Born to Run by Christopher McDougall has been probably the most influential running book I’ve read thus far. I was into running recreationally when I first read it a couple of years ago, but the book made me rethink running in many different aspects.
The main thesis of the book builds on and popularised the ideas of researchers such as Daniel Lieberman contending that endurance running is one of traits which modern humans (homo sapiens) were optimised from an evolutionary perspective1.
McDougall brings forth research showing how running must have been a competitive advantage for early hunter gathers and a hunting technique practised by some African tribes even in the present day.
There are a couple of other running topics which I first really got interested after reading the Born to Run book.
Ultra-running is the discipline of running longer than marathon distance and it is fair to say that Born to run is the book which put them into focus. Now there are many other books on ultra-running to chose from.
In fact, the book’s culmination is about a race in mountainous Mexican terrain with Tarahumara runners and other ultra-running athletes, such as Scott Jurek. This book manages to build the suspense and anticipation for the culmination of the race and readers are eager to discover how “modern” athletes would fare against tribal runners, for whom running is a lifestyle.
Natural running technique
This book emphasise “natural running technique” and this got me interested to research more on this topic. Even though there’s no hard right or wrong when it comes to running, this book showed me that it is worth learning about proper bio-mechanics of running, especially to reduce the chance of injury.
There are many pointers in the book for one to start research in this area. This is an area which still interest me a lot and I might write a dedicated post on that topic later.
This is the book which started the barefoot craze back then when it was first published. This book challenged the established assumptions about cushioned running shoes and although I do not think barefoot running is a one size fits all solution to all running problems, I became much more informed on this topic mostly due to this book!
I can highly recommend this book for any running enthusiast to pick up and read. It has some wonderful storytelling that even if you are not into running you might just enjoy it very much!