Reading about running

Photo of Scott Jurek and Arnulfo Quimare in Copper Canyon, 2006. Courtesy Luis Escobar.

Photo of Scott Jurek and Arnulfo Quimare in Copper Canyon, 2006. Courtesy Luis Escobar.

Do humans suck at running? Apparently that’s what many experts in sports medicine think. Or is the human body actually perfectly adapted to endurance running and a lot of the running injuries are due to bad technique and expensive running shoes?

In his book¬† “Born to Run”¬† Christopher McDougall explores these questions, and from the title you can guess to what conclusion he comes. But as much as this book is about laying out an argument that running fast and very long distances actually shaped the human body on an evolutionary scale, its also a breathless, engaging tale of a personal quest with a colorful cast of lightfooted characters. Essentially the book chronicles the history of the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon which every year joins members of the Raramuri (Tarahumara) native tribe with members of the gringo ultra-marathon tribe in a 50 mile (80 KM) race in the rugged Copper Canyon in Mexico.

Besides being an easy, fun read, this book also presents an important argument that running is a very natural activity for humans. It complements the “minimalist” or back-to-the-roots ideas of barefooters like Ken Bob and almost-Barefoot Ted. McDougall presents quite a bit of evidence that all the high-tech shoes with support and cushioning are ruining runners’ feet. His argument jives perfectly with the barefooters – we don’t need fancy shoes, we need proper technique, we need to take care of our feet and we need a good attitude for healthy, successful running exercise.

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