Friday, May 28, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: "Born to Run"

“Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superatheletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen” by Christopher McDougall

“Born To Run” is a cool book. It’s also a weird, scattered, odd, and random book. But it’s good because it is thorough, descriptive, challenging, paradigm-challenging, provocative, inspiring, informative, entertaining and very strange! At first I thought the author had ADHD and then by the end I was sure he does! Anyway, the book highlights the Tarahumara Indians in the Copper Canyons of Mexico who happen to be amazing runners. But that’s only a part of the content. It also just highlights the work of ultrarunning in general and talks in great details about some of the most popular and challenging ultras (including Leadville) and athletes.

Every runner should read this book! You won’t agree with everything in it (who would?!), but you’ll be challenged and inspired to be a better runner and healthier person by reading. Once you get to the half way point, you’ll have a hard time putting it down! I learned so much I didn't know about ultras - including the fact that Dean Karnazes didn't finish Leadville the first two times he ran it (just like me!) so I don't have to feel too much like a loser!

There are many but two of my favorite passages are here:

[speaking of the Leadville Trail 100 mile run the author writes (“he” is Leadville Race-Director Ken):]

To get a sense of what he came up with, try running the Boston Marathon two times in a row with a sock stuffed in your mouth and then hike to the top of Pikes Peak.


Great. Now do it all again, this time with your eyes closed. That’s pretty much what the Leadville Trail 100 boils down to: nearly four full marathons, half of them in the dark, with twin twenty-six-hundred-foot climbs smack in the middle. Leadville’s starting line is twice as high as the altitude where planes pressurize their cabins, and from there you only go up…

…Fingers crossed, Leadville has yet to polish anyone off, probably because it beats most runners into submission before they collapse. Dean Karnazes, the self-styled Ultramarathon Man, couldn’t finish it the first two times he tried; after watching him drop out twice, the Leadville folks gave him their own nickname: “Ofer” (“O fer one, O for two…”). Less than half the field makes it to the finish every year.

Not surprisingly, an event with more flameouts than finishers tends to attract a rare breed of athlete… (page 61)

[speaking of Ann Trason, affectionately named “La Bruja” by the Tamahuara]

Ann also acclimated effortlessly to high altitude, and knew better than anyone alive how to analyze and attack the logistical problems of a one-hundred-mile footrace. At its essence, an ultra is a binary equation made up of hundreds of yes/no questions: Eat now or wait? Bomb down this hill, or throttle back and save the quads for the flats? Find out what is itching in your sock, or push on? Extreme distance magnifies every problem (a blister become a blood-soaked sock, a declined PowerBar becomes a woozy inability to follow trail makers), so all it takes is one wrong answer to ruin a race. But not for honor-student Ann; when it came to ultras, she always aced her quizzes. (p.75)