My Top Ten Books of 2009 (#8)

run.jpg #8. Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall
#9. Calvin, by Bruce Gordon
#10. Water of the Word: Intercession for Her, by Andrew Case

I became a runner this year.

No, not like, “I bought a pair of shoes from Dick’s and went for a jog here and there” (not that there’s anything wrong with that).  But, I tried to turn myself into a legit runner.  I dropped 40 lbs., studied the mechanics of running, learned about proper form, studied running shoes and technical gear (with the help of some friends), started reading Runner’s World magazine cover to cover every month (a b-day gift from my bride), built up my mileage to 35-50 miles a week, learned about heart rate zones, proper breathing and how to treat 4-5 different kinds of running injuries, and eventually ran two 5Ks, a half marathon and my first full 26.2 miler.

A key part of the inspiration for all of this and one of the things that helped me fall in love with running was Born to Run.  Christopher McDougall has investigated, lived and now written a story that is as fascinating and educational as it is inspiring.  From the dust jacket flap:

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 pitting the tribe against an odd band of Americans, including a star ultramarathoner, a beautiful young surfer, and a barefoot wonder.

McDougall is a masterful storyteller.  He is able to hold the reader in suspense without being tacky or unpleasant.  He is able to flash backward and forward through the chronology of the story without being confusing in the least.  And, most impressively, he is able to mix a ripping-good story together with technical details and profitable instruction in running in a way that seems seamless.  I was as amazed by his descriptions and explanations of the mechanisms and wonder of the human body as I was by his descriptions and explanations of the incredible Tarahumara people.

If you’re not a runner, this will likely make you want to be one (and believe you can be!).  If you are a runner, this is a must-read.  It will remind you why you run (if you run for something more than merely to stay fit).  It will teach you a good deal about running.  And it will so resonate with many of your own experiences running that you will often feel like a character in the story yourself.

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