Book Review: Born to Run

By Winston Aldworth

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall,

Profile Books, $29.99

How are those expensive new running shoes feeling? Those ones you shelled out a couple of hundred bucks for and that have seen more of the hall cupboard than they'll ever see of the street?

They'll feel a lot less comfortable by the time you get to the end of Christopher McDougall's excellent book. Reading Born to Run it's easy to figure that those gel-cushioned, arch-supporting, big-brand, lightweight running shoes are symptomatic of everything that's wrong with Western society: we're lazy, exercise largely out of guilt and assume that our modern ways can make the long run easier.

McDougall introduces his readers to the Tarahumara, a tribe living in the remote Copper Canyons in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The Kenyans have nothing on these guys.

The Tarahumara run extreme distances in wildly inhospitable conditions with barely a sip of water and without breaking so much as a bead of sweat. They are genuine prehistoric superathletes.

"They remember what it's like to love running, and it lets them blaze through the canyons like dolphins rocketing through waves," he writes. "For them, running isn't work. It isn't a punishment for eating. It's fine art, like it was for our ancestors."

McDougall explores their running style, philosophy and lifestyle to illuminate those of our society.

He rhapsodises about their running style - the upright posture, flicking their heels behind them with a clear-headedness that modern Western life seems to preclude. And they do it all barefoot.

The barefootedness is central to the text. McDougall arrives in this well-written narrative clapped out and injured. By immersing himself in the Tarahumara ways, he sees the light and comes right.

Forget the tosh about busted joints and crocked shins, it turns out running barefoot for hours is good for you.

Don't imagine Adidas or Nike will be telling you that any time soon.

- NZ Herald

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