Rating: 5 out of 5
This was a stellar non-fiction though with some hyperbole! I enjoyed the author’s style but it is clear that he delves into (needless) exaggeration in making his points. In general, what I liked most was the look into the Tarahumara as the author tried to expound on their culture. The other parts — regarding prehistory and modern running were equally enjoyable — but of a lesser importance for myself.
The Tarahumara are a culture in Mexico. Some of them have abandoned their ancient ways while others have tried to move away from the advances of “civilization” in order to preserve their ancient heritage. What Mr McDougall likes about them is their sense of running, because these guys *can* run. While they are not described in detail, the reader does get an overview of these people as well as what is important to them.
The prehistory was, perhaps, my next most favourite part. There have been many interesting developments in this field, trying to make sense of the early human, but supporting himself by the research of Bramble, Lieberman, and Liebenberg the author describes how it is likely that humans hunted by running their prey down. This makes for a powerful story, and a South African tangent provides the related imagery as well — but it is naturally nigh impossible to prove or disprove this for certain.
The topic of modern running — both how ultrarunning has developed in the US (the rest of the world is excluded) and how the running industry has developed around casual running — were interesting though probably the most ‘hyperbolic’. A good story here is as important as anywhere else, and while some moments — such as the description of Zátopek’s victory in the Helsinki Olympic Marathon of ’52 — stood out beautifully, other descriptions — such as those relating to Mr McDougall’s doctors — sounded more like an extended gripe.
One of the arguments brought against the author’s diatribes against shoes is that it is yet unproven whether this is a case of correlation or causation; I’m not going to weigh in on that. What I am going to say is that the author’s way of describing what running should be — enjoyable and difficult — made for a far better goal than the typical “go and beat yourself to dust on a pavement” type of attitude that one can get.
I recommend this.