Born to Run
I'm having a really hard time finding the words for this review.
I think I should start by saying I don't do "inspiring" books, or sports movies of any kind. I think it's because of the same reason I never give pep talks to patients. I find it sounds corny and fake, and it reeks of self-importance. Which is probably the reason I connected with this book on such a deep level.
After injuring himself repeatedly while running, Christopher McDougall did some research and heard about the Tarahumara, a lost tribe in the Mexican Barrancas del Cobre, who happen to be the world's greatest athletes - they run up to 200 miles in the blistering heat, in handmade sandals, just for fun. He decided to track them down, and eventually was able to contact Caballo Blanco, a mysterious American who has lived among the Tarahumara for years. This ends up leading to a 50-mile race along the Copper Canyons, populated by a band of distance runners so wacky and diverse it seems too good to be true.
Now, this is how the book has been marketed, and that's what happens in it, mostly. But the whole "gonzo reporter finds lost tribe of superrunners and learns their secrets" scenario leaves out the fact that ultrarunning is, actually, a legitimate sport. Well, it's not exactly popular or respected, but it's definitely a thing, even beyond Tarahumara borders. This means that, almost from the beginning, McDougall sets out on a series of apparent detours. The Tarahumara storyline is abandoned for a good part of the book, and instead what ensues is a multilayered, panoramic view on everything surrounding running - the stories of the people who would go on to participate in the Copper Canyon Ultramarathon are intertwined with chapters on vegan diet, evil shoe companies and evolutionary biology.
But the most important thing about it (or, at least, what really makes this book different and real) is that it all happens on the outskirts of the official sports scene. These supermen are the underdogs. There's a feeling of purity and amateurishness to it all, like these people have no expectations put on them, no sponsors, no inherited knowledge to accept or question. They've invented a sport from scratch, and only now are they realizing they're in fact rediscovering a long lost art.
What I mean is, Born to Run reads more like a runner's personal journey of discovery than it does like, say, a special issue of Runner's World. It isn't a testosterone packed instructional book, but a heartfelt ode to endurance and zen running - that beautiful feeling of recovering the awareness of your own body and the boundaries of your own skin.
It's epic joy. EPIC JOY. Can joy even be epic? Anyway, it's pure joy, and it's epic, so it's epic joy.
I have never been so inspired by a book in my whole life. I've rarely been more exhilarated, either. It may actually have changed my life, though it's too soon to tell. For now, this morning I ran barefoot for the first time (4 km, no pain, absolutely LOVED it) and I'm already training for the marathon next April. Half-marathon really, potentially marathon. We'll see.