Book Review: Born to Run

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

I read this book last year, and it helped jump start my training for the half-marathons I ran.  I’ve been lacking in motivation to start training again, so I re-read this book, and in spite of the bad light that is being cast on bare-foot running, I thought I would share my honest, un-solicited opinion.  This book is non-fiction, and a great read.  There aren’t many non-fiction books I would label, “page turner,” but this book kept me intrigued and racing to the last page.  The author chronicled his journey and research about running and preventing running injuries.

His path took him through the Copper Canyon mountains in Mexico to a tribe that has remained fairly unattached from the modern day.  This tribe of Tarahumara Indians have running contests for distance and speed, the longest recorded runner, 453 miles in one race!  The author was invited to view the contest, and he organized his own contest with some of the fastest, ultra-runners in the U.S.  The Indians were able to keep pace, and even surpass most of the U.S. runners. Ultra runners run distances beyond a marathon, typically 50-100 miles.

The part I enjoyed reading was the research he conducted about avoiding running injuries, and the fact that our bodies have evolved to allow us to run long distances.

Why is this book connected with the barefoot running phenomenon?  The author spent a great amount of time discussing the development of shoes, and the injuries that runners are prone to.  One of my favorite paragraphs is, “Take any other sport, and an injury rate like mine would classify me as defective.  In running, it makes me normal.  The real mutants are the runners who don’t get injured.  Up to eight out of every ten runners are hurt every year.  It doesn’t matter if you’re heavy or thin, speedy or slow, a marathon champ or a weekend huffer, you’re just as likely as the other guy to savage your knees, shins, hamstrings, hips, or heels.  Next time you line up for a Turkey Trot, look at the runners on your right and left: statistically, only one of you will be back for the Jingle Bell Jog.”

He cited a research study conducted by Bernard Marti, M.D., a preventative-medicine specialist at Switzerland’s University of Bern.  This study concluded that the most expensive shoes are more likely to cause injury than the cheapest shoes.  The research accounted for weight, speed, training schedules, and training surface.  The injury rate was most correlated with the price of the shoe, “Runners in shoes that cost more than $95 were more than twice as likely to get hurt as runners in shoes that cost less that $40.”  The author cited several college track coaches with barefoot training regimens.  This allows the foot to react to the impact and correct running stride and plant without injury.  The author quoted Barefoot Ken Bob, “Shoes block pain, not impact! Pain teaches us to run comfortably! From the moment you start going barefoot, you will change the way you run.”

The book also discussed that running used to be our first line of defense, around cave man times.  He states, “This was the real secret of the Tarahumara: they’d never forgotten what it felt like to love running.  They remember that running was mankind’s first fine art, our original act of inspired creation….But the American approach–ugh.  Rotten at its core.  It was too artificial and grabby, Vigil believed, too much about getting stuff and getting it now: medals, Nike deals, a cute butt.  It wasn’t art; it was business, a hard-nosed quid pro quo.  No wonder so many people hated running; if you thought it was only a means to an end–an investment in becoming faster, skinnier, richer–then why stick with it if you weren’t getting enough quo for your quid?”

He explained the art of running like the Tarahumara, “Lesson one…’Don’t fight the trail’…’Lesson two, think easy, light, smooth, and fast.'”

I was able to find my joy for running again.  After having my second baby, I struggled to get back in shape and increase my running distance. I bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers to try on my own, wondering if this was all just hype.  My experience taught me that this works for me.  I remember running other races and seeing my fellow contestants in the five finger shoes and wondering how on earth they could run 13.1 miles without any support.  I used to buy only Adidas because they offered the best arch support.  Well, I love my Five Finger shoes.  I ran a marathon in a pair of Nike, and I had to tape my knees, my arches, and my baby toe (which is consistently broken).  I felt like I was prepping for a battle.  Last year, weighing roughly the same amount, and with about the same training, I ran 3 half-marathons, one month after another.  I didn’t have to tape anything, I increased my speed, and I had faster recovery.  I was also 2 years older than when I ran my marathon.  Yes, a marathon is longer, but I couldn’t have run 3 half-marathons as quickly as I did if I had been taping like I was.

Of course, I should also explain that my husband tried a pair of Vibram Five Finger shoes and he didn’t like them at all.  Even the author of the book ran the Copper Canyon race in a pair of regular running shoes, he didn’t venture to try running barefoot.  Many other runners, ultrarunners, and the like still prefer a regular shoe. It’s a personal choice.  Use what works best for you.

My advice, get out and start running.  Find the love of running, not for a cute butt, or skinny legs, just because it brings peace of mind and joy.

Check back next week to read my Couch to 5k training schedule, and my tips for enjoying long distance running.

To buy your copy of Born to Run, click here.

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Today’s Mother’s May Highlight: Deanne Koecher.

mothers may deanne koecher

Deanne was nominated by her daughter, Lisa Benson.

Here’s what Lisa said about her mom.

“My mom is an incredible example of hope, persistence, and faith.  She has five children, 4 boys, and one perfect girl, me. :-)

She has lost a lot in her short life, but she continues to move forward with a positive attitude, energizing those around her.  My mom and dad were married for 36 years when my dad passed away.  This was just over a year after my brother went missing.  My brother, Steven Koecher, disappeared in December 2009.  We still have no clues to explain what happened to Steven and even if he is still alive.

Just a few months after my dad passed away, my mom’s dad passed away.  She had a lot to deal with at the time, but she continued to move forward and share her faith with the rest of us.  She is truly an example of love and trusting in the Lord’s plan.

She is an incredible grandmother and loves being with all her grandchildren.  Even though I don’t live near my mom, my girls know their Oma, and love being with her.  She has been so supportive of me and my husband’s plans.  She travels to see us, and makes time when we come to visit her. ”

mothers may deanne and lisa

I’ve been best friends with Lisa since high school, and I have always been inspired by Deanne’s example.  She is always so loving and supportive of me as well.  I always feel very comfortable and welcome in her presence.

Share some love with Deanne by leaving an encouraging comment!  Nominate your favorite mom here.  We still have two weeks left for nominations, and your chance to win the incredible giveaway!

About Anne Banks

Hi, I'm Anne! I am an active learner on this crazy road called life. I love learning about anything, but currently spend most of my study time researching parenting tips and improving health. I get excited about crafting, reading, running, baking, and spending time with my three crazy boys (in no particular order, and sometimes at the same time)! I love sharing what helps me get through the day, and I hope my tips help you!

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