Born to Run: A Review

Filed under: General Health, Training

As many of you know I have a sizable commute to work everyday, usually averaging 1:10 to 1:15 each way. Needless to say I spend a lot of time in my car every week, a stunning 1999 Ford Taurus. I listen to a lot of podcasts, sports talk radio, and now I am starting up on audio books. I most recently just finished the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (audio version here).

I have been wanting to read it ever since it came out, but considering that I have been working on the incredible Good Calories, Bad Calories (review coming eventually) for several months now it was destined to not be read for a while. Fortunately EC picked it up in the unabridged audio book format, and I was able to toss it on my iPod and give it a listen.

This book is absolutely fascinating. It intertwines stories of fantastic ultra-marathons with facts and theories about human evolution in a riveting, multi-layered approach. McDougall tells much of the book from a first hand account, and he just brings his story to life, making it so vivid and real you feel as if you are running along side him.

There is even some nutrition info in the book. Some is decent, some is absolutely terrible and false, but that is one of the few stumbles. When he gets to the theories about humans having evolved to be the greatest running machines on earth, with our ability to persistence hunt, it is utterly spellbinding.

I urge anyone, whether a runner or not (I am as far from one as is humanly possible) to give this book a read, or as in my case, a listen. It will capture your imagination.

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Posted on September 22nd, 2009 by Brian St. Pierre


  1. Luke Says:

    Brian- I’ve got this book on my Kindle and will be reading it soon. I’ve heard all kinds of good things about it. I’m a former runner that largely gave it up 4-5 years ago to focus on resistance training. I still enjoy running for recreational purposes and have considered getting back into it. I’m even slightly concerned (right word?) that after reading this book I’ll want to start running on a regular basis.

    I could be wrong, but I’ve heard that McDougall either advocates for or defends the idea of barefoot running. I train barefoot as much as possible, because I’ve read about the benefits of it, but wonder what your thoughts are in terms of running? Are you familiar at all with the Vibram 5 finger shoes? They’re ugly as sin, but I’ve heard some runners swear by them as being the closest thing to barefoot running while still offering protection to those in an urban environment. Any thoughts?

  2. Sal Says:

    I look forward to Brian’s response, but from my experience and understanding, shoes contribute to much of the posture related problems that people face. Back, hip, leg, foot pain are often related to shoes. Shoes are really only a product of the last few centuries. Humans have evolved to be barefoot. Shoes distribute weight in a way that is more comfortable, but is contrary to how humans have evolved to walk. I have seen people with back pain switch their deadlifts and squats from doing them with shoes to bare feet. Not only were they able to lift heavier and with less pain, their form improved tremendously as well. Same goes for running. Much of the it band and knee pain issue can be traced to improper shoes. In fact, if you look at the marathon world records, the difference from the one set barefoot(i forget who it was, but he set it barefoot a few decades ago), to the current wr (which was set in shoes that probably had millions of dollars of research put into them) is surprisingly little. The last important thing in my opinion is that being barefoot puts you more in touch with your body. If you have pain, you are much more likely to feel it if you are barefoot than if you are in cushioned shoes that may mask the pain. This will allow you to notice any potential problems before they become an issue. For runners that put in miles every day, this can be very important.

  3. Abebe Bikila, Cliff Young, And Born To Run Review « Says:

    [...] Now as Leslie Wu had mentioned previously Born to Run seems to be a “must read for every athlete”, and here’s the review to back that up. [...]

  4. Brian St. Pierre Says:

    Luke and Sal,

    Yes Chris does go into barefoot running a lot, and he does discuss the Vibram 5-fingers as a good alternative. They are ugly though. I would definitely encourage people to learn to run in things like the 5-fingers, Nike Free’s, etc., as you will be so much more likely to run on the balls of your feet rather than on your heels.

    I do caution people though to start slow. Do not go from running in shoes to 5 mile jogs barefoot straight out of the box. I would suggest starting with something like the Nike Free first, then maybe move on to the 5-fingers.

  5. Bill Says:

    Just finished this about ten minutes ago. Possibly the most entertaining and, i suppose heart warming, book I’ve ever read

  6. sal Says:

    just finished the book this morning. Brian just curious, but could you give some more detail on your thoughts regarding the nutrition info?… if you even remember.

    Thanks for suggesting the book though. it was fantastic

  7. Reading Without Reading : The Home of Brian St. Pierre Training Says:

    [...] My queue of books seems like it grows daily, and I am barely able to even chip away, so this has been more or less life-changing. This all started a while back when I listened to EC’s copy of Born to Run, which I reviewed HERE. [...]

  8. Uhh…Random/Interesting Stuff? : The Home of Brian St. Pierre Training Says:

    [...] It is really interesting, and really expands on the topics covered in Born to Run (which I reviewed HERE, awesome book by the way). I highly recommend you check this site out, especially if you are a [...]

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