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Born to Run: The Hidden Tribe, the Ultra-Runners, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen [Paperback]

Christopher McDougall
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (468 customer reviews)
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Book Description

15 April 2010

At the heart of Born to Run lies a mysterious tribe of Mexican Indians, the Tarahumara, who live quietly in canyons and are reputed to be the best distance runners in the world; in 1993, one of them, aged 57, came first in a prestigious 100-mile race wearing a toga and sandals. A small group of the world's top ultra-runners (and the awe-inspiring author) make the treacherous journey into the canyons to try to learn the tribe's secrets and then take them on over a course 50 miles long.

With incredible energy and smart observation, McDougall tells this story while asking what the secrets are to being an incredible runner. Travelling to labs at Harvard, Nike, and elsewhere, he comes across an incredible cast of characters, including the woman who recently broke the world record for 100 miles and for her encore ran a 2:50 marathon in a bikini, pausing to down a beer at the 20 mile mark.


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Frequently Bought Together

Born to Run: The Hidden Tribe, the Ultra-Runners, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen + Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness + Running with the Kenyans: Discovering the secrets of the fastest people on earth
Price For All Three: £19.32

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (15 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1861978774
  • ISBN-13: 978-1861978776
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (468 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 816 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Christopher McDougall is a former war correspondent for the Associated Press and is now a contributing editor for Men's Health. A three-time National Magazine Award finalist, he has written for Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, Outside, Men's Journal, and New York. He does his own running among the Amish farms around his home in rural Pennsylvania.

Product Description

Review

Quite simply the best book you'll ever read about running - it's brilliant, and brilliantly life-affirming. (Lloyd Bradley, author of The Rough Guide to Running)

A classic ... in ultrarunners McDougall uncovers a tribe worthy of the pioneering drifters that fired the American spirit, and in McDougall ultrarunners have found their own Kerouac or Krakauer. (Tim Butcher, author of Blood River)

Reaches the state of bliss that runners very occasionally experience in the midst of an endless run. (Simon Kuper FT)

Fascinating stuff, particularly for anyone who's ever been frustrated by the apparently shoddy mechanics of their own running body. (Victoria Moore Daily Mail 2010-04-30)

A sensation ... a rollicking tale well told (Rick Broadbent The Times 2010-04-23)

Part how-to manual, part scientific treatise but throughout a ripping yarn, this book will inspire everyone who reads it to think on their feet. (Simon Redfern Independent on Sunday 2010-04-25)

If you're a runner, you probably won't reach the end of the first chapter without bolting for the door to get some miles behind you. (Leeds Guide 2010-04-28)

[A] major voice of a new movement. (Bernard Goldberg HBO 2010-05-20)

Good books about running are rare - Haruki Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a meditative jog compared to this blistering endurance tester - but this ranks among the strongest. (Julian Fleming Sunday Business Post 2010-05-18)

Utterly unputdownable ... a fascinating peek into the lives of the publicity-shy Tarahumara and the collection of misfits who populate the world of ultra-running ... the final race in Mexico's Copper Canyon will have you turning pages faster than Usain Bolt can run for a bus. (Natasha Young Wanderlust 2010-06-01)

If you're a runner, you'll love it. It's about how far we can go spiritually and physically. (Kate Hudson, Actress Elle 2010-10-01)

Inspiring stuff (Amy Lawrenson Elle 2011-08-01)

I read Born to Run last year and it affected me profoundly. I thought, "F*** it. I'm gonna run a marathon." (Flea (of Red Hot Chili Peppers) Runner's World 2011-10-01)

Loved this book ... completely wonderful. It will inspire you whether you're already a runner or not. (Lauren Laverne Twitter 2014-01-06)

Review

"Hugely entertaining...one of the most joyful and engaging books about running to appear for many years." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
239 of 246 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great story, and much more 16 May 2009
By T. Sull
Format:Hardcover
Born to Run succeeds at three levels. First, it is a page turner. The build up to a fifty-mile foot race over some of the world's least hospitable terrain drives the narrative forward. Along the way McDougall introduces a cast of characters worthy of Dickens, including an almost superhuman ultramarathoner, Jenn and the Bonehead--a couple who down bottles of booze to warm up for a race, Barefoot Ted, Mexican drug dealers, a ghostly ex-boxer, a heartbroken father, and of course the Tarahumara, arguably the greatest runners in the world.

Born to Run is such a rip-roaring yarn, that it is easy to miss the book's deeper achievements. At a second level, McDougall introduces and explores a powerful thesis--that human beings are literally born to run. Recreational running did not begin with the 1966 publication of "Jogging" by the co-founder of Nike. Instead, McDougall argues, running is at the heart of what it means to be human. In the course of elaborating his thesis, McDougall answers some big questions: Why did our ancestors outlive the stronger, smarter Neanderthals? Why do expensive running shoes increase the odds of injury? The author's modesty keeps him from trumpeting the novelty and importance of this thesis, but it merits attention.

Finally, Born to Run presents a philosophy of exercise. The ethos that pervades recreational and competitive running--"no pain, no gain," is fundamentally flawed, McDougall argues. The essence of running should not be grim determination, but sheer joy. Many of the conventions of modern running--the thick-soled shoes, mechanical treadmills, take no prisoners competition, and heads-down powering through pain dull our appreciation of what running can be--a sociable activity, more game than chore, that can lead to adventure. McDougall's narrative moves the book forward, his thesis provides a solid intellectual support, but this philosophy of joy animates Born to Run. I hope this book finds the wide audience it deserves
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67 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just for ultra-runners and super-athletes... 24 May 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The title of this book suggests it is a tale about ultra-distance runners and tales of heroic enterprise. That is partially true, but not the entire truth, and that is why this book deserves a wide audience.

Under the tale of a 50 mile race through inhospitable terrain is a theme that running is fun, and that humans are uniquely adapted to running to such a degree that it is suggested that the trappings of civilisation have denied us our essential nature.

Using the story of a mystery runner in the canyons of Mexico as a thread, we are lead through a discussion of the mental and physical aspects of running, with a look at how tribes untouched by "civilisation" around the world demonstrate McDougall's thesis.

McDougall presents a convincing argument that biologically and mentally we are designed to be distance runners. He argues that it is external issues - the selling of running shoes, the limitations we put on ourselves and that society attempts to impose - that prove to be the limiting factor for many of us. If anything, the characters presented become not super-athletes (as some authors have portrayed ultra runners) but actually very ordinary people who have chosen to ignore the preconceptions about what we "ought" to be able to do.

Yes, the book does give a lot of insight into ultra running - but it also has as a lot in it for anyone who runs, be you someone who runs for pleasure and excercise, or a keen competitive athlete. Highly recommended.
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195 of 217 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Fictionalised and often disingenuous account 31 Jan 2011
By Gerund
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I realise I'm in minority here but I really didn't enjoy this book at all. As a result of all the rave reviews I bought a copy for both myself and a friend - we were both hugely disappointed.

The author, Christopher McDougall, is an American magazine correspondent and this perhaps goes someway to explain a lot of what I didn't like about the book. To begin with, it is written in a totally 'omniscient' manner, ie McDougall can see inside everyone's head. This is excessive, continuous, and extends right across the board from events to which he was privy, through events to which he was not, on to imagined `eureka moments' of various research scientists. In a similar manner, he describes events from the past, where he wasn't present, in a way he clearly feels will paint some sort of picture: eg "Then she wiped her greasy mouth on her sports bra, burped up some Dew, and bounded off". Maybe she did wipe her mouth on her sports bra, but I doubt it, and I feel quite sure she never gave him an account, years later, of her burp.

In a similar vein I confess that I didn't like the continuous use of words like `chomp' instead of `eat' and `chug' instead of `drink'. I imagine that is just a difference in usage when comparing opposite sides of the Atlantic but I did find myself wishing someone would just 'eat' something! And I do wonder if the use of block capitals as well as italics was really necessary. I am not talking about the start of each chapter but sentences like:
"...I remember thinking What in the HELL? How in the HELL is this possible? That was the first thing, the first CHINK IN THE WALL, that MAYYYBEE modern shoe companies don't have all the answers..." (nine of those lowercase words are in italics, which I can't format here).
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars More fiction than non-fiction 4 May 2012
Format:Paperback
I am an ultra-runner and was interested to have this book recommended to me by another ultra running friend. However I ended up despising the book and the author. As others have mentioned the author has a magazine style of writing. This was too much for me in a book.

The story about the Tarahumara is interesting, but deserves better treatment than it gets here. Also I totally lost the plot when the author related a chess anecdote and got it completely wrong. I can only imagine how inaccurate the rest of the anecdotes were.

However the claim that barefoot running is the cure to all running ills cannot be made without any references to back it up (this is supposed to be non-fiction after all). Then the author criticises the running shoe companies for making money but goes on to push the Vibram Five Fingers running "shoes". What McDougall fails to mention is that he is in the pay of Vibram and hosts events for them. What a shill.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars i love this book - if I ever lose my motivation ...
i love this book - if I ever lose my motivation to run I just have to pick it off the shelf and read...next thing I know I am heading out for a run
Published 15 hours ago by lars grønnegaard hansen
4.0 out of 5 stars which is good on its own
It seemed this is considered a classic and it is worth reading as it provokes some thoughts and has inspired many people to run, which is good on its own. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Maya
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolute must read!
An absolute must read! This guy is an amazing writer. If you're not inspired to go for a run after reading this, I'd be surprised. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Kirien Sangha
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun, though Not Scholarly
To begin, I must equate this book with the movie Seabiscuit. Why, you might ask? Because, while this is a non-fiction book/story, it isn't a straight, evenly presented, all facets... Read more
Published 7 days ago by Cynthia C.C.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great read!
Published 8 days ago by Tommy Carstensen
1.0 out of 5 stars so poorly written. maybe I'm not getting it as ...
so poorly written. maybe I'm not getting it as cannot see why anyone could think this book is anything than pointless. Read more
Published 8 days ago by GORDON
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent service, very happy
Fascinating book. Excellent service, very happy thanks
Published 11 days ago by Miss L M Lock
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
great story, really well told. Even got my thinking about Barefoot running
Published 12 days ago by Andrew White
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent read! So interesting!
Published 14 days ago by Sophie Davis
5.0 out of 5 stars My favourite read of the year - brilliant.
Really loved this book, it's a great mix of recipes, mini biogs and storytelling - I found myself savouring it and not wanting it to end, which is always a good sing.
Published 15 days ago by A. Magee
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