BR: Born to Run, Christopher McDougall

I had a couple of broken nights lately and a deep desire to wander around travel literature and the net result was I bought this for my kindle. In theory it should tick one or two boxes – it’s about trail running and is a piece of travel writing. The blurb and reviews were highly promising with words like “possibly the best book on running in years” and similar littered around the place. Another bout of lying awake at times I didn’t intend to be awake saw me reading. The book dates from 2010 apparently. The only reason this matters is that it referred to Lance Armstrong as being one of the best endurance athletes in the world. Not certain people would say this any more

Anyway I read the book in two shifts, mostly late on Saturday night and finished off the following morning. It’s not a difficult book to read.

It is hard to say just what kind of book it is. I’m not sure it fits into the travel genre (thanks Amazon), and while the central subject – ultra distance running – was absolutely in your face while reading it didn’t really strike me like a sports book either.

The characters featuring split mostly between American and Mexican. You got a sense the writer never really got to know that Mexican runners much, and whether it’s cultural or what, I never warmed to any of the American runners. There are various reasons why.

I’m not a runner in the way these people run. I don’t do 100 mile races. I will never want to. I like running in nature and not on asphalt but I don’t want to do it for 13 hours at a time. I really don’t give a toss if someone knocked hours off a record for some long distance race up a mountain in America because to be absolutely frank, when I run, that’s not why I run. You could argue the book was perhaps never targetted at someone like me and that’s fine; it’s just sure, at the end, there was a long race between some top America ultra runners, most of whom really did not come across as people I wanted to have a drink with, and some Mexican runners, whose sole role in the book, it appeared to me, was to be opposition. Occasionally you got a glimpse into how they felt about things, but only occasionally. Mostly what mattered is that they were there to be run against. I questioned whether it was even in the interest of their way of life for this whole shenanigan to happen.

So here’s the point: can I recommend the book or not. Typically, it’s well written. I’m also (occasionally) a fan of reading books from outside your reading home, and which may challenge you to consider matters that you don’t address on a day to day basis. I seriously hope it’s not the best book about trail running ever and if I were to say one thing, it left me wondering about the value of organising a race like the race at the centre of this book, a sort of clash of civilisations.

It’s not a straight out Avoid but I’m hard pressed to call it a must read too.