Born to Run (McDougall book)

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Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, is a 2009 best-selling non-fiction book written by the American author and journalist Christopher McDougall. The book has sold over three million copies.[1]


In Born to Run, McDougall tracks down members of the reclusive Tarahumara Native Mexican tribe in the Mexican Copper Canyons.

Beyond hyperbole, he writes "In Tarahumara land, there was no crime, war, or theft. There was no corruption, obesity, drug addiction, greed, wife-beating, child abuse, heart disease, high blood pressure or carbon emissions. They didn’t get diabetes, or depressed, or even old." [2]

After being repeatedly injured as a runner himself, McDougall marvels at the tribe's ability to run ultra distances (over 100 miles) at incredible speeds, without getting the routine injuries that most American runners had. The book has received attention in the sporting world for McDougall's description of how he overcame injuries by modeling his running after the Tarahumara.[3]

He asserts that modern cushioned running shoes are a major cause of running injury, pointing to the thin sandals worn by Tarahumara runners, and the explosion of running-related injuries since the introduction of modern running shoes in 1972.

Although he reports that the Berne Grand Prix questionnaire supports that opinion, [4] the study authors clearly say — "Occurrence of jogging injuries was independently associated with higher weekly mileage (P < 0.001), history of previous running injuries (P < 0.001), and competitive training motivation (P = 0.03)." [5] However they did find some correlation between higher shoe prices and increased injuries, but explicitly warn — "It is probably incorrect, however, to interpret this surprising finding to mean that more expensive shoes cause more running injuries…" [6]

Alongside his research into the Tarahumara, McDougall delves into why the human species, unique among primates, has developed traits for endurance running. He promotes the endurance running hypothesis, arguing that humans left the forests and moved to the savannas by developing the ability to run long distances in order to literally run down prey.

The book was on The New York Times Best Seller list for over four months. [7] The book was criticized by Dan Zak of The Washington Post for what he believed was an extraneous effort: "McDougall's prose, while at times straining to be gonzo and overly clever, is engaging and buddy-buddy, as if he's an enthusiastic friend tripping over himself to tell a great story."[8]

Film adaptation[edit]

A film adaptation of this Native American drama was under development by LD Entertainment and producers Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Deb Newmyer. In 2015 it was reported that Matthew McConaughey would be starring and that Matthew Michael Carnahan would write the screenplay.[9] The film has not gone into production.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ McDougall, Christopher (2009). Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. Knopf. pp. 304. ISBN 978-0-307-26630-9.
  2. ^ Lieberman, Daniel; Mahaffey, Mickey; Cubesare Quimare, Silvino; Holowka, Nicholas; Wallace, Ian; Baggish, Aaron (June 2020). "Running in Tarahumara (Rarámuri) Culture". Current Anthropology. 61 (3): 356–379. doi:10.1086/708810.
  3. ^ Parker-Pope, Tara (October 26, 2009). "The Human Body is Built for Distance". The New York Times.
  4. ^ McDougall, Christopher (2011) [2009]. Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. New York City: Vintage Books. pp. 172, 172. ISBN 978-0-307-27918-7.
  5. ^ Marti, Bernard; Vader, John Paul; Minder, Christoph E.; Abelin, Theodor (May–Jun 1988). "On the epidemiology of running injuries: The 1984 Bern Grand-Prix study". American Journal of Sports Medicine. 16 (3): 285–294. doi:10.1177/036354658801600316. PMID 3381988. S2CID 41199266.
  6. ^ Marti, B. (1989). "Relationships between Running Injuries and Running Shoes — Results of a Study of 5,000 Participants of a 16-km Run — The May 1984 Berne Grand Prix". In Segesser, B.; Pförringer, W. (eds.). The Shoe in Sport. Year Book Medical Publishers. pp. 256–265. ISBN 9780815178149.
  7. ^ "BOOKS—BEST SELLERS Hardcover Nonfiction". The New York Times. October 11, 2009.
  8. ^ Zak, Dan (June 21, 2009). "Running, the Natural Way". The Washington Post.
  9. ^ Child, Ben (January 29, 2015). "Matthew McConaughey born to run in upcoming Native American drama"". The Guardian.