Though I read the book, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall months ago, I have reserved reviewing it. I’ll state here up front, some will love this book and some will not like it at all. I guess I fall somewhere in between. As I have mentioned before, I really do not like novels. If this were not about running I most likely would not have finished it.
Half adventure, part science, McDougall weaves a story of ultra-marathoners and a quest of “secrets” to some kind of magical mystical running. There are efforts to have interesting characters who typify runners. There is the gone-like-the-wind-without-a-sound-and-only-seen-by-a-few (now you know all you need to about him) Caballo Blanco. There’s the let’s-capitalize-on-the-barefoot-running-fad-AGAIN (revisit 1970s) Barefoot Ted. There is the hard-partying-let’s-represent-the-younger-runner-couple, Billy & Jenn. And then there were a couple other characters too forgettable to mention. Of course the setting has to include the “legendary” Tarahumara indian tribe in northern Mexico.
McDougall takes pains to include all kinds of scientific “facts” and introduces scenes with various running luminaries (i.e. Joe Vigil) in the book to give credibility to the book I guess. Here was a major turn-off for me. It appeared to me as I was half way through the book that it was like McDougall just put a book together in order to use a bunch of interviews he’s done and articles he’s previously written. If I want a running physiology & training book I’ll get one.
In contrast Runner’s Blood by James Fischer is a novel on running with science and though it too could have done with less detailed physiology; it was a fascinating and compelling story line that had a nice twist at the end. I found Fischer’s characters and storyline were more well developed. Another example is Paul Maurer’s “The Gift” which had quirky characters I could strongly relate to unlike McDougall’s stereotype ultra-runners. They seem put together in order to justify some interview on some fad or single training slant – they just didn’t grab me.
The book culminates in a “great” head-to-head run between the world’s greatest ultra-marathoners. To me the ultra-race of the century was interesting but anticlimactic. I wish I could put my finger on it but it just left me flat. Perhaps it is the writing style. Perhaps I just didn’t really care about any of the characters. Perhaps I was just too tired as if I had just run an ultra myself. In any case, I go contrary to the many reviews of this book and all the “motivating” and “firing up” claims some runners I’ve overheard discussing this book.