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Customer Review

250 of 259 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great story, and much more, 16 May 2009
This review is from: Born to Run: The Rise of Ultra-running and the Super-athlete Tribe (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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Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 10 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 29 Nov 2009 02:13:48 GMT
Caragiale says:
thanks for your review.

i hope you'll enjoy author's speech

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Dec 2009 20:28:22 GMT
Runners might also be interested in "The 5-Minute Plantar Fasciitis Solution".

Posted on 22 Dec 2009 07:46:49 GMT
What a thoroughly pleasant, well written review.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 May 2010 20:37:08 BDT
Agreed. I read a lot of reviews on Amazon. A number are excellent but this cogently argued, balanced critique was a cut above.

Posted on 20 Mar 2011 20:57:12 GMT
PJS5 says:
Were neanderthals really smarter? I always thought it was the other way. Also they couldn't speak because they didn't have vocal cords.

Posted on 12 Jun 2011 20:17:33 BDT
Nicholas P says:
Great review - and basically sums up how I feel about this marvelous book. I picked it up in Chicago airport - and after stopping running 10 years ago because of a knee injury - I am now inspired to find a way, which might just work for me. I have tried just about everything else - and spent lots and lots of $$s - and got nowhere - so I have nothing to lose.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Jun 2011 17:18:36 BDT
Last edited by the author on 23 Jun 2011 09:49:00 BDT
Sam Woodward says:
Scientists quoted in the book say that Neanderthals had larger brains than our ancestors, as well as being physically bigger. It also says they developed language before we did. Doesn't say anything about their vocal cords, maybe they just grunted or something?

The theory they put forward is that Neanderthals' strength & intelligence made them good hunters while Africa was covered in trees. But once the climate changed (when the Himalayas formed), Africa's environment became Savannah's like it is now. So they think our ancestors evolved to be distance runners who couldn't catch animals like antelope in a sprint but could wear them down over long distances.

That's because most fast animals apparently can't breathe very well while they're running & because they don't sweat like humans do, they eventually overheat. As Neanderthals were bigger & heavier, they couldn't distance-run so well. Apparently the Tarahumara claim they used to run down animals 'until their hooves fell off' which used to be thought of as just a story but the author wonders if maybe it's actually true?

That's only a small part of the book, though - it's mostly about a couple of races between ultra-runners & the Taramuhara.

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Sep 2011 10:20:03 BDT
Cork Boi says:
Hi OJ,
Neatherthals could speak as they did have vocal chords. They may or may not have been smarter as their average brain capacity is slighty more than modern humans. However it is unknown if this additional brain capacity resulted in increased intelligence. I don't know if they were smarter but they were smart.

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Sep 2011 10:24:57 BDT
Cork Boi says:
The one big mistake in this book is that Neanderthals never existed in Africa! The Neanderthal ranges existed from SW Asia (Middle East) to Europe only. Neanderthals never lived in a "jungle" environment but instead thrived in the cooler periods of the ice ages in Europe. When the weather got warmer modern man was able to migrate from Africa into Europe.

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Jan 2013 20:31:09 GMT
Not true: they had a different vocal tract and made different sounds:
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