I’ve always been an athlete. I’ve tried a wide array of different sports throughout my life – from softball to rowing to golf to basketball to volleyball. In most of these sports, running is a basic form of training. I even ran cross country in high school, but really considered it more as a source of training for my other sports during off season, rather than something to excel at.
Over the years I’ve continued to run, but only tended to half enjoy it. I felt like it was more of an obligation than something fun… that is until last year. Last year I ran the Naperville Trails Half Marathon. I have never (ever) had such a positive outlook on running as I did last year. I’ve run other half marathons before, but dreaded the training and didn’t exactly stick to my running plans very well (which of course didn’t make for a very enjoyable race day since I was under prepared) But last summer was different, last summer I went to bed at night looking forward to getting up to my early morning run, and was even looking forward to my longer runs on Saturday mornings. I really couldn’t explain what changed, things just seemed to click.
At the beginning of this summer, I desperately wanted to get back to that place within me that loved to run every day. I’ve had a rough start this spring and just couldn’t seem to get back into the groove. But then I read the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. What an inspiration! McDougall is a writer for Men’s Health Magazine who started out as a typical recreational runner and by the end of the book runs a 50 mile ultra-marathon race. He had a history of leg injuries from running and was just about to give up on it (which multiple doctors were warning him that he needed to) when he stumbled upon the story of a lifetime. He was covering a different story down in Mexico when he learned about a remote tribe called the Tarahumara. This ancient tribe was still living in the Copper Canyon almost untouched by the outer world. They are known for their incredible ability to run extremely long distances without so much as batting an eye.
The book goes into the history and philosophies of this running tribe and provides scientific and evolutionary proof that humans were indeed built to run. Did you know that humans have additional ligaments and specifically shaped heads and necks that provide the stability needed for long distance running? McDougall also includes inspiring short biographies of a few amazing professional ultra-marathoners and how they found their way into the sport. The book ends in an unbelievable race through the jungle between members of the Tarahumara tribe and the professional ultra-marathoners.
Though I promise I will not be entering into any marathon or ultramarathon races anytime soon, this book taught me so much about myself and has sparked a shift in my philosophy on running. I feel that I even gained more insight into why I had such a stellar training routine last year.
But if I had to pick just one idea that resonated with me most, it would be that running should be seen as a way to celebrate life. Running is a privilege that not everyone has. It’s a form of therapy – both physical and mental. It can be an expression of gratitude for the body and life you have been given.
After reading this book, I don’t think I’ll ever look at running the same way.