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Appalachian State is "Born to Run"

In a rather surprising turn of events, Appalachian State University has chosen "Born to Run" as its summer reading book for incoming freshman. Master competitor readers may recall I posted a short review on this book several months ago and at that time, author Chris McDougall responded. He'll be back on campus for convocation next year, which is an interesting twist in my academic and endurance life.

As part of my new plans with an active living community next fall, I'll be teaching a first year seminar entitled "Endurance Sport and Society." McDougall's book with sync right into the content of that class, so all is good in the land of mountains and snow.

Following is the news report on the book announcement, published in The Appalachian, our campus paper:

2011 summer reading book changes pace, teaches new lessons

Monday, 24 January 2011 21:52

Christopher McDougall said the 1,000-year-old secret to the art of running he learned from the Tarahumara Indians could also be answered by any five-year-old on the planet.

Now, New York Times Bestselling author McDougall is telling the secret to readers in his book, Born to Run, which was chosen as Appalachian State University’s 2011 Summer Reading Book.

McDougall’s book tells the autobiographical story of his adventure that started out with a simple question for a work assignment: why does my foot hurt?

"I had no idea where to start looking and I just started asking around,” McDougall said. “I found the guy whose brother works for the Mexican education department and the brother offered to take me down to the canyons.”

In his journey to answer this question, McDougall discovered the Tarahumara Indian tribe in Mexico’s deadly copper canyons, which holds the world’s greatest distance runners.

In turn, he not only unfolded the 1,000-year-old secret to the art of running, but also discovered his personal love for long distance running.

With the help of the mysterious town loner, Caballo Blanco, McDougall witnessed and competed in a race with the Tarahumara Indians against Americans, found the answer to his initial question and so much more.

“Really, the whole book is a tribute to Blanco and the race that he created down there where the Tarahumara runners and outsider runners could meet each other and appreciate each other and this shared heritage of distance running,” McDougall said.

McDougall said the secret to distance running lies in any five-year-old on the planet.

“Any kid knows this instinctively. If you watch any child at recess they’re all springing around,” McDougall said. “No one tells them what shoes to wear, no one’s telling them to do yoga first, no one’s telling them how to cross train.”

McDougall said that Americans keep adding on all this technology, cushioning, emotional control, orthotics, which create problems rather than fix them.

“So as far as this technique, it is what you do naturally and when you take off your shoes and run on a hard surface,” McDougall said. “You bend your ankles, you bend your knees, you loosen your hips and you allow your legs to do the work rather than the shoes.”

Running shoes are the most destructive force to touch the human foot, McDougall said.

McDougall thinks his book can help incoming freshman step away from their desk for a couple hours each day and go outside.

McDougall said students should enjoy exercise because it is fun, not because they ate pizza the night before.

“It essentially comes down to this,” McDougall said. “As humans, the one physical talent that we have that sets us apart from all other animals is that we are able to run long distances. You take any animal that is evolved to perform a certain function and don’t let them do it and the animal becomes sluggish, temperamental and the animal starts to rebel.”

In addition, Assistant Director of the Summer Reading Program Victoria Ajemian said incoming freshman will enjoy this book because it provides a bigger understanding of something most books can’t give.

“There are so many more good elements to the book than just running,” Ajemian said. “It’s a good change in pace, no pun intended.”

Ajemain added that college is a time of self-discovery and Born to Run can help students’ transition.

“It is an interesting read,” Director of the Summer Reading Program Emory Maiden said. “There is a lot of information about exercise, nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. I think that’s a good message to send to our culture.”

Maiden said although many students may not be avid runners, the book still provides guidance about making good choices about exercise and nutrition.

“A lot of people have gotten this mistakable notion that I’m a really good runner. I’m slow and I’m always ready to take a break,” McDougall said. “I absolutely plan on running when I come to Boone. I hope when I’m down there that people feel comfortable going on some runs.”

Story: BECKY BUSH, Intern News Reporter


  1. So great when the stars align like that!


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