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Born to Run

Cover of Born to Run

Born to Run

A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
Born to Run is an epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt? In search of an answer, Christopher McDougall sets off to find a tribe of the world’s greatest distance runners and learn their secrets, and in the process shows us that everything we thought we knew about running is wrong.

Isolated by the most savage terrain in North America, the reclusive Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s deadly Copper Canyons are custodians of a lost art. For centuries they have practiced techniques that allow them to run hundreds of miles without rest and chase down anything from a deer to an Olympic marathoner while enjoying every mile of it. Their superhuman talent is matched by uncanny health and serenity, leaving the Tarahumara immune to the diseases and strife that plague modern existence. With the help of Caballo Blanco, a mysterious loner who lives among the tribe, the author was able not only to uncover the secrets of the Tarahumara but also to find his own inner ultra-athlete, as he trained for the challenge of a lifetime: a fifty-mile race through the heart of Tarahumara country.


From the Compact Disc edition.
Born to Run is an epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt? In search of an answer, Christopher McDougall sets off to find a tribe of the world’s greatest distance runners and learn their secrets, and in the process shows us that everything we thought we knew about running is wrong.

Isolated by the most savage terrain in North America, the reclusive Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s deadly Copper Canyons are custodians of a lost art. For centuries they have practiced techniques that allow them to run hundreds of miles without rest and chase down anything from a deer to an Olympic marathoner while enjoying every mile of it. Their superhuman talent is matched by uncanny health and serenity, leaving the Tarahumara immune to the diseases and strife that plague modern existence. With the help of Caballo Blanco, a mysterious loner who lives among the tribe, the author was able not only to uncover the secrets of the Tarahumara but also to find his own inner ultra-athlete, as he trained for the challenge of a lifetime: a fifty-mile race through the heart of Tarahumara country.


From the Compact Disc edition.
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  • From the book

    To live with ghosts requires solitude.
    --Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces

    FOR DAYS, I'd been searching Mexico's Sierra Madre for the phantom known as Caballo Blanco--the White Horse. I'd finally arrived at the end of the trail, in the last place I expected to find him--not deep in the wilderness he was said to haunt, but in the dim lobby of an old hotel on the edge of a dusty desert town. "Sí, El Caballo está," the desk clerk said, nodding. Yes, the Horse is here.

    "For real?" After hearing that I'd just missed him so many times, in so many bizarre locations, I'd begun to suspect that Caballo Blanco was nothing more than a fairy tale, a local Loch Ness mons - truo dreamed up to spook the kids and fool gullible gringos.

    "He's always back by five," the clerk added. "It's like a ritual." I didn't know whether to hug her in relief or high- five her in triumph. I checked my watch. That meant I'd actually lay eyes on the ghost in less than . . . hang on.

    "But it's already after six."

    The clerk shrugged. "Maybe he's gone away."

    I sagged into an ancient sofa. I was filthy, famished, and defeated. I was exhausted, and so were my leads.

    Some said Caballo Blanco was a fugitive; others heard he was a boxer who'd run off to punish himself after beating a man to death in the ring. No one knew his name, or age, or where he was from. He was like some Old West gunslinger whose only traces were tall tales and a whiff of cigarillo smoke. Descriptions and sightings were all over the map; villagers who lived impossible distances apart swore they'd seen him traveling on foot on the same day, and described him on a scale that swung wildly from "funny and simpático" to "freaky and gigantic."

    But in all versions of the Caballo Blanco legend, certain basic details were always the same: He'd come to Mexico years ago and trekked deep into the wild, impenetrable Barrancas del Cobre--the Copper Canyons--to live among the Tarahumara, a near- mythical tribe of Stone Age superathletes. The Tarahumara (pronounced Spanish- style by swallowing the "h": Tara- oo- mara) may be the healthiest and most serene people on earth, and the greatest runners of all time.

    When it comes to ultradistances, nothing can beat a Tarahumara runner--not a racehorse, not a cheetah, not an Olympic marathoner.

    Very few outsiders have ever seen the Tarahumara in action, but amazing stories of their superhuman toughness and tranquillity have drifted out of the canyons for centuries. One explorer swore he saw a Tarahumara catch a deer with his bare hands, chasing the bounding animal until it finally dropped dead from exhaustion, "its hoofs falling off." Another adventurer spent ten hours climbing up and over a Copper Canyon mountain by mule; a Tarahumara runner made the same trip in ninety minutes.

    "Try this," a Tarahumara woman once told an exhausted explorer who'd collapsed at the base of a mountain. She handed him a gourd full of a murky liquid. He swallowed a few gulps, and was amazed to feel new energy pulsing in his veins. He got to his feet and scaled the peak like an overcaffeinated Sherpa. The Tarahumara, the explorer would later report, also guarded the recipe to a special energy food that leaves them trim, powerful, and unstoppable: a few mouthfuls packed enough nutritional punch to let them run all day without rest.

    But whatever secrets the Tarahumara are hiding, they've hidden them well. To this day, the Tarahumara live in the side of cliffs higher than a hawk's nest in a land few have ever seen. The Barrancas are a lost world in the most remote wilderness in North America, a sort of a...

About the Author-
  • Christopher McDougall is a former war correspondent for the Associated Press and is now a contributing editor for Men's Health. A three-time National Magazine Award finalist, he has written for Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, Outside, Men's Journal, and New York. He does his own running among the Amish farms around his home in rural Pennsylvania.


Reviews-
  • San Francisco Chronicle

    "Compelling. . . . Entertaining. . . . [McDougall] uses an extended portrait of one of the world's least known cultures, the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico's Copper Canyons, to put modern American running under an exacting magnifying glass."

  • Outside Magazine
    "Equal parts quest, physiology treatise, and running history. . . . [McDougall] seeks to learn the secrets of the Tarahumara the old-fashioned way: He tracks them down. . . . The climactic race reads like a sprint. . . . It simply makes you want to run."
  • The Irish Times.
    "Hugely entertaining. . . . One of the most joyful and engaging books about running to appear for many years."
  • Kirkus, starred review "An enthralling story. . . . McDougall's background as a magazine writer is readily apparent--his prose is light and airy, informative without being pretentious. Most passages are short and engaging with extra doses of drama and exclamatory phrases thrown in to great effect. McDougall wisely grounds the narrative in his own struggle to engage in the concluding race--he was frustrated with his tendency to get injured--and he offers insightful sidebars on a variety of topics, from the development of the modern running shoe to an evolutionary argument that humans are literally born to run. . . . A terrific ride, recommended for any athlete."
  • Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code "A wildly fascinating story, perfectly told. Born to Run is an instant classic."
  • Bill Rodgers, Four time winner of the Boston Marathon "Born to Run is hilariously funny, weird, and nonstop fun to read. Runners can sink their teeth into it."
  • Hampton Sides, author of Blood and Thunder and Ghost Soldiers "Driven by an intense yet subtle curiosity, Christopher McDougall gamely treads across the continent to pierce the soul and science of long-distance running. McDougall's ambitious search leads him deep into the ragged folds of Mexico's Copper Canyon, where he somehow manages the impossible: He plumbs the mystic secrets of the fleet-footed Tarahumara Indians while never losing his deep enchantment for the majesty of their culture."
  • Benjamin Wallace, author of The Billionaire's Vinegar "Christopher McDougall writes like a world-class ultramarathoner, with so much ease and heart and gusto that I couldn't stop reading this thrilling, fascinating book. As soon as I finished, all I wanted to do was head out for a run."
  • Lynne Cox, author of Swimming to Antarctica "I love Christopher McDougall's Born To Run! The book is wonderful. It's funny, insightful, captivating, and a great and beautiful discovery. There are lessons here that translate to realms beyond running. The book inspires anyone who those seeks to live more fully or to run faster."
  • John Gimlette, author of Panther Soup "Galloping along through a multi-faceted landscape that is by turns exhilarating, funny and weirdly absorbing, Born to Run is a breathless read, but sheer endorphinous pleasure."
  • Lloyd Bradley, author of The Rough Guide to Running "Quite simply the best book you'll ever read about running. . . . Brilliant, and brilliantly life-affirming."
  • Sir Ranulph Fiennes, author of Mad, Bad and Dangerous To Know "Born to Run is a fascinating and inspiring true adventure story, based on humans pushing themselves to the limits. A brilliantly written account of extraordinary endurance, far from home--that also explains how anyone can run better--it's destined to become a classic."
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A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
Christopher McDougall
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Christopher McDougall
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