I’ve finished the book. I struggle to even know where to begin with this rating. Here’s the thing. Every now and then you find a book that ropes you in so quickly you find yourself carrying larger bags everywhere so you never have to leave it at home. That way if you have a couple extra minutes waiting for the metro, sitting at the doctor’s office, stuck in traffic, at a boring staff meeting, you can immediately whip it out. You never want to leave the wonderful imaginary world you’re a part of, and when you finish you’re sad because you’ve been forced to leave. You can do nothing but pray for a sequel.
It’s been awhile since I’ve found one of those. The last was Eat, Pray, Love (if you haven’t read it, you should immediately), and I’m so thankful to have found a new one. But I want to be clear, when I give this book a 10, it is not just a 10 for incredible writing and one of the best stories I’ve ever read.
I’m rating it a 10 because of what I’ve learned from the people in the book, and the stories they had to tell.
I had a conversation with someone pretty incredible recently, discussing the intensity and the enigma of the human spirit (bear with me). How do we begin to define it, how do we explain it, more importantly, how do we learn from those people who’ve truly found the meaning of joy and are able to embrace it in all situations. It’s one of those things that you know and feel when you find it, but can’t always explain how, or why, you know.
While these don’t seem like issues that would be tackled in a running book, this is just one of the many reasons why this has quickly climbed to the top of my list of favorite books ever (even made it onto my Facebook profile that I haven’t changed in YEARS. That’s saying something).
The stories told in this book range from Czech Olympians, to the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico, to a pair of college hippies, and there is something inspiring to be found in each of them. These people have a spirit that’s different from many that I’ve met on a daily basis, and I’m not quite sure yet if it’s the extreme running that creates this, or that these are the only people crazy enough to run 100 miles in a day, across a desert. Regardless, you’ll fall in love with them.
Perhaps I should give some context as I gush, and admit openly that I am the person who cries at every incredible sporting event ever. Ranging from Colorado’s incredible comeback against Nebraska over Thanksgiving about 10 years ago, pretty much every Ironman ever (how can you not cry when they tell such incredible stories of perseverance and success along the way?) to the Penn State women’s volleyball team taking the national title, I’m happy if they’re happy. So this book left me a mess. Perhaps it won’t have the same effect on you, but be prepared and open to the possibility.
The overall story of the book is of the ‘greatest race the world has never seen’. Christopher McDougall, a runner and writer for Runner’s World, discovers a tribe of Mexicans called the Tarahumara, who are known as being some of the fastest humans in the world. They are known for wearing only sandals on their feet, and for living in the caves of Mexico, making them virtually impossible to find. Yet this book tells their story, as well as the stories of many other ultrarunners. While they seem crazy, running extreme long distances in completely unbearable circumstances, they all find a joy in running that is fascinating to me. In the process of telling their stories, he also examines the history of long distance running, and what has gone wrong here in the US leading to such a large number of injuries. He presents some fascinating theories, as well as solutions (I’ll be blogging about this shortly), that will absolutely revolutionize the way you look at running and advertising. I promise you will never look at it the same again.
WARNING! This book is not just for runners. While I ran a marathon back in college, I’ve been mostly out of commision since, and would not at all consider myself a runner. This book is for EVERYONE. In fact, I almost recommend it more highly for those that aren’t.
My new goal= to somehow get in contact with Christopher McDougall (who lives in rural Pennsylvania, not far from home) and convince him to go for a run with me over Thanksgiving or Christmas. Wish me luck, and READ THE BOOK!