No, this is not a post about Bruce Springsteen’s 3rd album.
This is about a book I read a couple of years back that has probably had more of an impact on me than any book I have read before or since – Born to Run.
The book in question is by an American guy by the name of Christopher McDougall. He starts off the book outlining his experiences of running to date, which would resonate with pretty much anyone who has laced up their running shoes – injuries, frustration and constant setbacks.
But from that point on the book differs from any other fitness book I have ever read. While most would take the opportunity to launch into the mechanics of running and how you can reach your goals through a five stage plan, Chris instead sets out on a journey to find out WHY we run.
He covers everything from running’s role in our distant past, a tribe of Indians who run obscene distances with nothing but rubber sandals on their feet and why the Nike kicks you are rocking for your 10km races are designed as a product of marketing rather than your body’s biomechanics.
Not everyone enjoys the book quite as much as I did. Some people don’t even get half way through. Others enjoy the story, look at buying themselves a pair of Vibram Five Fingers (the weird foot glove things you see ‘alternatives’ wearing on the train), and forget about it.
But most people I know who have read it look at running in a completely different way – a case in point being my long suffering mother. Before reading Born to Run I don’t think she had ever run more than 2km in her life, and if she did it wasn’t without a fight.
Since reading the book she absolutely loves it. She has since joined the local running club, taken to doing cross country runs in the middle of winter and did her first ever half marathon a couple of months ago in just over 2 hours.
To give you an idea of just how much she loves it – a little while back I came across a piece asking ‘why do you run?’ and sent it to her to read, not necessarily expecting a response. This is what I got back in reply:
• because I have discovered that I CAN and that’s amazing
• because I love how good I feel afterwards
• because TV is foul and it gives me something to do other than read or cabbage on the sofa
• because I gave up my gym membership
• because it can take as much or as little time to do as I want it to
• because I choose to make it as easy or as hard as I want to
• gets me out and about
• can take off and do a run any time of the day – just jump into my shoes and off I go
• because I love it when I walk or cycle and discover that I no longer huff and puff at the hilly bits like I used to
• feel more “sleek” than I used to
I am not suggesting that this is 100% down to the book, but it certainly started her in the right direction.
And in terms of what it did for my running, my experience is akin to my mom’s, although I definitely flirted with the idea of getting some foot gloves.
It helped me come to terms with the fact I was never going to win a marathon or top my age group in a triathlon, but that I might as well enjoy the ride.
So if you need a bit of extra motivation, want to know why you have evolved to be able to run, or even just fancy a good read, there is definitely worse literature out there.