Born to Run Book Summary - Born to Run Book explained in key points
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Born to Run summary

Christopher McDougall

A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

4.4 (187 ratings)
33 mins

Brief summary

"Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall explores the Tarahumara tribe's prowess in long-distance running and the evolution of humans as runners. With captivating real-life stories, it showcases why we should return to natural running and minimalistic footwear for a healthier and happier lifestyle.

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    Born to Run
    Summary of 8 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 8

    Running unites our two most primal impulses – fear and pleasure.

    Distance-running has shot up three times in the US. The first time was during the Great Depression, when more than two hundred runners raced 40 miles a day in the Great American Footrace. Running became popular again in the early 1970s as the country struggled to recoup from wars, race riots, and a criminal president. And the third surge happened one year after the September 11 attacks, when trail-running became the nation’s fastest-growing outdoor sport. 

    As trends would have it, in fact, we’re experiencing another running boom now, during the COVID pandemic. And it’s not just because gyms are closed. 

    Maybe it was a coincidence that people turned to running during a national crisis. Or maybe there’s a trigger in the human psyche that mobilizes our greatest, most basic survival skill at such times. We run when we’re scared, and we run when we’re happy. We run to relieve stress, and because it feels good. 

    The key message here is: Running unites our two most primal impulses – fear and pleasure.

    The problem was, running didn’t feel good to Chris – an otherwise athletic guy in his forties. Since trying to become a marathoner, he’d experienced multiple injuries, including ripped hamstrings, sprained ankles, and arch aches that just wouldn’t go away. According to his doctor, his body wasn’t designed for running’s abuse. 

    Actually, many medical professionals cite risk of injury as a reason not to run. And they’re not wrong. Every year, anywhere from 65 to 80 percent of all runners suffer an injury. That’s most runners, every year! No invention has been able to curb the havoc; if anything, the injury rate has actually increased. According to the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons, distance running is “an outrageous threat to the integrity of the knee.”

    But Chris had a hunch that there was a way to run without the accompanying pain – and to really enjoy it. He remembered the elation of running around at top speed as a kid, with total abandon and delight.

    And how did someone like ultrarunner Ann Trason think that running huge distances in the mountains was “very romantic?” What made the legendary Emil Zátopek love running so much that, after a full day of drills in army boot camp, he’d grab a flashlight and go on 20-mile runs through the dark and freezing woods in his combat boots?

    Chris didn’t love running, but he wanted to. So instead of heeding his doctor’s advice to “buy a bike,” he set out to find a way to run, pain-free. His quest would lead him to a secretive Mexican tribe whose members seemed to be able to run forever – smiling every step of the way.

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    What is Born to Run about?

    Born to Run (2009) delves into the human capacity for long-distance running. First-hand accounts, an encounter with a secretive ultra-running tribe and cutting-edge research combine to argue for the idea that we may well be born to run.

    Born to Run Review

    Born to Run (2009) is an exhilarating exploration of humans' innate love for running and the untapped potential of the human body. Here are three reasons why this book is a must-read:

    • With fascinating stories of diverse cultures and their exceptional running abilities, it showcases the extraordinary limits of human endurance.
    • It challenges conventional wisdom about running shoes, diet, and training methods, inspiring readers to rethink their approach to running and fitness.
    • Through the author's engaging storytelling and vivid descriptions, the book brings the thrill of running to life, making it impossible to resist the urge to put on your shoes and hit the road.

    Who should read Born to Run?

    • Runners and anyone training for a marathon
    • Armchair athletes
    • Health-conscious people

    About the Author

    Christopher McDougall is an American author, TED speaker and journalist who has written for Esquire, New York Times Magazine, Men’s Journal, New York and Outside. He’s also acted as a contributing editor for Men’s Health. 

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    Born to Run FAQs 

    What is the main message of Born to Run?

    The main message of Born to Run is that humans are born to run and can achieve incredible athletic feats.

    How long does it take to read Born to Run?

    The reading time for Born to Run varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Born to Run a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Born to Run is worth reading for anyone interested in running or human potential. It offers inspiring stories and insights into the endurance capabilities of the human body.

    Who is the author of Born to Run?

    The author of Born to Run is Christopher McDougall.

    What to read after Born to Run?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Born to Run, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Good for a Girl by Lauren Fleshman
    • Choosing to Run by Des Linden
    • In Praise of Walking by Shane O'Mara
    • Elevate by Joseph Deitch
    • Break the Cycle by Dr. Mariel Buqué
    • Courage is Calling by Ryan Holiday
    • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman