Born to Run

I devoured this book in about two days and in this time would not shut up about it to my nearest and dearest. Really, with big saucer eyes and with a white-hot grip on your arm they’ll say, “Walk away now! Don’t get her started.”

But you’ll listen to me, won’t you? Yes? Excellent.

Now, seriously, this is fascinating. Possibly more so for the runners out there, but regardless it is a very entertaining read with a lot of interesting trivia about the history of running (and a definite pro-barefoot running flavour).

Here are some of my favourite quotes:

Whenever an art form loses its fire, when it gets weakened by intellectual inbreeding and first principles fade into stale tradition, a radical fringe eventually appears to blow it up and rebuild from the rubble. Young Gun ultrarunners were like Lost Generation writers in the 20s, Beat poets in the 50s, and rock musicians in the 60s: they were poor and ignored and free from all expectations and endurance. They were body artists, playing with the palette of human endurance.

Ken got a stack of videos of Kenyan runners and ran through them frame by frame. After hours of viewing, he was struck by a revelation: the greatest marathoners in the world run like kindergartners. “Watch kids at the playground running around. Their feet land right under them, and they push back,” said Ken.

Newborns? No problem: at the 2007 Hardrock 100, Emily Baer beat ninety other men and women to finish eighth overall while stopping at every aid station to breastfeed her infant son.

While I’ve not yet ditched my sneakers, I have wondered how I’d fare if I tried this new craze (phase?) of barefoot running. Perhaps I’m getting closer, as my new Brooks Ravenna 2 are far more compacted in the cushioning than my old Asics (they were incredibly ‘bouncy’ ). Then again, when I was buying the Books it came down to those and a pair of the Nike Free Runs which have the ‘feel’ of bare feet, I just couldn’t do it. Maybe I was scared of doing an injury, or just making excuses for myself.

I’m no expert and (honestly) I doubt I do enough running to even justify all the bother that’s coming into choosing a pair of shoes. Making me a perfect customer, though, cynics would say!

Question for the runners: what shoes do you run in? Does it make a difference, in your opinion?

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (cut off in the picture above)

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Karen Andrews is the creator of Karen Andrews. This is one of the most established and well-respected parenting blogs in the country and is a two-time finalist in the Best Australian Blogs competition. She is also an author, award-winning writer, poet, editor and publisher at Miscellaneous Press. Is an exercise junkie (when she finds the time).


  1. says

    Love sneakers!
    Running is not my forte however, I do circus and that is either done gloriously barefoot or in very larey bright pink dunlops with aqua laces. Cos they make me smile.
    My walking shoes are New Balance 1210’s and the difference they make, compared to my frivolous dunlops is very comforting to my back.
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  2. says

    I can’t wait to read this book, I must track down a copy. I was a runner at school both junior and high and I ran barefoot the whole time, I still hold a couple of records for the 400m! I run with trainers now but am very interested in the new barefoot shoes that I have seen a few runners wearing, one of my boot camp buddies swears by them but I just worry my feet with get sweaty and uncomfortable?
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    • Karen says

      I ran sprints in school (50, 100, 200) and never ran in shoes. I recall most kids (the boys, especially) ALWAYS kicking off their shoes. It’s fascinating, isn’t it, how these little details come back to us later…

  3. says

    I have just reacquainted myself with my love of running. In my mind I am a barefoot runner, or at the very least a minimalist. But my 39 yr old knees and shins are insisting on a more cushioned ride. I have a pair of adidas runners which are as comfy as my pajamas, no idea of the model number but they work for me.
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  4. says

    Hi, just found your blog.
    I started running almost two years ago and plan to do my first half marathon in August (gulp!).
    I’ve become a devout jogger (not a runner, not built for it) so that book really appeals – I’ll try to hunt it down. I know what you are saying about the Free Runners – look ridiculous. I have a pair of Balance but after 12 months my feet are really starting to hurt. Maybe I’ll go barefoot – be kinder on my bunions.

    • Karen says

      Good luck for the half marathon! I’d like to attempt another this year. I’m like you, my pace will never have me a ‘runner’ more a jogger but I’m okay with that – so long as I get over the line, I’m happy

  5. Shelly says

    I’ve investigated the Nike Frees, tried them on, and ultimately after discussing it with the sales person at the shop decided they wouldn’t fit my needs as (a) the attached tongue does not allow me to loosen the shoe over my high arch, (b) they are meant to be worn snug to the foot and I can’t give up my socks for my long runs. I do like the idea of them though. And I’d want to stick with Nike as I have the foot pod to measure distance, so…I guess I will be sticking with my beloved Pegasus!

  6. says

    I used to be a runner and a barefoot runner when I was at school. I now understand that the reason it was so comfortable and why I said I could feel the ground so much easier was because I was already starting to lose feeling in my feet from CMT – I just didn’t realise it. Now I’m struggling to walk any distance but am looking at finding ways to do it to become fit again….and this book I do want to read….ultra marathoners have always interested me…the mind set of the people who do it….the people they are…so interesting
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  7. says

    I ran shorter distances in bare feet, 100, 200 and 400m races.
    Never for longer distances though. I have just bought my second pair of brooks. I went to a place that does video analysis of your feet. I really notice when my shoes wear down, and am not sure my well cushioned feet would cope with bare foot running much these days.
    I am interested in the book though, you’re the second person to tell me about it with such enthusiasm.
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  8. Demi says

    I have seen this book in a book sale last last month. I didn’t give much attention to it because i thought there are better books to read. Reading your review makes me wonder if have missed a great book. I’ll try to look for a copy when i get to a book sale again.
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