Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

Note: This Review was originally written a year ago. I don't have the flu now.

Born To Run was okay. It's not great, it's not stellar, it's not maddening. It's okay. The writing is serviceable. The research is a little spotty, but okay for the type of book this is. It made me want to try running, just a little. That's definitely saying something.

And, of course, I was more than receptive to the parts where he was talking about bare feet running, as shoes and socks are the bane of my existence. A necessary bane, perhaps, but I hate having my feet covered.

I don't know enough about the areas of science he's talking about to evaluate his evidence, but some of it seems fine, and sometimes, there are some huge logical leaps. He jumps from talking about skyrocketing cancer and other disease rates in the 20th century right to connecting to that not long-distance running any more like our ancestors did two million years ago. Not not doing as much physical activity, not long distance running.

Dude, there were 2 million years in the interim, you know? And I study the 19th century. I'm not convinced everyone was running everywhere then either, and we just suddenly stopped in the last century. Have you seen the clothes? Plus, for most people, there was too much farmwork to do in a day to take off for a five hour run. In the city, it'd be even less likely. I'm sure there are correlations to the changes in sedentary lifestyle, but trying to say that it's because we stopped running like we did two million years ago? That's a big lag for that adjustment to catch up, isn't it?

Likewise his assertion that long-distance running makes you innately a better person. I have no doubt there are great people doing long-distance running, or that getting through an experience like an ultra run would give you a sense of camaraderie and caring about those who went through it beside you. No doubt at all. It's how he keeps making it sound like that's innate to long distance running and not to anything else that I question.

But this book is strongest when he's telling stories about runners, or about the joys of running that actually made me want to try it a little bit. (She says, barely able to move from the aftereffects of the flu.) So, it's okay. If you're interested, it's not boring, and it's readable.


  1. Perhaps there needs to be a study investigating why long distance running seems, more than other sports, to turn it's adherents to zealots.