I am sure most people that spend some time underway in the running blogosphere have heard of this book, If your interested in barefoot running or minimalist shoes then you can hardly have missed it.
Bassed on all the references, all the propoganda ive seen, the people claiming reading the book was a revelation, that it inspired them to go barefoot, the book wasnt really what i expected. For instance recently the dailymile blog had a barefoot week, and the announcement uses the image off the cover of the book. Then during the week we had posts with interviews with Micah True, and Chris McDonald. a post of running with the Rarramuri, the copper canyon Ultra... it could as easily been called Born to Run week.... However it demonstrates that this book seems to be intimately linked to barefoot running.
I expected the book to be all about barefoot running. It wasnt! In fact the only runner i recall being mentioned running barefoot was barefoot ted, and the book describes his feet as being significantly swollen and tender after the 80k ultra race. He is described using VFF's as well as huraches, Hardly an evangelical advertisement to go barefoot all the time.
I also expected the book to be all about this famous race in the copper canyons that had Scott Jurek line up against some local Raramurri champions. But the description of the race only fills the final few chapters, even the description of how the race was put together, and how they traveled there only made up a small part of the book.
So what was the book about then?
The book holds a large number of smaller annecdotal stories, ranging over a wide range of themes, usually linked to the people that played a part in the race, but also around the various main topics in the book. The stories are interesting in of themselves. But the underlying theme of the book for me is finding a more natural, a more hollistic style of running.
Its a recuring theme in the annecdotes, the pure joy of running for runnings sake. That running is a pure form of exercise that provides you with plenty of time to delve into your inner being. That the greatest distance runners seem to also be some of the more generous people.
There is the expected liturgy against the built up heel of modern jogging shoes. But almost no evangelising of barefoot running, VFF's, or Hurarchies. Although he does talk quite extensively about the light footed flowing style of the raramurri, caballa blanco, scott jurek, and many of the other great runners mentioned.
The book also talks quite extensively about diet, and how we should perhapes reconsider our western diats. I do think it tends to perhapes sensationalise the diat and the food of the Rarramuri. I dont believe we all need to switch to salad for breakfast and corn bassed starches. Luckily most of us are able to afford and arrange a much more varied and interesting diat than a subsitance farmer in the sierra madras.
There is also an underlying theme that we all are much more capable of achieving amazing feats than we would at first suspect. Be it the organiser of a racing team, some surfer kids that decide to take up running, an aussteiger that dreams of a race, the slow kid that loves to run.... almost all of the characters in the book have inspirations stories of achievement that we can all learn from.
I havent talked about the evolutionary argument that we are 'borm to run' that gives the book its title, because quite frankly, im not really convinced. I wont argue against the evidence presented in the book, that demonstrates the humans are one of the best endurance running animals on this planet. Im just not so sure tha running plays as great an evolutionary impetis to our development as the book suggests.
The book does have several things that really bothered my non-american sensibilites when reading it. In the book it seems that every second person is super attractive, that they are totally generous without faults, it portrays an idealistic image of the tarumara that doesnt really reflect reality. This 'Over the Top' style of portrayal is like a small stone in your running shoe, just a little too annoying to really enjoy things without reserve.
The book is well worth a read, i just wish i hadnt heard so much about it before hand, that i could read it without any prejudices.... Will it change me and my running, No I dont think so, but perhapes inderectly since i am being influenced in the decisions i make about my running from many different places that in turn may pay at least some of their inspiration to this book. Its certainly deserves its place on any runners well stocked bookshelf.