Articles & Tools

Recommendation: “We were born to run” by Christopher McDougall

Author: Alex Shillman
Ahuzat Bayit Publishing, 392 pages.

Christopher McDougall was a talented and quite successful journalist, a Harvard graduate and former professional athlete, and an amateur runner. Amateurish and frustrated. Because he was injured time and time again during the runs, and between coverage of one war and investigative reports on another, he wondered what was wrong with his run. To answer this question, he set out in the wake of a vague record of a mysterious and humble tribe of runners retreating from the modern world into the twilight of the cliffs of Mexico’s hot copper canyon, an inaccessible area almost entirely controlled by drug lords. McDougall’s personal search drew him into a fascinating plot following the roots of running and what turns out to be a journey of human identity. The journey slowly reveals a spectacular gallery of colorful characters eager to run unreasonable distances, withdrawn Olympic champions, eccentric ultramarathon runners, legendary fitness trainers who defy conventional notions of running, and one mysterious figure who serves as a bridge between the outside world and the Traumara tribe – Cabello Blanco – the White Horse.

Amazingly, it is precisely the extreme, almost fantastic characters that accompany the journey that allow the author to distill simple basic truths about the lives of each and every one of us. In his humble and unique way, McDougall writes about running but touches on the modern way of life and thinking itself. “Ask a person about his running and he’ll know every damn detail about the shoe he’s wearing and nothing about his foot!” says McDougall. He dislikes commercialized and institutionalized sports, which do not stem from inner passion but from the flames of competition and rivalry. The traumas never run against each other, they run with each other out of a burst of energy and a powerful desire to travel far away. We, on the other hand, armed with sophisticated headphones that separate us from the world, forget to connect to the simple essence within, are too focused on destinations, suppliers, and luxury accessories, and along the way lose our innate abilities to travel unimaginable distances and become better and healthier people.

The author did not try to lead the reader to the conclusion that he chose it in advance, it is an honest journey of discovery during which the various clues join and create a fascinating picture of the amazing qualities of running, Nelson Mandela who ran dozens of kilometers in his cell, Abraham Lincoln who became famous as a talented and invincible runner, the anatomical structure of the leg and the only survival advantage we had over Neanderthals all shed new light on the place of running in our lives “Throughout the research I kept thinking that I was on the verge of finishing. When I heard about the traumra I didn’t think I would find them and then when I found them they wouldn’t talk to me, and then when I found his crutches he invited me to participate in a race he organized but I didn’t think I would be able to run. Every step of the way I thought it was the last step, and all the time there was another development and another adventure, and when it was over and I went home, I realized that a lot of things had happened to me in the past year,” McDougall told Haaretz.

When you put the book down, you’ll probably have a strong desire to put on a sweatshirt, go out into the space and start running. No wonder, then, that since its publication in 2009, the book has quickly become a cult book and the focus of the healthy and athletic lifestyle movement, and McDougall himself has become a reluctant prophet of the sweeping trend. Even in Israel, after its publication in 2013, the book blended well into the running trend that is so favorite among startups of all ages. Years ago, studies began to be published, one after the other, revealing the benefits of physical activity, especially running, and today we already know how to link regular running to improved concentration abilities, higher life expectancy, health, increased mental well-being and life satisfaction. Psychiatrists have even begun prescribing exercise as a powerful antidepressant. Running educates the body and mind at the simplest level that our actions have tangible results and that it is possible to initiate change and overcome challenges that seem insurmountable at first sight.

Whatever the challenge you face, go for a run, everything else will come later.

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