I decided to pick up a copy of Born to Run off of Ebay while I was browsing and looking to spend my "Ebay Bucks." I am certainly glad i did, as this book really motivated me to run while I have been trying to get fit.
The book is a non-fiction tale focused on ultra-marathoners, meaning runs of 50 miles or more in one sitting. At first this seems completely insane, but as the book progresses, they mention a 50 miler, and it seems like an off-hand comment. I have struggled running 3 miles, but while I was reading the book, I felt that I could eventually run 50 too!
One of the most interesting characters was Caballo Blanco, an American who winds up living with the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico. They are a completely separate civilization from the rest of Mexico, located in the Copper Canyons of Mexico. These people are not plagued by the modern pains of society, such as cancer, divorce, drug use, among other things. Everyone in their society runs enormous distances, equal to ultra-marathons on a regular basis, even their oldest members. Also they wear sandals that are basically barefoot and eat a meager diet that consists of mainly vegetables and grains. Here is a Tarahumara tribe member running with another character in the book, Scott Jurek, a world class runner.
The entire book is inspirational, and really wants to make you get out there and run. Some of the most interesting topics were regarding marathon speed distributions based on age. Your peak marathon time is roughly 27 years old, however your speed at 19 and 65 should be roughly the same, and the slope from 19 to 27 mirrors that of 27 to 65.
Another topic that I found fascinating was the idea that humans evolved to be runners. This was the only way we could compete with the other animals of our time. Ever try to outrun your dog? You can't in the short term, but as it runs longer and longer, it tires out, and needs to exhale the heat through its mouth, as they can not sweat out of their skin. Our ability to sweat was what put us over the edge, evolutionarily speaking. There is even a tribe in Africa that still occasionally out-runs animals, all the way until the actually die by exhaustion, CRAZY!
Another interesting topic was regarding barefoot running. The human foot is designed to run, it is designed perfectly. Fancy shoes with shocks end up causing more injuries than running barefoot. There is almost no benefit to the shoes Nike puts out, except the value for the shareholders, and the aesthetic look. Vibram Five Fingers are a new craze, pictured below, which mimic barefoot running, while giving you the protection that we are used to.
There are many other nuggets in this book that are worth reading. Also the story of Caballo Blanco is built up over the course of the book and is revealed at the end. Finally the author who catalogs his progress based on his investigative journalism is an interesting and motivating story, because he too completes the culminating ultra-marathon.