Born to Run and Why We Run reviewed: ultradistance Spartathlon and virtually barefooted super athletes

Barefoot Running is controversial. I’ve heard it said of barefoot running that “it’s unnatural!”, some in the running press, amongst physios and sports therapists feel that its a recipe for sports injuries, particularly around the ankle and achilles tendon. On the other hand proponents feel barefoot running reduces risks of chronic injuries, increases running efficiency and economy.

The truth is often found floating around in the middle ground -possibly in a pair of minimalist shoes? This is why at Balance Performance we work with runners of every persuasion and background, whether they intend to run barefoot or get back in cushioned controlled trainers. Whether you see one of the sports injury team, have a running analysis, running specialist podiatrist Mick Habgood or Vivobarefoot coach Naeem Akram – the running engineer – our professional team’s intention is to see runners return to running pain free, with improved movement efficiency, heightened body awareness and on the path to greater resilience.

Anyway for those who havent heard of it “Born to Run”by Chris McDougal is a book to be found on the shelves of all proponents of minimalist support footwear and barefoot running. See the review below.

Interest in Ultradistance races is also increasing. One such race is the Spartathlon a 153-mile overnight trail run and author Robin Harvie who completed it explains the part it played in his running obsession.

Sports journalist Simon Lewis @SiLew of the Irish Examiner reviewed both:

Why We Run: A Story of Obsession, by Robin Harvie; 2011, John Murray; £12.99

Born To Run, by Christopher McDougall; 2009, Profile Books; £8.99

At the core of Harvie’s book is an interesting and at times absorbing memoir of a man who ran his first marathon for a bet and became an ultra-distance runner, prepared to clock up 6,000 miles of training in order to compete in the toughest footrace on the planet.

That race is the Spartathlon, a 152-mile annual retracing of the route taken by foot messenger Pheidippides from Athens to Sparta to beg the Spartans to join the Athenians in battle against the invading Persians at Marathon. Harvie’s recounting of that experience is a welcome climax to a book that otherwise loses its footing in deep ruts of over-analysis.

Harvie’s perspective on running is not necessarily representative. Like him, many do seek to confront their demons by pounding the roads and trails, but plenty more run to escape problems, raise money for good causes or just because they enjoy it.

Which makes “Why We Run” a presumptious title. Why ‘I’ Run might be more suitable.

By stark contrast, McDougall’s 2009 “Born To Run” casts the obsessive nature of runners in a completely different light. With McDougall there is joy and humour, humility and reward as the former war correspondent goes on the trail of a hidden Mexican tribe of virtually barefooted super athletes.

This account focuses on a social dropout and running obsessive and his seemingly misguided bid to bring the world’s best ultra runners to the isolated villages of Mexico’s Copper Canyons for a fifty-mile race against the Tarahumara Indians. Not only that, in the process it manages to explore the reasons behind mankind’s ancient urge to quickly put one foot in front of the other and do so with warmth and affection for the subject. Epic, inspiring and exhilirating.

See below for Christopher McDougal TED lecture who asked “Are we born to run?”

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