Book Notes: Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I am runner. I didn’t start until age 50, so I am making up for lost time. I just finished a fascinating book on running by Christopher McDougall. It is called Born to Run. At the end of this post, I will tell you how to get a copy free.

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McDougall begins his book with the question that almost all recreational runners inevitably ask, “Why does my foot hurt?” I have personally suffered through bouts of plantar fasciitis and a pulled Achilles tendon. What I didn’t realize until I read this book is that 70% of all recreational runners will experience at least one running injury every year.

In McDougall’s case, his doctors told him he should stop running. According to them, he wasn’t really built for the sport and should consider doing something else to stay in shape. He didn’t really like that answer, so he embarked on a quest to see if he couldn’t solve his problem.

Over the next several months, he interviewed endurance runners, sports physiologists, and even anthropologists. He also discovered the Tarahumara Indians of northern Mexico’s Copper Canyon. These indigenous people are renown for their ability to run long distances—often 50–200 miles at a time! It is not unusual for them to run into old age, some even running into their nineties. Yet, they rarely experience running injuries and seem to love traversing extreme terrain.

In stark contrast, he took an objective look at modern runners and, in particular, the modern running industry. What he discovers is startling. For example:

  • 25% of all the bones in your body are in your foot. It is an engineering marvel, unrivaled in the animal world.
  • Running injuries were essentially unknown until the invention of the modern running shoe in 1972.
  • Not only is there a direct correlation between running shoes and running injuries, the more expensive the shoe, the more likely you will be injured.

The solution that McDougall discovers is at once both simple and obvious. I won’t give it away in this review because it is in large part the focus of the book. Let’s just say that it has turned my running world upside down. I have realized that most of what I believed about running was completely wrong-headed.

Thanks to the good people at Knopf Publishers, I have 24 copies of the book to give away. To get a chance at snagging one, you must take the following two actions:

  1. Leave a comment below. Tell me why you want this book. C’mon: be creative.
  2. Fill out your shipping information in the special form I have set up for this book.

On Wednesday, I will select 24 people, based solely on my arbitrary and subjective evaluation of their comments. If you are one of those selected, I will notify you via email. If you don’t hear from me, you can assume you didn’t make the cut.

Warning: If you are offended by rough language, this book is not for you.

Question: Why do you want this book? (You know you do!)
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  • Eva Lowry

    Two words……ZOLA BUDD……I want to be fast….injury free… touch with the earth… run until I die!!!!

  • jim schmotzer

    ok, so i have been a recreational runner for 30+ years and the injuries have mounted up the last few. PT visits and time off are becoming too regular. soinds like i need to read this book.

  • Pingback: Barefoot Running Intro Resources — mike goldsworthy

  • Andrew Decker

    I have just finished reading the book over the weekend. It truly is a "must read" if one considers themselves to be a runner. This is why I would love to have a copy of the book: My daughter is a Freshman taking track at Syracuse University and she wanted to read this book but I had the library copy. She is on the track team and I feel she needs to know the information revealed in the book and possible share it with her coaches if they would be receptive to it. I also have a friend who has completed several marathons and again, this is MUST reading. I myself only read the book because a fellow running friend told me how fascinating it is.

    I have the habit of sharing a particulary good book with those whom I feel would benefit from it. There is the double pleasue of not only knowing that the other party will enjoy it as much as I but also then having the pleasure of a "shared experience" later on in discussing it with them, much like you do with your blog. If I was given a copy that is what I intend to do– pass it around. THanks for your kind offer.

  • Martin Novom

    My physician told me about the book and the shoes. I am 61 years old and a very active person. I told him that I had really enjoyed running but that I had inured my knee and had stopped running about a year ago. jHe suggested that I read the book. He was convinced I would be able to start running again.

  • Ed Norton

    Last week, while picking two books fro my 10 year old, I picked up “Born to Run”; I’m an ex runner (cross country in college, one marathon…could run all day many moons ago ), stopped due to knee inuries years ago, have been rowing over the past ten years, biking in the last two months, wondering about getting back to running,. I opened the book to check it out…opened to somewhere in the midsection, when the author is talking about diet with this woman who is rated top woman athlete in the country after taking up running after being diagnosed with cancer….wait a minute, I was just diagnosed a month ago (colon cancer–I’m 51 caught in screening) she’s talking about this super corn, ultra running, 300% difference in cancer reoccurance…I’m saying to myself I picked this book up for a reason…..but i had promised two books to my son who just got an all A (basically ) report card, I was pretty much broke, and put the book down to buy another day. Tonite I come home to research this pecole corn for its anti cancer qualities, but I forgot the name “pecole”, so I googled “Born to Run” the book, and came up with your blog, referencing it…….. its all in the stars baby; love to get a copy gratis from you and your gracious supplier….can’t believe the coincidence. Thanx, have fun Edzo from Boston

  • the-arc

    Humans aren't born to run; deer and horses run within hours of birth, human infants take more than a year or two and must be carried, since they can't cling. Our endurance running stems from the same source as endurance walking, endurance cycling, endurance swimming, a ground dwelling omnivorous ancestors who evolved capable breath-hold seafood-forage-diving and backfloating at tropical lagoons and beachcombing/wading/walking and jogging along rougher waters between optimal lagoons. Note that all marathoners must have plentiful water and electrolites along the route and struggle through high humidity where sweat cooling doesn't work well, not a problem at seashores. Before horses, dogs and crops were domesticated and boats, TV, computers developed, people were far more physically active habitually, seashores provided the perfect natural firm pathway for endless jogging, swimming and shore cave cliff climbing. The Tarahumara have simply maintained this at a higher altitude in the absence of a horse/auto culture while their lowland floodplain neighbors have joined the global diabetes-obesity-automobile-'modern' lifestyle.

  • Dove

    If you have anymore, I'd love a copy of this book :) I had to stop running a few years ago, and it's taken its toll on my legs. No other exercise compares when it comes to getting strong, gorgeous legs. But I was told if I didn't stop, I'd be risking my knees… Hoping this book has the secret, as to how to avoid harming my body and still getting to do this joyous activity.

    I do believe we were "born to run." If not, why would it feel so good afterward :) Why would our bodies/legs look so good from doing so… In fact, I think human beings were meant to do whatever they can bring themselves to truly believe they can do. Seems like a no-brainer that if something makes one feel so good, look so good, be so much healthier in doing it… that they were meant to do it.

    And this reasoning that we are not meant to run just because we don't start running right out of the womb… we also don't walk right out of the womb, were we not meant to walk either? :) *picturing people crawling into work* lol

    Since sitting is what most of us do, most of the time, maybe that's an indicator of what we are meant to do? On the other hand, since so many of us are dying at about half the age we should be, maybe not so much.

    I say, run baby run ;)

  • Frank Chimento

    I'm out of integrity due to difficulty in sticking to a running plan… because I guess I've become injury prone and that is completely knew and foreign to me. You see, I'm a peak performance coach and I made a commitment that I would run my first marathon before my 40th birthday, which just passed. I didn't honor my commitment and now I will have to re-arrange all my belief systems as a result. There is no failure in life, just feedback, outcomes and results and all the feedback I have received is that I missed my mark.

    I grew up running cross-country and could run for days and in '93 I moved to Nashville, TN to work for your company… and stopped running. Additionally, my wonderful, certified personal-trainer wife of eleven years just cannot comprehend me as a "runner."

    I will run that marathon.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I didn't START running until I was 50. It's never to late to start—or re-start!

  • P.J. Murphy

    I fear I've found this site too late, but here's why I'd like to receive a copy of "Born to Run'

    I'd like to share it with my dad. I'm just now starting to get back into running, and my dad feels like he's reaching the end of his recreational running career. He's run several marathons, but due to recurring pain in his feet and legs, he said he might be done. I'd love to read this book and see if it provides any insight into prolonging my dad's running career.

  • Bill Barnett

    Michael, I would like to let you know that you can follow a colorful writer in his own right, Billy Barnett " Billy Bonehead". Billy is living, working and running on the big island of Hawaii. A few of his current exploits can be viewed at his bolg; Some of your readers may want to know what the characters in the book are up to.

  • Mike

    Fascinating. I bought a new pair of running shoes a week ago. Haven’t worn them yet, so now I’m considering taking them back! Thanks for all you do Michael!

  • Aselmee

    please i need your email or any contact way urgently
    im master student

  • Joshua Hood

    Very interested in the book. I love to run, but have been told that it will wear my knees out. I don’t want to give up this passion. Thanks for the info!

    Joshua Hood

  • W. Mark Thompson

    Looks like I’m a little late for the book giveaway, but great complimentary info for the Vibram Fivefinger Running Shoes post I just read. Guess I’ll be reading “Born To Run” now. Thought about getting it before, but you do sell it well! 

  • Zach Evans

    I need my running world turned upside down… Truth is I have no running world, but at age 35 I’m about to create one!

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  • Brad

    At 6’4″ and 240lbs., I’m a clydesdale. As a competitive athlete for most of my life, I have enjoyed various aspects of fitness, with the exception of running. I have always grown frustrated by the pounding and abuse that my joints were forced to endure. I have taken up cycling and have enjoyed the opportunity to suffer on the bike, but I am still wondering if running is something that I should give another shot. I’ve been looking at some of the research and am curious to see some extended discussion on the subject. 

    I would love to dive into the book and see what his thoughts are on a lumbering old man freaking out all of the skinny kids with his crazy shoes! 

    Can you help me out w/ a copy of the book?


    • Michael Hyatt

      Unfortunately, I don’t have any more copies. It would be worth reading McDougall is 6’4” and 230 lbs.

  • Sherri Bearman

    I want this book because I started running at age 52.  I run a marathon after training for only four months.  I am very interested in the five finger shoes.  Thank you.