Saturday, June 26, 2010

Run Through the Jungle

So this will be the first Running is for Crazy People book review. And what makes me qualified to review someone else’s work? Their art? Their knowledge? Absolutely nothing. But when has that ever stopped me? Never.

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, and the Greatest Race the World has Ever Seen.
By Christopher McDougall

Synopsis taken from Christopher McDougall’s website:

Full of incredible characters, amazing athletic achievements, cutting-edge science, and, most of all, pure inspiration, Born to Run is an epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt? In search of an answer, Christopher McDougall sets off to find a tribe of the world’s greatest distance runners and learn their secrets, and in the process shows us that everything we thought we knew about running is wrong.

Isolated by the most savage terrain in North America, the reclusive Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s deadly Copper Canyons are custodians of a lost art. For centuries they have practiced techniques that allow them to run hundreds of miles without rest and chase down anything from a deer to an Olympic marathoner while enjoying every mile of it. Their superhuman talent is matched by uncanny health and serenity, leaving the Tarahumara immune to the diseases and strife that plague modern existence. With the help of Caballo Blanco, a mysterious loner who lives among the tribe, the author was able not only to uncover the secrets of the Tarahumara but also to find his own inner ultra-athlete, as he trained for the challenge of a lifetime: a fifty-mile race through the heart of Tarahumara country pitting the tribe against an odd band of Americans, including a star ultramarathoner, a beautiful young surfer, and a barefoot wonder.

With a sharp wit and wild exuberance, McDougall takes us from the high-tech science labs at Harvard to the sun-baked valleys and freezing peaks across North America, where ever-growing numbers of ultrarunners are pushing their bodies to the limit, and, finally, to the climactic race in the Copper Canyons. Born to Run is that rare book that will not only engage your mind but inspire your body when you realize that the secret to happiness is right at your feet, and that you, indeed all of us, were born to run.

For me, this book was about the discovery of the art of running. What our bodies are capable of. And that we are all capable of pretty much the same thing…we can run. Some of us faster than others. But we can all run. Honestly, what other sport out there can a 19 yr old compete with a 60 yr old? And the 60 yr old has a really good chance of coming in first? Not on the football field. Or basketball court. Or anywhere else for that matter. But running. Running is a different game altogether. Why? Because we are all Born to Run.

We were born to run in the simplest of ways. Put one foot in front of the other. No high tech running shoes. Or high tech watches. Or high tech anything. Just run. I love this concept. Just run.

Now, I had no intention of joining the barefoot craze when I started reading this. Or the minimal shoe craze for that matter. But I did stop and think about it. I did stop and think about my form. How could I improve it? How could I stay injury free? After reading this book, how could you not? I am also not on the “I hate big shoe companies” bandwagon. Nor am I rushing out to buy a pair of Vibrams (although I did think about it. And probably will eventually). But I did switch to a lighter shoe. A shoe that forces me to get off my heels. To run more naturally. It’s interesting really. My calves were killing me in the beginning because I was using muscles I had NEVER used before. But my feet felt amazing. And my shins! Oh my shins have never felt better. Now my toe, my crock pot toe…that’s another story altogether.

And Ulramarathons. I’ve never even given them a second thought before. Now I read everything I can about them. It's fascinating that our bodies will let us run for that long. Fascinating.

And Scott Jurek. I think I have found a new hero to add to my list. (Jeff calls him my new boyfriend and I don’t argue). What an amazing athlete. And man. He has me rethinking everything I put into my body. He actually made being a Vegan look desirable. What? I know, it’s crazy.

And the Tarahumara. Such an amazing group of people. We can all learn so much from them - runners and non-runners alike. Besides...who else could bring back the popularity of the chia seed? I haven’t heard this much chia talk since the 80’s. And then we were just growing them as pets.

This book is a must read for ALL runners. Novice to Elite. It will change everything. Go out and buy it now…

I have to go now…must read this book a second time. And take notes. And underline. And change my life.

Daily Mantra:

Just run.

(Now, besides my Dad, who else got my “Run through the Jungle” reference? Nobody? Come on people.)

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