Book Review: Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

On holiday in Germany I read McDougall's famous book 'Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen'. I'd been meaning to read a few more running novels and see if I could re-ignite my passions. This did help a bit. I could scarcely put it down after I'd got a 3rd or so of the way in, so give it a chance but be prepared to be hooked! I also couldn't stop telling my poor colleagues, who don't give a damn about running about it.

The reason we race isn't so much to beat each other,... but to be with each other.

The book is an account of a tribe of gifted runners, who fulfill all ultra aspirations of running free and wild... and then about what happens when a group of westerners jump into their midst. To me the book is about some huge cultural differences, but also about how similar people are when you finally get down to people just being people.

I found it really interesting to hear about the history of some ultras, about the stripped down training philosophy that a tribe not in contact with Runners World or Trail Runners adopt, and about a proposed anthropology/scientific background to why human beings run (I'm not saying I'm on board,  just that it was interesting). The book definitely had some strong points about running well, not just a lot (in terms of form, nutrition etc) and it was somehow quite affecting to ruminate on the point that running should be done because it makes you happy. Something to remember for sure when running is making us unhappy.

There's something so universal about that sensation, the way running unites our two most primal impulses: fear and pleasure. We run when we're scared, we run when we're ecstatic, we run away from our problems and run around for a good time.

This book really did make me want to trail run immediately. One thing McDougall absolutely captured was the feeling of being out exploring with and on something bigger than you in nature. I was suddenly hugely jealous of those who were running obscene mileage in such scary territories. I felt like I could run 100 miles (I can't.).

I'm curious that the book is viewed as such an ode to minimalism. A minimalist lifestyle maybe, but I didn't think about my shoes so much.


Have you read Born to Run? What did you think of it?

Any other running novels you'd recommend? 


  1. Interesting that you say that this isn't a book solely about minimalist footwear; that was what has put me off reading it so far. If it's about running wild and free, I'm far more inclined to give it a go!x

    1. Yeah to be honest I didn't get so much of that flavour from it. The author, Jurek and the tribe (obviously) run minimalist, and there is a little on the expansion of the running shoe industry for the gain of the companies but a) its interesting and b) even those of us who run pretty heftily clad KNOW that, we have to be honest that that is a factor.

      But yeah, to me the book was so much more about enjoying that kind of running, and about culture clashes x

  2. Loved this book totally evokes the pure joy of running, I especially liked the Tarahumara saying, "When you run on the earth and run with the earth, you can run forever :)

    1. Yeah :) thats the feel I got from it!