On The Page: Born To Run

I’m way behind the curve on this one. When it came out in 2011, Born To Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race The World Has Never Seen started showing up on Amazon as a recommended book for me (and on Goodreads and on friends reading queues) but I just ignored it. A month ago, I finally read it.

After reading, I took to Twitter and talked it over with with several running friends. One of them summed it up perfectly: “Do not read that book near the internet or you will sign up for a 50k and order yourself some Vibram Five Fingers while you’re at it.” It’s true. Despite Vado’s insistence that a traditional road marathon isn’t the same community as in the Ultra world, I still latched on to the idea of running a marathon. As we speak, I’m putting together my projected training and race schedule for the next, oh, year. (You know, amid climbing a few 14ers now that I’m a Colorado resident.)

The whole idea of marathoning, or ultra-marathoning aside, Born To Run was great read for anyone interested in running whether you like 50ks or 5ks. Learning about the Tarahumara, natives of Mexico’s Copper Canyons, was really interesting to me especially after hearing Forrest’s stories of traveling in the region. The way Mcdougall approached the subject through his own struggles with running injuries was also fascinating—the book is incredibly hopeful about our abilities to run long distances, that it is part of our humanity:

“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.”

As I was running the other day, this passage came back to me. It’s such simple advice about running:

“‘Think Easy, Light, Smooth, and Fast. You start with easy, because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don’t give a shit how high the hill is or how far you’ve got to go. When you’ve practiced that so long you forget you’re practicing, you work on making it smooooooth. You won’t have to worry about the last one—you get those three, and you’ll be fast.'”

If you decide to read Born To Run and then sign up for a race, give me a shout…perhaps I’ll join you.

Further reading:

Caballo Blanco’s Last Run: The Micah True Story” by Barry Bearak, New York Times; May 20, 2012.

Colorado’s Most Amazing and Punishing (and Magical) Race” by Christopher Mcdougall, 5280, June 2005.