Born to Run by Christopher McDougall – Review

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.

shoe-1_edited-dark.jpgshoe-1_edited-dark.jpgshoe-1_edited-light_1.jpgshoe-1_edited-light_1.jpgshoe-1_edited-light_1.jpg 2.0/5.0 Shoes Rating

Want to read it for yourself? Go here.


About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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3 Responses to Born to Run by Christopher McDougall – Review

  1. Christina says:

    Interesting and kind review from someone who I sense truly didn’t like the book. I haven’t heard of Runner’s Blood. Do you still have it laying around? Can I borrow it?

  2. Jim says:

    not to sound like a cheap Siskel and Ebert review debate, but I would have to agree with your review of this book. For me….I just found it dull. Which is about as bad a review as can be giving for a book. Perhaps I am jaded, or perhaps I have read so many books on or about running over the years that it seems nothing new or interesting is being done, I dont know. But what I can say about this book is , I didnt find it interesting, motivating, or remotely “firing up” Dull characters, boring situations, and nothing exciting going on contribute to a very poor read. Other than that…I loved it. Of course keep in mind..I found Once a Runner to be pretty bad also.

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