In this compelling best seller, journalist Christopher McDougall weaves a tapestry of extraordinary stories documenting his journey of self-discovery to answer the question: “Why does my foot hurt?” His heroes and heroines are elite, super-human, yet wonderfully wild, harddrinking ultra-marathoners who race extreme distances in remote and inhospitable locations along with members of a reclusive indigenous tribe whose primary mode of transportation, running, is engaged in sheer joy.
McDougall embarks on a quest to better understand his foot pain and challenges the logic of status quo medical explanations made by some of the world’s most revered sports physiologists. He ultimately uncovers that the preponderance of knee and hip injuries was almost non-existent prior to the modern running shoe era of the past forty years. Pre-Nike runners did just fine with little padding or cushioning and hardly any “protection” between the foot and the ground – similar to the barefoot conditions all humans had engaged for millennia. McDougall’s personal experience of tossing his shoes and eliminating the pain as a result adds credibility to the emergence of barefoot and minimal shoe running in the past decade.
The stories converge and climax during a little known race held once a year in northern Mexico’s remote Barranca del Cobre (Copper Canyon.) In early March, an “invitation only” assemblage of the world’s greatest long-distance runners tests themselves against the peace-loving Tarahumara Indians as well as the formidable conditions of the trails. More often than not, the Tarahumara win. And regardless of whether or not they place first on the non-existent podium, all runners donate their “prizes” of maize and cash to their Tarahumara hosts.
McDougall’s professional background includes reporting as a former war correspondent for Associated Press, and currently he is a contributing editor for Men’s Health. His prose is peppered with a host of recognizable contemporary colloquialisms and his historical elucidation is entertaining. The read inspires while simultaneously reinforcing his insights into the innate strength of the human body. Despite the perpetuation of erroneous theories that humans are too weak to endure the physiological impacts of long distance running, McDougall asserts that the human body is, indeed, designed to run long distances – and it is natural for us to do so.