I don’t know if I have ever done this, but you need to stop whatever you’re doing — reading this while continuing to facepage, perhaps — and go out to buy “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes and the Greatest Race No One has Ever Seen” by Christopher McDougall.
Written in a crisp, lightning-paced voice, it follows the story of several ultrarunners — those crazy people who race 100 miles through the burning desert because, well, they can. But it goes much, much deeper than that, tracing the human’s evolution into the most running-efficient being to ever grace the planet. Yes, sure, cheetahs and lions and gazelles are pretty damn fast runners. A human could never keep up in a sprint. But the book delves into how humans naturally evolved into running and breathing machines that could, quite literally, run an animal to death in order to capture food and how today’s generation of fat, lazy, Twinkie-eating people have fallen so far from their marathon-capable pasts.
While the story really sparkles in the telling of several ultra-distance events — you will not be able to put down the chapters on a Rocky Mountain 100-mile race or the ultimate duel in the Mexican canyonlands with the Tarahumara people — what I find incredibly fascinating were the passages on the evolution of our feet, our breathing style and our running styles. The book makes a convincing argument for barefoot running and how humans don’t need fancy running shoes at all — and, in fact, could actually be hurt by fancy running shoes. As someone who is training for his first triathlon — that photo is the sand ladder I will have to climb at mile 5 in the run portion — I’m curious enough to keep investigating these theories and try out new running styles.
I don’t want to make this review too long, but I did want to hammer home the idea that the race sequences are written by a true professional — someone who knows how to turn a phrase, yes, but also by someone who really knows about running and did the research in order to tell it truly to the laymen. I can’t recommend this book enough — for the avid runner or just someone interested in how and why humans ultimately became what they became: runners.