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.

2 Replies to “On The Page: Born To Run”

  1. My husband wants to run a marathon this year. I might join in. I found that book really helpful to read because I had already signed up for a marathon, and it gave me hope that I might be able to finish it.

  2. In 2001 I decided I would run for my health. being a heavy fat guy I was not light or fast. I certainly was not pretty!! But to my total surprise I found that I could start running and just keep running. Of course a block was hard, then a mile was hard then a 5 K was hard then a 10K was hard. In fact I am not sure there is a limit on what my body will do, my mind got bored long before the body had to quit. I set my goal at a marathon. I raced many 5k and 10ks–very slowly i might add. I set my goal of a 1/2 marathon. No problem. I ran it to fast (for me) so I was tired. I decided it was too late to run a marthon that summer so I put it off to the next summer. Running in the winter in anchorage is a challenge!! But I was up to it. Every month I ran a LSD (Long Slow Distance) day of twenty miles. It was along a marked trail so I know it was 20 miles. In between were lots of runs of anywhere from 6-15 miles. In Early summer i ran my second 1/2 marathon. No problem! In August I ran a full marathon in 5 hours, 20 minutes–nearly twice the time of the winner of the race. Of course I was tired, but I was not done. I could easily have kept going. My 20 year old son ran with me and he wasn’t prepared. his longest run till then was 15 miles with me and he would not have finished if I hadn’t been there to pace him.

    After that I totally lost my motivation! I kept doing short runs in the neighborhood, but no more long runs. I realized that without a challenge I lost interest and the only other challenge was Ultra races. I seriously considered a 50 K, I know I could easily have done it.

    In 2006 I had knee surgery for a miniscus tear , the doc said if I kept running the likelyhood of it returning even worse went up dramatically. So I switched to walking a lot. That’s good but even with that the tear is returning. It’s very mild but I know it is the same thing coming back. I am very careful with it and have learned what it likes and doesn’t like and baby it. Hopefully it will last me the rest of my life okay.

    I understand the call of distance running. There is something so primal about just start running and don’t stop for mile after mile, eating up country and distance. I read all the books and magazines and one thing I did was to walk 100 paces every mile. So at each mile marker I stopped running and counted out 100 steps at a normal walk, then started running agian. The difference in time is minimal but it gives your legs and knees a break. Another thing you will need to do is learn to eat while you run. Some people struggle with digesting while running. You have no body fat reserves so you MUST add glucose to avoid the infamous wall. Figure 100 calories a mile for 26 miles. That;s 2600 calories. Where is that all going to come from? Gels are great . I also ate Snickers candy bars. I knew people who ate boiled potatoes (instant glucose and easily digested). The key is a high glycemic index.

    Enjoy and keep us posted! I was in Leadville as a campground host when the Leadville 100 went through. They used my campground as an aid station. I was so jealous!! maybe you need to set a goal of running in it in 2-3 years! BUT, don’t hurry, you are so young, go slow and make it something you do for the rest of your life

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