Read this, she said, you’ll love it. It’s about long distance running.
That was four years ago. I read Born to Run and did enjoy it at the time. I learnt details about human running that set us apart from other animals. I enjoyed it, learnt lots. I’m grateful to the running acquaintance who leant me a copy of the book.
With three marathons and an ultra on the wish list for 2016 there is no time like now to get my head in shape for these longer distance runs. Melbourne Marathon in October 2015 illustrated in the rawest of tangible terms that having mental toughness and right thinking are as much a part of running long as the physical part of the training.
I sat down one evening just before Christmas and perused several online book shops looking for books on ultra running. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall kept popping up in the lists. It wouldn’t hurt to read it again, I thought, and it would be good to have a copy for myself. So I bought it.
Reading it now compared to four years ago – wow! I got so much more out of it. It made more sense. I was captivated even more by the story that’s intertwined within the pages together with scientific facts about the mechanics of running and technique. I was gripped. I even took it in the car with me and read it while we drove places (sometimes living out the back of beyond has its advantages: reading time).
In a nutshell there are two main take home messages that I hold close
- Human beings are born to run. We have springy Achilles tendons that enable us to pound the ground and run for miles and miles. We were in fact not only born to run but to run long long long distances. We have a ligament in the back of the neck which stabilises the head when we’re moving fast. The only other animals to have the nuchal ligament are horses and dogs. We have a fantastic cooling system: we’re hairless on our bodies and we sweat, we can cool down while we’re running, we don’t have to stop. We have all this physical stuff going on that means we are born to run distances; we are physically equipped to run for hours.
- Running is about community and having a grateful, kind heart. True! I got this out of the book from quite a few different examples. The Tarahumara people of Mexico are known as The Running People (The Raramuri). They run long and fast and yet they don’t organise races to beat each other. Their races are a reason to get together, be together, to share in something that they love. It’s about community, relationships and friendship. They run in groups rather than out on their own. They look after each other. Same with the Kalahari Bushmen of Botswana. They are able to hunt and bring home meat for the community because they run together and work as a team. Running is about looking after each other. It’s about the faster people going back to find the slower people. It’s about the demonstration of kindness and giving support. It’s about running happy.
I loved reading this book again. With four more years of running experience it was like reading it with the lights turned on. I was totally absorbed by the story and the facts.
Easy, Light, Smooth, Fast. This is how running should be. In the words of Caballo Blanco as quoted by McDougall…
Think Easy, Light, Smooth, and Fast. You start with easy, because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don’t give a shit how high the hill is or how far you’ve got to go. When you’ve practiced that so long that you forget you’re practicing, you work on making it smooooooth. You won’t have to worry about the last one – you get those three and you’ll be fast. (McDoughall, 2010, page 111)
I found myself nodding my nuchal ligament frequently throughout the book. No matter where you are in running this is the book to read. And be encouraged by. Our bodies are made to run. We have the equipment. We just need to get out there and do it.
Lose yourself in the pages of Born to Run. As your eyes move from word to word, from page to page find yourself running with some of the wonderful running people of the world – the Tarahumara, the Kalahari Bushmen and some wonderful Americans and a South African who took risks to learn about running from people who have never doubted that they are born to run.
We were born to run. If that running goal of yours is making you worried, then stop worrying now. You have all that you need to go the distance. Take it slowly, be sensible with training, but never doubt that you were born to run.
Happy running 🙂
PS this little report doesn’t do the book justice.