhancing women's position in society, did not see sterilization as a contradictionin her campaign. She advocated the `national sterilization' of`certain dysgenic types', whom she saw as destroying the civilized `way oflife'. Like many other social reformers in these years Sanger saw the chiefobject of birth control as being to produce `more children from the fit andless from the unfit'. It could be argued that Sanger and her fellow supporterswere merely utilizing the eugenic rhetoric of selective breeding asa convenient platform on which to build their demands for increasedaccess to contraception. However, for Sanger the eugenic language and thecall for sterilization were a powerful means of adding scientific credibilityto her calls for greater access to contraception. For Sanger the scientific criteriapromoted by eugenicists was vital not only in justifying the use of contraceptionon social and economic grounds but also in challenging themedical profession's derision.

    The eugenicists' call for sterilization was not universally accepted, however.In Britain, for instance, the eugenics movement met great resistancein its attempt to have legislation passed to allow for a comprehensivevoluntary sterilisation programme to deal with the mentally `unfit'. Thedifficulty they experienced in winning support is particularly interestinggiven the fact that during the interwar years many prominent British politicalfigures, such as Lloyd George, Eleanor Rathbone, Joseph Chamberlain,William Beveridge, Winston Churchill and Harold Macmillan, usedeugenic arguments for tactical gains. Nonetheless, voluntary sterilizationnever had much appeal to the medical and scientific community, manyof whose members argued against the eugenic premise that mentaldeficiency was inherited. As a result, individuals who wanted sterilization,particularly vasectomies, as a means of contraception within marriageoften found difficulty in finding surgeons willing to undertake the operationin Britain. Many within the working class were also hostile to the ideaof voluntary sterilization, seeing it as a measure which was primarilydirected at them. In addition the Catholic church was also strongly opposedto sterilization. Clearly, the degree to which antinatalist measures, suchas sterilization, could be undertaken depended greatly on the politicalclimate and culture of each country.


The planning of population and national security


By the 1940s the population debate had taken a new turn in the light of theDepression and the Second World War, both of which had encouragedrationalization and economic planning in countries such as Britain and theUnited States. Within this context fertility became something which manythought should be and was susceptible to planning. Much of the debatearound fertility also reflected wider beliefs about science and the rationalizationof modern life. One American family planning poster in the early1940s effectively captured the spirit:


MODERN LIFE IS BASED ON CONTROL AND SCIENCE. We control the speed of our automobile. We control machines. We endeavour to control disease and death. Let us control the size of our family to ensure health and happiness.


Significantly it was in this period that birth control became known as`family planning', primarily directed at the prevention of `unplanned' pregnancies.Within this new thinking there was a new concern about whatconstituted a healthy family.

    It was alongside ideas like these that planned families became intrinsicallytied to questions of economic and national security. As onestatement drafted by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America(PPFA) in 1940 argued:


A nation's strength does not depend upon armaments and manpower alone; it depends also upon the contentment ... of its people. To the extent that birth control contributes to the health and morale of our people, it makes them less receptive to subversive propaganda, more ready to defend our national system.

(Continues...)


Excerpted from Sexual Chemistry by Lara V. Marks. Copyright © 2001 by Lara V. Marks. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Meet the Author

Christopher McDougall is the author of Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. He began his career as an overseas correspondent for the Associated Press, covering wars in Rwanda and Angola. He now lives and writes (and runs, swims, climbs, and bear-crawls) among the Amish farms around his home in rural Pennsylvania.

Christopher McDougall is available for select readings and lectures. To inquire about a possible appearance, please contact Random House Speakers Bureau at rhspeakers@randomhouse.com or visit www.rhspeakers.com.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Born to Run 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 942 reviews.
richd484 More than 1 year ago
This is an extremely well written book. I bought this while travelling in Dublin and was impressed with every line. This is a must read for anyone who is serious about running or understanding runners. This is the sort of book that readily inspires young and old alike to rethink everything they have been taught and to just "get out there and run for the joy of the running". What a novel concept.
Harmony-babe More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put this book down. This surprised me because not only am I not a runner, I rarely am inspired to read a book all the way to the end. After hearing an interview with the author on the radio, I felt that I had to give this book a try. I am glad that I did and I am telling just about everyone I know that they should, too. The main story, the people and their stories , and the theories proposed, were all fascinating. It was an enjoyable read that I wanted to continue after the last page. Satisfying in many ways.
brandonsmarathon More than 1 year ago
Ever since I first read an article by McDougall in Men's Health about the Tarahumara, I have been fascinated with finding out more about these amazing people. With Born to Run, my appetite for knowledge of their running prowess has been kicked into overdrive. In Born to Run, McDougall weaves a Tolstoy-esque cast of characters, from running icons like Bill Bowerman to a virtually unknown and enigmatic gringo named Micah True, aka Caballo Blanco. Upon receiving this book, I was a bit wary of the pitfalls that many books of this type can fall into, yet somehow McDougall weaves a story of epic proportions while still filling your mind with the truly simple science behind why barefoot is better. Not only does McDougall come to this realization because of his extensive research, but by putting into practice all the techniques that he learns along the way. Every time I put this book down, I couldn't help but want to pick it up again, if only for one more page. The real joy and pleasure of this book, which is exactly the overriding message that lies within, is the joy of running that we have somehow managed to lose. Born to Run, through the wonderful words of Christopher McDougall made me want to put down this masterpiece only to go outside to run, like the Tarahumara, with a smile on my face
WildwomanPB More than 1 year ago
Very well written and inspirational as well as informative. I'd highly recommend to either an athlete looking for inspiration and information as well as someone looking for a good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although I am 71 and NOT a runner, I couldn't put this book down and have already given it as a gift. Having talked to many young runners about it, I have the feeling it has become a "bible" to them. The Indian tribe in the Copper Canyon that inspired the author and others run barefooted and win all their races. It was SO inspiring that I almost felt like putting on my walking shoes and getting out onto a track to actually run. Alas, that was not to be; however, as I read, I could feel the sun beating down on my head, the wind in my hair and my bare feet no longer in pain! The book also points how how the Running Shoe Industry has conned everyone into buying more and more expensive and complicated shoes in their pursuit of running faster. As a result, feet have suffered. This reminded me of the cigarette industry and how they duped the public.
kwrunner More than 1 year ago
A great overall read! McDougall carefully introduces a revolutionary running technique woven through the true stories of runners who prove it works. Both entertaining and inspiring to a wide range of runners and adds sparkle and interest to an otherwise mundane topic. Only disappointment is a few unnecessary f-words sprinkled throughout (which I find even more offensive to read than to hear.)
Jacknyc66 More than 1 year ago
My anesthesiologist recommended this book right before he put me out for my knee surgery. I thought it would be another technical read about proper running form (which it kind of is). I picked it up and started to read. I was confused at first because I was being pulled into an interesting story. With my interest peaked i tore through this read, rarely wanting to put the book down. Christopher McDougall has crafted an inspirational book that not only imparts good running technique, it makes you want to run! I was training for a triathlon before my injury and running was the part I always dreaded. After reading Born to Run I can't wait till I am out of recovery to get out in the world and run! It has changed my perception of why I am running, not to finish the third leg with blinders on, but for the wonderful experience of being there in the moment, for the shear joy of running! It's not just the joy of running but the joy of living life! I have started to employ this same idea to my daily grind, and it's not so much of a grind anymore. Since I have started finding the joy at work it has become infectious, and we are all having a more fun while working. Born to Run is also well crafted, drawing you in and keeping a steady pace. It imparts a lot of information, but never in a way that is dull or boring. I was suppressed how much I took away from this book in comparison to the library of other training books I have read. I recommend Born to Run to everyone!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love it! It is so thrilling!
KimF50 More than 1 year ago
This is a must-read for anyone who loves running or loves someone that runs.An amazing tale from the  first word to the last!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book and I have already recommended it to others as a must read. It has a fascinating story line with a few dull facts spots but in the long run, it could be a life changing book to read. At 71 I am giving it a shot, building muscle and endurance a little by little. And I really want to do this for the shear exileration of running. It is going well so far. I already feel stronger and straighter.
Giulianna Vessa More than 1 year ago
Will be Running through your mind all day! Born to Run is about Christopher McDougall’s investigative adventure into the world of running, ultra marathons, the shoe industry, and the Tarahumara Indians; a secret group of "super athletes" known for their running endurance and speed. McDougall’s whole experiment begins with the question, "How come my foot hurts?" and ends with a race between a few elite ultra-runners and the Tarahumara Indians in the Copper Canyons of Mexico. McDougall wants to become a distance runner but struggles to do so because of the countless injuries he obtains through running. He blames his physique and genetics at first but he then realizes he is not the only runner experiencing injuries. He is then inspired to research why 8 out of every 10 runners have an injury every year with what is supposed to be advanced athletic technology like 150$ shoes designed to prevent injuries and how some people like the Tarahumara Indians, run every day of their lives nearly barefoot, with no injuries. The major messages and themes are mostly about the benefits of minimalistic running, but McDougall also ties in the importance of your form, why you should eat more vegetables and less processed food, how to strength train to build non-running specific muscles and increase your resilience, and ways vary your training. “Distance running was revered because it was indispensable; it was the way we survived and thrived and spread across the planet. You ran to eat and to avoid being eaten; you ran to find a mate and impress her, and with her you ran off to start a new life together. You had to love running, or you wouldn't live to love anything else. And like everything else we love—everything we sentimentally call our "passions" and "desires"—it's really an encoded ancestral necessity. We were born to run; we were born because we run. We're all Running People, as the Tarahumara have always known.” This passage really sums up the tone and message of the book and was biggest takeaway for me; that every human being was born to run, the design being coded within our DNA. What I liked most about this book was how captivating the stories were; I forgot it was a nonfiction book at some points! It is simultaneously thrilling, historical and informative. It not only recaptures the excitement of past distance running races (like the 1995 Leadville 100), but it also tells the backstories of elite ultra-marathoners and Super Athlete Indians running through Mexico’s trechous mountains, whose stories would otherwise not be told. Being a competitive runner myself, I thought I knew everything there was to know about diet and form, but I learned something new on almost every page of the book. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in running but hasn’t started for whatever reason, to competitive runners, or anyone looking for an informational and exciting read. This book motivated and inspired me to revamp my current distance workouts through eating better and little teqniques that have already improved my form. You may even rethink wearing your supper supportive running shoes and go towards a minimalistic, more natural pair instead.
Giulianna Vessa More than 1 year ago
Born to Run is about Christopher McDougall’s investigative adventure into the world of running, ultra marathons, the shoe industry, and the Tarahumara Indians; a secret group of "super athletes" known for their running endurance and speed. McDougall’s whole experiment begins with the question, "How come my foot hurts?" and ends with a race between a few elite ultra-runners and the Tarahumara Indians in the Copper Canyons of Mexico. McDougall wants to become a distance runner but struggles to do so because of the countless injuries he obtains through running. He blames his physique and genetics at first but he then realizes he is not the only runner experiencing injuries. He is then inspired to research why 8 out of every 10 runners have an injury every year with what is supposed to be advanced athletic technology like 150$ shoes designed to prevent injuries and how some people like the Tarahumara Indians, run every day of their lives nearly barefoot, with no injuries. The major messages and themes are mostly about the benefits of minimalistic running, but McDougall also ties in the importance of your form, why you should eat more vegetables and less processed food, how to strength train to build non-running specific muscles and increase your resilience, and ways vary your training. “Distance running was revered because it was indispensable; it was the way we survived and thrived and spread across the planet. You ran to eat and to avoid being eaten; you ran to find a mate and impress her, and with her you ran off to start a new life together. You had to love running, or you wouldn't live to love anything else. And like everything else we love—everything we sentimentally call our "passions" and "desires"—it's really an encoded ancestral necessity. We were born to run; we were born because we run. We're all Running People, as the Tarahumara have always known.” This passage really sums up the tone and message of the book and was biggest takeaway for me; that every human being was born to run, the design being coded within our DNA. What I liked most about this book was how captivating the stories were; I forgot it was a nonfiction book at some points! It is simultaneously thrilling, historical and informative. It not only recaptures the excitement of past distance running races (like the 1995 Leadville 100), but it also tells the backstories of elite ultra-marathoners and Super Athlete Indians running through Mexico’s trechous mountains, whose stories would otherwise not be told. Being a competitive runner myself, I thought I knew everything there was to know about diet and form, but I learned something new on almost every page of the book. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in running but hasn’t started for whatever reason, to competitive runners, or anyone looking for an informational and exciting read. This book motivated and inspired me to revamp my current distance workouts through eating better and little teqniques that have already improved my form. You may even rethink wearing your supper supportive running shoes and go towards a minimalistic, more natural pair instead.
Giulianna_V More than 1 year ago
Born to Run is about Christopher McDougall’s investigative adventure into the world of running, ultra marathons, the shoe industry, and the Tarahumara Indians; a secret group of "super athletes" known for their running endurance and speed. McDougall’s whole experiment begins with the question, "How come my foot hurts?" and ends with a race between a few elite ultra-runners and the Tarahumara Indians in the Copper Canyons of Mexico. McDougall wants to become a distance runner but struggles to do so because of the countless injuries he obtains through running. He blames his physique and genetics at first but he then realizes he is not the only runner experiencing injuries. He is then inspired to research why 8 out of every 10 runners have an injury every year with what is supposed to be advanced athletic technology like 150$ shoes designed to prevent injuries and how some people like the Tarahumara Indians, run every day of their lives nearly barefoot, with no injuries. The major messages and themes are mostly about the benefits of minimalistic running, but McDougall also ties in the importance of your form, why you should eat more vegetables and less processed food, how to strength train to build non-running specific muscles and increase your resilience, and ways vary your training. “Distance running was revered because it was indispensable; it was the way we survived and thrived and spread across the planet. You ran to eat and to avoid being eaten; you ran to find a mate and impress her, and with her you ran off to start a new life together. You had to love running, or you wouldn't live to love anything else. And like everything else we love—everything we sentimentally call our "passions" and "desires"—it's really an encoded ancestral necessity. We were born to run; we were born because we run. We're all Running People, as the Tarahumara have always known.” This passage really sums up the tone and message of the book and was biggest takeaway for me; that every human being was born to run, the design being coded within our DNA. What I liked most about this book was how captivating the stories were; I forgot it was a nonfiction book at some points! It is simultaneously thrilling, historical and informative. It not only recaptures the excitement of past distance running races (like the 1995 Leadville 100), but it also tells the backstories of elite ultra-marathoners and Super Athlete Indians running through Mexico’s trechous mountains, whose stories would otherwise not be told. Being a competitive runner myself, I thought I knew everything there was to know about diet and form, but I learned something new on almost every page of the book. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in running but hasn’t started for whatever reason, to competitive runners, or anyone looking for an informational and exciting read. This book motivated and inspired me to revamp my current distance workouts through eating better and little teqniques that have already improved my form. You may even rethink wearing your supper supportive running shoes and go towards a minimalistic, more natural pair instead.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very well told story that injects knowledge without being overbearing.  Many folks in the barefoot movement can be quite obnoxious about it, so its nice to see the argument presented differently.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. So much great information. Inspirational for me since I love endurance sports. Highly recommend .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An absolute delight!!!! As a 65 year old, middle of the pack, marathoner, I am going back out to run barefoot - just for the fun of it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fantastic book!!! Interesting with alot of different information I couldn't put it down!
TheReadingWriter More than 1 year ago
Bleedin' great readin'. I guess the big thing about this book is that it doesn't matter if you run or not--it's still fascinating. I mean, especially if you don't run, you probably never hear of the Leadville 100, a 100-mile race through the mountains in Colorado. It's interesting to know about it, but then you add the characters that participate in it. It's a scream. Literally. I missed my subway stops on Chapter 28, which is about the evolutionary science behind long distance running and why some animals do better than others. Now, you may think, how interesting can this be? Try it and see for yourself. The part about training in the Kalahari with the Bushmen had me enthralled. I am not a runner, but I wish I was after this. In fact, I may just try it again, especially after knowing I don't have to be able to afford those expensive shoes. I do think there are some among us that are 'built' for running and the rest of us may be built for some other kind of sport, but there usually running can be incorporated into the cross training. The final race is a vision: 100 degrees in the shade, 6000 foot peaks, the Tarahumara with their white, embroidered skirts, the "pretty little witch", big-mouth Ted with his green, toed socks, and a Mexican town dressed to party...it's engrossing.
iluvvideo More than 1 year ago
Like a few others, I don't know what drew me to read this book. I'm not particularly athletic, and I'm not a runner much less a marathoner so... The book tells many stories that weave together into one fun ride (read). You learn of a 'lost' Mexican indian tribe the Tarahumara, or more correctly The Raramuri. Living peacefully in the Copper Canyon area of the Mexican desert they seem to be able to run forever. They don't have the latest running shoes, or coaches or specialized nutrition. But when they run they seem to be just gliding over the ground, with an almost blissful expression on their faces. So why do we, with all the 'advantages' continually get hurt and wind up hating running so much? You explore the 'running man' theory, how we humans were put together to run. For food, travel, but most of all survival. What role does nutrition play? Or is running more in our heads, our state of mind? What about running shoes? Helpful? The answers may surprise you. Certainly they seem to run contrary to what we're currently being told. Makes you think! We learn about the Tarahumari, who ran a few races here in the USA only to reject our competitive ways, preferring a simpler, more cooperative life of their own. What secrets might they help us uncover and allow us to enjoy running more and become healthier in the process. Caballo Blanco (The White Horse) a near mythic figure who forsook modern life to live among the Tarahumari, accepted as family, careful to preserve an almost lost way of living has a dream. What if there was a race on the Tarahumari home turf that included some of the running world's true elite performers along? A race, competitive for sure, but also a communal sharing spirit. Could it ever happen? Would it? I was very glad I read this book. I won't go so far as to say it inspired me to start jogging (or at least exercise) but it made me think in some different directions than I expected. You may as well.
Torrents More than 1 year ago
I recommend all runners and nonrunners alike read this book. It's amazing. The story is fantastic and so is the way it is presented. I feel like I understand the history of ultramarathons and almost see why someone would be crazy enough to try it. Fantastic book. I'm giving a copy to everyone I know.
Motlei More than 1 year ago
Christopher McDougall set out to discover why runners overwhelmingly get injured or hurt every year even though we have shoes with the highest technology we can afford. Along the way he discovered the statistical outliers of the ultramarathon runners and especially the Tarahumara people of the Copper Canyon - people who run in thin sandals as a way of life and do not suffer the frequent aches and ailments of the "better shod". I picked up this book because I had been turned on to the concept of barefoot running as a possible solution to my constant knee pain when running. The book conversationally describes the author's search for an answer woven into the story of his introduction to a man named Caballo Blanco and an ultramarathon race with the "Running People" of Copper Canyon. I found the book to be an interesting, entertaining, and inspiring read and I encourage others that found themselves no longer enjoying their regular runs because of an ache or two that seems to nag at them to read this book and think about exchanging your running style instead of exchanging running for a different sport.
springfieldHI More than 1 year ago
really, really helped with my running mechanics, and inspiration
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the book!!! Even tried barefoot running! Must read for any runner!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would recommend this book as an intriguing selection for anyone interested in anthropology, running or the quirks of human nature. McDougall's narrative cooks right along and keeps you turning pages to find out how the race turns out. His treatment of the characters is respectful and insightful and creates a desire in the reader to go out and push your body to it's limits just to see what you are capable of. A truly enjoyable story!
Dan_Bauer More than 1 year ago
This book is great on so many levels: writing style, humor, research, a quest for self-awareness, what makes humans unique, sports, marketing, spiritual, physiology, even anthropology. It's all wrapped in this engaging ball of a ture yarn. The most engaging part is the cast of characters: from the mysterious to the eccentric to college kids gone wild. This book should be on every bestseller's list. Hunter S. Thompson's biographer should be Christopher McDougall. The only thing missing: illustrations of THE race. But even there, the cover entices the imagination and the author paints vivid images of people, races and our past. Even a nonrunner like myself (a contradiction based on the title alone) thinks this should be on everyone's list of must-reads.