Born to Run By Christopher McDougall
Release date: 06th February, 2010
Publisher: Profile Books
Our Price: £8.49
You Save: £9.5 (52%)
Born to Run
By Christopher McDougall
Sports book of the month.com price: £8.49, saving 50% on rrp
The opening chapter of Born to Run reads much like the start of a particularly good thriller. Our hero, apparently bereft of fresh ideas, stumbles upon a down-at-heel hotel where he slumps into a dusty, ancient sofa. He is frustrated, hot and bothered because the never warm trail on the Caballo Blanco (the White Horse), an elusive phantom of a man he seeks has, once again, gone cold.
Author Christopher McDougall is in Mexico's Sierra Madre when he enters "the lobby of an old hotel on the edge of a dusty desert town." The reader half expects Clint Eastwood to walk in and the music from 'A Fistful of Dollars' to rear up in the background. He doesn't, but it wouldn't feel out of place if he did; already, you can feel the intense strength of Mexico's beating, unforgiving, sun.
To call Born to Run a well-paced book is an understatement; sports books are rarely page-turners, but McDougall's tale is so engrossing and so well written, it is perfectly possible to read it inside a single day.
The author successfully manages to interweave a series of different elements and themes to his story, each of which he wraps up and presents as a hugely enjoyable single package.
First, he builds to a crescendo-inducing fifty-mile foot race contested over some of the world's most inhospitable terrain, a story in itself, but peppered with a list characters any thriller writer would swap his replica Magnum for.
There's the ultra-marathon runners Jenn and the Bonehead, an unlikely pair who warm up for a race by downing a few beers. Then there's Barefoot Ted, an almost inevitable clutch of Mexican drug dealers, a former boxer, a heartbroken father, and of course the native (and mystic) Tarahumara tribe, the world's most accomplished long-distance runners.
Second is the one single factor which differentiates Born to Run from 95% of sports books: it is an outstandingly well-written story. McDougall is a former war correspondent who knows how to construct a tight, informative, sentence. His writing is as good as you're going to discover in this genre.
Third is McDougall's increasingly persuasive theory that humans are born to run.
Man, he suggests, did not suddenly invent those Starship Enterprise- style treadmills to accompany thumping, finger-pointing, disco music at over-populated gyms. Instead, he asserts that running is an integral part of being alive.
As he elaborates on this clever, mind-expanding, theory, McDougall asks (and then answers) several pertinent questions. Why, he wonders, did our ancestors outlive the stronger Neanderthals? And why do expensive running shoes increase the odds of us incurring an injury? His well-considered responses have the reader nodding furiously in agreement.
Finally, and this is great news to those of us who run on in the apparently mistaken knowledge that without pain, there can be no gain, is the author's salvation for runners everywhere.
The process of running, says McDougall, should not be an exercise in gritted-teeth determination, but one of sheer joy. Modern running, with its spray-on outerwear (not, you will have noticed, suited to every casual runner) and expensive, thick-soled shoes, has lost sight of what it should be - a sociable activity, not a chore to be endured.
It's a fine thesis, fantastically well presented and provides ample food for thought for those of us determined to make running more enjoyable. Read this and it will almost certainly become so.
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