From start to finish, Born to Run (by Christopher McDougall) is a page-turner, taking the reader on an epic journey in search of the world's greatest distance runners in an effort to uncover the secrets of their endurance.
This inspirational book takes you into the world of the Tarahumara Indians, whose lives consist of running hundreds of miles with minimal effort on extremely rough terrain amid the forests and canyons of Copper Canyon, Mexico.
These reclusive runners were thrust into the public eye in 1992, when photographer Rick Fisher befriended them and convinced five villagers to enter the Leadville 100 race, only to be let down when they dropped out.
In 1993 however, he came back with older, more seasoned Tarahumara, who would run away from the field, grabbing three of the top five spots and smashing the course records.
In 1994, Fisher was back again with some new runners from the village of Choguita: Martimano Cervantes and Juan Herrera and five others, who had been convinced to run in exchange for corn and beans for their drought-stricken village.
By mile 40, Ann Trason, world record holder and 14-time female winner of the Western States 100, led the field. Then, in the final 10 minutes, Herrera passed her, finishing the race in a record 17:30.
Trason finished a half-hour later in 18:06, smashing her previous Leadville record by more than two hours, a record which still stands today.
Ann's comment after the race: "It takes a woman to bring out the best in a man."
This should have started a lifelong relationship with the Tarahumara, a way for us to learn from them and revere them for being the greatest ultrarunners in the world. After the 1994 race, the Tarahumara would never return due to the hostility of a few greedy Americans. They went home, never to race Leadville again.
"Caballo Blanco," a mysterious racer at the 1994 Leadville 100 who paced and befriended the Tarahumara, then followed them back to the Sierras in search of "the best place in the world to run," helped McDougall organize a 50-mile race on Tarahumara turf, inviting only a handful of American runners - including ultrarunner Scott Jurek. The details and outcome of this race are both inspiring and surprising. Throughout the book, McDougall intersperses data that says human beings are built to run, and that for millions of years, we relied on our legs for safety, food and transportation.
"Our leisurely western lifestyle has taken away the jobs our bodies were meant to do," according to biologist Dr. Dennis Bramble, who is cited in the book. "Nearly every top killer in the world - heart disease, diabetes, stroke, depression and a dozen forms of cancer - were unknown to our ancestors," he wrote.
"You could literally halt epidemics in their tracks with this one remedy: Just move your legs. Because if you don't think you were born to run, you're not only denying history, you're denying who you are."
Our culture today sees extreme exercise as crazy, but for the Tarahumara it is a way of life - a life of nearly perfect health and a peaceful existence.
The Tarahumara love to run. It is integral to their very existence.They run for the sheer joy it gives them and because as humans, they were "born to run."
Reach Marjorie Brinton at firstname.lastname@example.org.