Monday, June 17, 2013

Book Review: Born To Run by Chris McDougall


Idly flipping through Competitor Magazine, I came across this picture and just kept flipping.  Then a week later I signed up for my library's adult summer reading program.  Not that you care for details, but it's a bingo card and I needed to check off a nonfiction book to get my BINGO!  Well, why not read a running book?  I know I saw an article about one somewhere... what was it?  Which one should I read?

I know what you're thinking.  "You call yourself a 'runner' and haven't read McDougall's book YET!?"

I remedied that, though I haven't finished the article that I found the picture (seen above) that had planted the idea in my mind for me to pick up the book.

Is it a fantastic book?  Absolutely.  Is it a little fantastical?  Yes.  I don't want to discredit McDougall in the least.  He paints a great picture and tells a vivid story.  He is a journalist and takes those skills to delve deep and find the facts, write about them in an interesting way to capture his audience and find clues and hints about people to give us a bit of their character.  Perhaps he takes these clues an embellishes a little?   Perhaps the Tarahumara are romanticized a bit and we don't fully see the exploitation and poverty they live in?  It is glossed over quickly, but that's because it's a book about running, not sociology or anthropology.

 I particularly was fascinated and appalled with Ann Trason.  Maybe not with Ann Trason herself, but how she is portrayed in the book.  I'm not buying McDougall's idea of her... and I'm not the only one.    It made for a great story that Caballo Blanco called her "La Bruja", but according to the blog linked above, there is more to the story:

Caballo also says that the reason they called her "La Bruja" was because he himself had used that word to try to describe a woman with great powers. 
His Spanish is limited. He never intended the name to be used it in a critical way. Being viewed as a powerful woman is not the same as being a mean old witch. Caballo can probably also be blamed for some of the weird interaction between Ann and the Raramuri. He advised them to stalk her and not pass her until the end. Apparently, when Ann stopped to take a pee during the race, Juan (one of the Raramuri) stopped and waited for her. She was understandably weirded out by this because she thought he was taunting her. Caballo said that he and the Raramuri were very impressed with Ann's performance at Leadville. She didn't win, so it must have been the way she ran. In fact, the Raramuri were so impressed, they presented her with a special gift of hand-made sandals at the awards ceremony. That doesn't sound like bad blood to me. Why would they do that for someone who had been mean spirited?

I think it is a great book, with some very interesting facts about running and some great "characters" to the book...  It's in my nature to research some of the things I can after reading stuff like this.  It's fun and interesting to look up "Barefoot Ted" and read about some of the other great people mentioned in the book.  I think it's also important not to take one guy's word for it.  Even Ultra runner (and one of the main characters in the book,) Jenn Shelton took some issue with some aspects of the book... and she was there!  Which, I think, is the point.

Read it, please!  But with any book about anything out there, don't just take that person's word for it.  Or maybe the next person's either.  One thing is for sure, the book has sparked quit a bit of discussion, controversy and brought to light some great people and a culture not well understood before.

Have you read the book?  Love it or hate it?  Are you a barefoot runner or in shoes?  I'd love to hear what your ideas and opinions are when it comes to this, so please share.  

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