Reading 2012: Born to Run

Well this review is long over due. That’s ok. That just means it’s consistent with the rest of my life.
Born to Run was different from any other book I’ve previously read. Probably because it was the most secular book I’ve ever read. Growing up, I read a lot of biographies and “Christian fiction.” So it was good to branch outside of my comfort zone and read something that wasn’t written in Christianeze, primarily for the benefit of learning to think critically and with discernment {also needed when reading “Christian” literature, but not as apparent of a need sometimes}.
The author, Christopher McDougall, writes in a hysterical, entertaining, colorful, imagery saturated style. He definitely captures your attention and draws you in to his storytelling as he unfolds his tale of discovering and witnessing the artful Tarahumara running people.
My favorite story was that of an ultra runner who, when racing through the middle of the night, would have his running team slowly cover up the tail lights of his aid vehicle with black paper so that it appeared to those behind him that he was pulling away at such an rapid rate that it would discourage his opponents from ever catching up. Ha!
That’s what this book is: a collection of stories, starring different characters who eventually all meet up for the race of a lifetime. It isn’t some “how to” book or manual for perfecting your stride. It’s main goal is to convince readers that our bodies were intended to be exercised in running, and that running is optimally beneficial when practiced in a certain style, with minimal accessories {mainly without fancy shoes}, and in community.
McDougall references a statistic on page 11 that highlights our propensity towards running, “Running unites two of our most primal impulses: fear and pleasure. ‘Three times America has seen distance running skyrocket, and it’s always in the midst of a national crisis.'” This was especially intriguing to me, since it seems as though people often try and find comfort in different ways, and one of my go-tos has always been running.
He uses the word “primal” in an evolutionary sense here, which is made crystal clear towards the end of the book where he spends a large chunk of time rehearsing the elements of evolution and how the theory supports the idea that running is in our DNA. I’ll confess that I didn’t finish reading that chapter {following the example of the person who recommended it to me} because it was so tedious and boring. I did try, and it’s not that I’m not interested in understanding the theory of evolution, but the author is not adept at writing in an entertaining scientific style, and I’ve already been through several courses in college on the subject. I wasn’t extremely eager to rehearse the concepts.
Running with minimal support was a huge theme of the book. The concept is explained this way: “Shoes block pain, not impact. Pain teaches us to run comfortably. From the moment you start going barefoot, you will change the way you run” {page 157}. Running barefoot gives your body a chance to navigate the ground with your sense of touch and gives you a chance to react to various textures and terrains, aiding you in avoiding injuries to your ankles and knees. This is why there’s such a surge in the use of Vibram 5 Fingers and shoes like them. I’m seriously considering such a purchase in the distant {probably very distant} future.
Embracing pain and exhaustion are key elements in the author’s view. “Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all because we never push through the obstruction” {page 113}. What a statement! This is where discernment comes in for me, because if I’m not careful, I’ll apply this attitude to every area of my life and miss out on drawing from the inexhaustible resource of my Heavenly Father’s strength. I get that the author is referring to running here, but our philosophies are rarely confined to one category of our lives.
The last overarching theme McDougall hammers home is the idea of running in community. By this, he means running is a way to understand, value, and encourage others, so you don’t do it in isolation. “The reason we race isn’t so much to beat each other … but to be with each other” {page 253}. Again, I was quite startled at this because community is something that is so vital to our lives as a whole, especially as Christians. So the fact that the author put such a high value on running together in community shocked me because he’s coming from a completely different world view than I am.
Running has so many applications to my life as a Christian. Perhaps that is why Paul uses running as a metaphor so often in his letters in the Bible.
I really appreciated this book and found it to be enjoyable, educational, and thought provoking. I’d definitely recommend it, but with a word of caution to read critically and discerningly.
{I’m currently reading Give Them Grace by Fitzpatrick and Thompson, and I can’t wait to share my thoughts on that one with you!}


  1. Very cool. This is on my to-read list for this year.

  2. Great! I'd love to hear what you think . . . I'm sure I will because you're so faithful about book reviews. 🙂

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