Book: Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

Steve has had this book for quite a while now and had given me a synopsis on it but I was never really tempted to read it. This weekend I did. Ok, so I skimmed the first third of it but I totally read the rest. In short it goes through the story of the writer from asking the question “Why do my feet hurt?” as a runner plagued with injuries to him ending up in the depths of Copper Canyon in Mexico partaking in a 50 mile race with the Tarahumara people. Through this journey Christopher re-discovers the art and joy of running, most importantly free from injuries. The secrets brought together from a number of areas that build from evolution, persistence hunting and over engineering of shoes. I think Steve had synopsized the book incredibly well but I was glad I dipped into it as I managed to draw some more gems from it.

I have never really been that keen on running. Sure I love squash but that involves also smashing a small ball around a court which is a fabulous stress reliever. Possibly why I also enjoyed the boxercise training I did with a group of work mates a couple of mornings a week in Sydney.

But running? All that pain, panting, bouncing and wobbling just didn’t get me all ablaze with excitement. When Steve started doing his 7x7x7 half marathons, as with any commitment he makes, he researches to the nth degree. Running was no exception. So I can’t say that I didn’t have a lot of advice to help me get into it.

To help Steve along (in reality he was helping me) I would pick Steve up after work and we would do a run around the Durdham Downs. Actually, it was the smallest circle of the larger Downs but we all have to start somewhere. I didn’t like it, didn’t look forward to it and really didn’t feel it came naturally to me.

Nearly a year on and I have gone from barely being able to run 20 meters without gasping for breath to 10 kilometers non stop. OK, yes, it isn’t marathon lengths in that period of time but I have been plagued with injury this year. No, not from running but from squash and slack lining! My most recent injury was a badly sprained ankle last Friday night. The kicker though has been that I have sprained my right ankle at least on 3 occasions now and would generally take a good 2 months to repair. This time around, I was able to walk on it without significant discomfort by Tuesday and managed a 4 kilometer run this weekend on it. I put this down to the strengthening that has come from running using the style in the book. The running technique goes by a number of different names, POSE method, forefoot running, barefoot running etc. I’m sure whoever is selling something (training, books, advice) will say there is a difference in “their” method but it short it is about NOT heel striking first. I sure as heck don’t run barefoot but I get the technique. To understand, go for a short run with your shoes on. Then take them off and see if you can spot the difference. Translate that into a run style using minimalistic shoes (i.e. no redundant padding) and your away. Thankfully Steve got me running this way before I could learn any bad habits so it has been easy enough to pick up. However Steve was saying it took quite a while and not insignificant aches to retrain his muscle memory as he had been doing a heck of a lot more running than me and had already grown into a particular style.

Anyway, I can now say that I look forward to getting out for a run, more so as I enjoy being outside in the trail terrain. The feedback through your feet is far more exciting than treadmill running which is just not for me. There’s something quite satisfying about getting covered in mud, leaping over tree roots, dodging to avoid branches that connects you with the outside environment. Far more satisfying than pounding asphalt just for the sake of it.

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