My Thoughts on “Born to Run”

BornToRunThis post isn’t so much a review as it is merely an attempt to collate my thoughts regarding Born to Run. Reading and I have had a notoriously strained relationship throughout my life. I doubt I read so much as a third of the novels I was supposed to throughout high school. So when my brother got me Born to Run as a Christmas present back in 2012, I had my doubts if I’d ever actually get around to reading it. After all, plenty of other books languished on my bookshelf, growing ever dustier.

Even when I enjoy a book, getting through is still a struggle for my poor attention span. It took me months of sporadic reading to finally finish World War Z (if you’re a zombie fan, I recommend it), the last book I read before Born to Run. When I finally decided to dive into the Christopher McDougall novel, I figured it might end up being much of the same. For having run all these years, I knew rather little about ultrarunning, major focus of the book, and I had doubts I would even find the novel interesting. But Born to Run proved to be exactly what I needed.

Sometimes, your enjoyment of something simply comes down to your own personal resonance with the plot or characters. You can respect a well-crafted work, but at the same feel no emotional connection. Take the film Into the Wild as an example. I think most people would agree it’s a well-done, well-acted film. However, if you think Christopher McCandless was a crass, naïve fool, then you probably hated it. For the record, I do empathize with his story and Into the Wild is among my favorite films. It’s also one of very books in which I became totally engrossed and finished rather quickly.

Add Born to Run to that list. I read it in about two weeks, which by my standards, is a hundred meter sprint. I didn’t expect to get so caught up in the narrative, the philosophy and the characters, but there were times when I honestly could not put it down. As I said, oftentimes our enjoyment boils down to emotional resonance. Needless to say, Born to Run got to me on an emotional level. And after a whole year’s worth of injuries, but more importantly a lack of conviction, this book galvanized me into finally screwing my head on right.

Before I go totally singing its praises, I will say that McDougall does get a tad self-indulgent at times and parts of his come off almost like a commercial advocating for minimalist running. Then again, he sorts all sorts of studies and findings, so his claims certainly seem warranted. Furthermore, a large portion of the text is dedicated to covering how we as humans evolved as running animals. We are literally born to run. Our ability to cover huge distances at steady speeds is a crown jewel of our species. Hell, it’s actually possible, over a sufficiently long distance, for humans to outrace horses. So while McDougall comes down hard on big corporations like Nike—and, hell, running shoes in general—he kind of has a point.

In the end, it all comes down to what you love. The Tarahumara tribe, the incredible ultrarunners extensively discussed in Born to Run, simply loves to run. It’s a past-time. A fun activity. A bonding experience. And a way to test their limits. But such attitudes are not limited to isolated tribes like the Tarahumara. Even in the comfy world in which many of us live, there are still so many warriors. We may not be out hunting animals to exhaustion anymore, though in a way we still are. We’re fighting against the beasts within ourselves, and there are few betters ways to conquer those beasts-those demons—than by exhausting them into submission on a good, long run.

I guess you could say I’d fallen out of love with running. If I’d still been in love with it, I would’ve done everything I could’ve to get back out on the roads and trails. Instead, I sat on my ass, gained ten pounds and perhaps even lost the right to call myself a runner. But seeing the passion of those featured in Born to Run and forcing myself to do some painful inner examination—as well as forcing myself to do rehabilitation work and increase my overall body strength—has reinvigorated me. My goal for this summer is to truly become a runner once more. But I will not force myself to fall in love with it again. That’s the kind of thing that just has to happen. I’m well on my way, though, and Born to Run is partially to thank. I highly recommend it to runners of any level, or just about anyone looking for a good read.

No more excuses for me. It’s time I did what I was born to do.

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