Posted by: Kate | October 31, 2011

Book Review: Born to Run

When I read non-fiction, I have high expectations. The book has to capture my interest, affect me emotionally, teach me something, be well written and above all be a great story. Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall, delivers all that and more.

Let me start by saying, I’m not a runner I’m a walker. Have been for years. But I was a runner once, a long distance runner. And I remember the joy and love I felt for running. This book captures the love/hate relationship so many North Americans have with running, and turns it all on its head. McDougall explores the why and how of running, through science and personal story. But the best part of the story, by far, is his investigation into the world of ultrarunning.

As I was reading the book, I kept saying to my husband, “Why isn’t this on TV? Why haven’t I heard about these races and these people? This is amazing!” I was so swept up in the personalities, the crazy adventures and the ultimate adventure that I was reading pieces out loud at random moments, and couldn’t put it down. I laughed, I was incredulous and I cried from some incredibly poignant moments in the story that MacDougall weaves in this book.

The science was well researched and always backed up with publications, studies and references. Part of this book came about because MacDougall wanted to find out how to run without getting injured all the time. Turns out there are people out there doing it – not by having the best shoes or sports equipment or stretching techniques, but by having the best running techniques. In finding out what those are, MacDougall establishes his credentials by putting in the footwork of a good journalist and as a training runner, and he brings the reader along on a most amazing journey. The band of ultrarunners who meet for the ultimate race in Mexico, and his descriptions of them, make for a fascinating look into what drives people to achieve, or not achieve, as the case may be.

You don’t have to be a runner to read this book. It is an uplifting story about humanity, a quest for joy, and a testament to people who live their lives truthful to themselves at all times. This is a book I want to read again – and not many get that honour on my reading list.


  1. As I sit waiting & watching for Halloweener’s, I stopped by to check my email. It seems we’re kindred spirits in regards to books, knitting, &etc. I’ll keep my eye open for this one, it sounds intriguing. I love the fact that he explains the ‘best running techniques’, rather than ultra-expensive gear.

  2. I’d heard of this book of course but never really was interesting in reading it. However, your review changed my mind (as they often do!). Sounds like a fascinating read on not only running, but the human spirit.

  3. thanks for finding another book for me to ad to my to-read list!
    i flirt with running from time to time but it never sticks… i’m more of a walker too.
    my dad though, he’s a runner through and through.
    i’m very intrigued by his “best running techniques”… i will definitely have to check this book out!

  4. The book kind of changed my life. I bought it for Rocky, but ended up reading it first. I have switched to minimalist shoes (all the rage in the U.S., not necessarily for the right reasons), stopped fighting my running style (which is much closer to what is in the book), have really begun to embrace the type of runner I am (long and slow), and have shifted to running exclusively on trails. I went from someone who dreaded the 1.5 mile fitness tests, to a consistent half marathoner. I think it’s a continuing process of change in how I view the world.

  5. Oh, and yes, the story (told SO well) is fabulous and I likewise wondered why it has never been on t.v. I run with some of the people in the book now (same races, they’ve gone home and showered by the time I finish). It is an amazing group of people.

Welcome! I always like to hear what people think of a post, it often leads to a great discussion! I am now responding to comments and questions right in the comments themselves, so other people can follow the conversation.

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