Book Review – Born To Run

Like millions of others I read Born To Run and it changed everything I thought I knew about running.  I had run a couple of marathons, finished a couple of triathlons, but never stopped to think about why we run, how we run, or ask the question, “Were we made to run?”

Like everyone else I learned in school that the cheetah is the fastest mammal.  But never thought to ask the question, “Over what distance?”  Is it the fastest mammal over a distance of 25 miles?  50 miles?

I’d never thought about the arch as an engineering masterpiece, able to hold up the largest of structures.  I’d never thought about the foot as an arch designed to support the load of the human body.  And it never occurred to me that “arch support” is an architectural disaster; as soon as you support an arch from underneath it becomes weaker.

I never knew that humans are the mammals best equipped to sweat and breathe and cool themselves while they’re still running.  Or that persistence hunters all around the world run down deer and antelope until the animals collapse and die of exhaustion, or their hearts stop, or their hooves fall off.

And I’d never thought about how even in a society where we no longer have to chase our food down in order to eat, our human race is so programed to run that we’ll all get together by the tens of thousands, pay entry fees and run 26.2 miles together.

I never knew about man vs. horse races in which men regularly beat the horses across 50 and 100 miles of rugged terrain.


All I ever knew was that humans were slower in the first hundred yards or so, but it never occurred to me that our distinct advantage was found in our endurance, our perseverance over many rugged miles.  We are actually the fastest land mammals over 25, 50, and 100 miles.  We are designed with tendons, lungs, glands, and hearts unlike other mammals.  We don’t swing from vines, we’re not great climbers, sprinters or jumpers.  We are distance runners.  No wonder it’s something that brings joy to millions of us as we discover our inner capacity and breakthrough that tiny bit of discomfort to unleash our design and purpose.

I highly recommend Born To Run by Christopher McDougall.  It will make you reconsider why it is you hate or love running and may quite possibly explain why you’ve had injuries from running in the past.  For me, it made me think those barefoot runners might not be insane after all.  (Ok…it actually made me join them)   No wonder it’s hard to describe a runner’s “high” to someone.  It’s just what we were born to do.