Tag Archives: long distance running

Born to Run

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall (Vintage, $15.95, 304 pages)

This book is guaranteed to appeal to certain subgroups of readers who are absolutely going to love it: old, new and former runners, middle-distance runners, marathoners, long-distance and ultra-marathon runners, and those who gravitate to stories about indigenous tribes like the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico and the American Southwest.   If you’re not a member of one of these groups, the subject matter is unlikely to hold your interest, unless from time to time you pick up a copy of Runner’s World or Marathon and Beyond magazine and find such to be fascinating.

Of course, there have been books – not intended for the general public – that have been huge and surprising successes, such as Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer and The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger.   Yet, I suspect that this tale of world-class ultra-marathoners will remain a specialized taste for most.

This true story is about a magazine editor who gets to observe an almost-secret race between some of this country’s best ultra-marathon runners and a group of “fleet-footed Tarahumara Indians.”   The race itself comes at the book’s conclusion and is not as interesting as the build-up to it.   Instead, the book is at its best when explaining the science of long-distance running, and how and why the skill of running long distances has been essential to human survival and evolution.  

The author explains why there may be an almost instinctual need for some humans to run the 26.2 miles of a marathon, or further.   He is, however, mystified as to why some persons today avoid running altogether.   The section that active runners may enjoy the best is one in which Christopher McDougall fully details the reasons expensive and highly cushioned running shoes – and those sold in the U. S. continue to be more expensive and more cushioned with each quarter of a year that goes by – lead to inevitable injuries.   After finishing this section, many runners (not including this reviewer) will certainly think about hitting the roads in their running flats or rubber sandals or even barefoot.   Fascinating stuff!

Recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   This bestselling book is now available in a trade paper release.   “Inspiring… destined to become a classic.”   Sir Ranulph Fiennes

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Running Full

For Haruki Murakami the solitude that running brings “is a pretty wonderful thing.”   Murakami – who lives in Tokyo and annually lectures in Cambridge, Massachusetts – wrote this series of essays while preparing for the New York City Marathon.   His goal was to answer the question often asked of runners, “What do you think about when you run?”   The answer, for Murakami, is nothing:  “I’m not thinking of a thing…   (I) keep on running in my own cozy, homemade void, my own nostalgic silence.”

But Murakami finds that running, like the art of writing each day, is something difficult and exhausting that makes him stronger.   By his own admission (“…is it ever possible for a professional writer to be liked by people?”) the loneliness of the long-distance runner and of the writer appears to be one and the same.

This “memoir”, though, is not really a collection of essays about the sport of running.   Running is just the hook.   Like the writings from the late Dr. George Sheehan (Running and Being, This Running Life), this is actually a book about personal philosophy, comfort and self-esteem.   Murakami shows us that we must enjoy our lives in our own way, meeting our own needs even if this displeases others.   In his case, he turns down social obligations and dinner invitations in order to write and run and plan his lectures.   What could be better?

Haruki also addresses the need to gracefully accept the aging process.   “It might not be a very enjoyable process, and what I discover might not be all that pleasant.   But what choice do I have anyway?”about running (paper)

The writer’s style is so engaging – and here’s another parallel with Dr. Sheehan – because of his humbleness and self-deprecation.   This is a Japanese citizen who lectures at Harvard but says of himself, “I’m not the brightest person.”   He’s also a tremendously successful writer who does not expect to be adored, “…I just can’t picture someone liking me on a personal level.”   But Murakami has a wife who loves and accepts him even as she wonders why he runs slower each year.

Yes, Murakami is a brilliant, quirky man who in 180 pages demonstrates for us the value of living on our own terms, with self-acceptance – despite our admitted flaws and limitations – being key.   The reader need not concur with everything Murakami writes but, in the end, you will learn to grant him the respect he has granted to himself.

“Long distance running has molded me into the person I am today…  I’m hoping it will remain a part of my life for as long as possible.   I’ll be happy if running and I can grow old together.”   Long life!

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This book was purchased by the reviewer.

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Running Long: A Review of Born to Run

Born to run (sm.)This book is guaranteed to appeal to certain subgroups of readers who are absolutely going to love it:  old, new and former runners, middle-distance runners, marathoners, long-distance and ultra-marathon runners, and those who gravitate to stories about indigenous tribes like the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico and the American Southwest.   If you’re not a member of one of these groups, the subject matter is unlikely to hold your interest, unless from time to time you pick up a copy of Runner’s World or Marathon and Beyond magazine and find such to be fascinating.

Of course, there have been books – not intended for the general public – that have been huge and surprising successes, such as Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer and The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger.   Yet, I suspect that this tale of world-class ultra-marathoners will remain a specialized taste for most.

The story is about a magazine editor who gets to observe an almost-secret race between some of this country’s best ultra-marathon runners and a group of “fleet-footed Tarahumara Indians.”   The race itself comes at the book’s conclusion and is not as interesting as the build-up to it.   Instead, the book is at its best when explaining the science of long-distance running, and how and why the skill of running long distances has been essential to human survival and evolution.

The author explains why there may be an almost instinctual need for some humans to run the 26.2 miles of a marathon, or further.   He is, however, mystified as to why some persons today avoid running altogether.   The section that active runners may enjoy the best is one in which Christopher McDougall fully details the reasons why expensive and highly cushioned running shoes – and those sold in the U.S. continue to get more expensive and more cushioned with each quarter of a year that goes by – lead to inevitable injuries.   After finishing this section, many runners will certainly think about hitting the roads in their running flats or rubber sandals or even barefoot.   Fascinating stuff!

Knopf, $24.95, 282 pages

Joseph Arellano

Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.

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