I decided to read this book not for my love of running (I find it boring) more to see what the book is about since so many people speak quite highly of it. So when I started reading it felt like a little bit of a chore to get though, but once I go into the book it kept me hooked and I really enjoyed it.
The book is McDougall’s investigation of running, why his feet hurt and how to run without pain. It starts with stories of the Tarahumara, a Mexican Tribe knowing for distance running feats and McDougalls search for information about them. The first half on the book is mostly about ultra marathons, It them moves into commentary on running shoe design and running style, goes into a section on the endurance running hypothesis (that humans evolved to run long distance) and finishes with a race between the Tarahumara and some of the best names in ultra marathons.
The flow of the book is much more like a novel with a central story, with side stories which add more information and background to the main story. These side sections were laid out pretty well and felt much more natural than in McDougall’s other book Natural Born Heroes (my review here).
With a book in this style I think it is important to take it with a grain of salt, people, places and actions are possibly exaggerated to make for a better story, but over all I really enjoyed the central story of this book. It kept me engaged and reading wanting to know how it all turned out and more background on the various characters. It also has further inspired me to train towards a marathon and an ultra marathon. I would defiantly suggest this book as an interesting and inspirational read.
That said I don’t necessarily agree with everything in the book. It glorifies endurance running, in particular ultra marathon distance. If also supports the endurance running hypothesis. It is my belief that longer endurance running isn’t particularly healthy, it can be done by healthy individuals, but in and of itself endurance running is rough on the body. I’d like to run a marathon as a challenge, but I don’t think it is healthy. As for the endurance running hypothesis, my counter argument would be that we are evolved for endurance walking, that the endurance running is a side effect of that. You don’t have to agree with me that’s just how I see things. As for things I agree with, I defiantly agree with the running style he suggests (fore foot running), and in ditching the fancy super-tech shoes.
So to sum it up, the book is well worth reading, the story kept me coming back for more. I would take his claims with a grain of salt and investigate them further for yourself.