As a commuter that spends 2+ hours per day in my vehicle, I have 3 daily listening choices: podcasts, music, or audiobooks. I have been able to listen to over 50 audiobooks in my time as a commuter, but it was only recently that I discovered my favorite book: Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. This book spoke directly into the core of what running should be and how every runner should perceive the sport. If you have yet to read or listen, drop everything else and pick it up today! Here are some of the key takeaways from the book.
1. "Eat like a poor person"
I'm not talking about the quick and cheap McBiscuit meal when you're running late to work, and I mean no offense by this quote. A lot of 3rd world countries don't have the option to fill their diets with processed foods and copious amounts sugar like we do here in America. They survive off of local farmer's markets and can eat only what the local fields have produced. If you began to fill your diet with organic and local meals, your potential as an athlete will skyrocket.
2. "You don't stop running because you grow old, you grow old because you stop running"
We as humans have the ability to endure long distances far greater than any other species that walks the Earth. In fact, most runners hit their peak at 27 and begin to decline slowly after that. By the age of 64, they you will have declined enough to equally compete with your 18 year old self. No other endurance or physical sport gives you this opportunity!
3. Running easy + light + smooth = running fast
This was a major theme in the book for the instinctive trail runners that don't follow the industry hoopla. The ancient tribes and world's best runners have both found this to be true. When you slow your breath and begin to focus your presence on moving swiftly across the curved plane of the Earth, you will almost questionably witness the pace on your Garmin watch increase dramatically.
4. Thank you for the injuries, Mr. Shoe.
For thousands of years, we have effortlessly avoided foot and ankle injuries. It's a common example of "survival of the fittest." Those who were injured didn't eat nearly as well as those who didn't get injured. Now we are here, and the main difference between their foot and your foot is the running shoe. When you land on your bare-foot, you automatically correct your footing and posture to adapt to long distances. When wearing a shoe, your feet do not sense the need to correct it's position due to the high levels of comfort. I 100% do not recommend jumping right into barefoot running, because your current foot muscles are accustomed to wearing a shoe now. Ever since your first steps as a baby, you have been wearing shoes. So take this spark-note with a grain of salt!
5. "If you don't believe you were born to run, not only are you denying history, but you are denying yourself."
This quote is the reason I enjoyed the book so much. It displayed several stories of human potential and greatness. These stories were always touching on the underlying theme of "tapping into our roots as the species that conquered all through our main feature: running."
It is difficult to fully cover every topic in this book, so I definitely recommend picking up a copy and diving deep into why you were born to run!
"There are no magic pills for success, but I choose to believe that there are some common factors that all successful and happy individuals share."
I started my athletic journey as a wrestler in high school, and most wrestlers tend to HATE running. Running for wrestlers only had two purposes: sprints for punishment from slacking off, or cutting weight on a treadmill to be able to compete the next day. You could make an educated guess by saying that I started out in the group that hated running, and you would be right. How did I go from hating the sport to loving it so much that I train others how to love it as well?
There never was an exact guide that transitioned me out of the "I hate running club" to the marathon community. Running started out as a stress reliever from college classes, and finally turned into life-changing hobby after I discovered the runner's high while training for my first half marathon. There are only a few key differences in my routine that have helped to change my perception of the sport:
1. The Transfer of Positive Energy
During a very hot and long-run this season, I noticed a fellow runner struggling to keep up with our groups pace. I was also struggling, but I gave her a fist bump, told her that she was doing great and that we were almost done. I noticed her breath begin to slow and her pace begin to smooth. This act of transferring positive energy not only helped her to finish, but it helped me to finish as well.
2. Find Your Flow
Every run is going to start out rough with aches and pains. Understand that this is normal, fight through it, and wait for your muscles to warm up. Ditch the headphones, listen to your breath and body. You will begin to find a connection between your mind and body that I have only found to come from a natural run.
Solo running can be an act of meditation that allows you to focus on one task at a time. This is very beneficial for your mind if you don't regularly meditate like me. I have also found that plugging yourself into a running community will drastically improve your perception of the sport. There is something to be said about meeting a group of individuals who are all striving to be better than they were the day before. Community runs are so powerful for growth and happiness within this sport.
After analyzing these three running-routines and the effect that it had on my perception of the sport, I realized that these indirectly carried over to my daily life as well. I began to notice my energy levels rise when lifting others up. I began to ease into painful situations while patiently wait for a state of flow to pick up. I began to spend more time within a larger community of like-minded people. There are no magic pills to success, but I choose to believe that there are common factors that all successful and happy individuals share.
The Runner's High Exist for a Reason
Yesterday's 16 mile training run was mentally and physically tough. It was 8 am and the temperatures were already nearing 90 degrees. All I wanted to do was drop back from the group, but there was an internal motivator that kept me in stride for the full length of the run. It was my "why." Every runner has their own reason for running, but there is a core theme that ties all of these "why's" together. What is it?
It was my reason for running that pushed me beyond the limits of what I thought was possible during that blistering hot 16-mile run. I thought to myself mid-run: it is insane that we willingly wake up at 5 am on a Saturday morning to endure hours of pain on the trail; it is crazy that anyone would intentionally push themselves to the brink of exhaustion to experience this runner's high; many valuable hours could be spent doing anything other than running right now. Running is an activity that links countless humans together across the planet in a very peculiar way. Why?
For me, I run because I want to see how far I can really go. I believe that this is the instinctive thread that links all of humanity together. At the core of our existence, we long to discover new planets, sail to other lands, cure the next disease, etc. Curiosity is a feature that gave us a distinct advantage over our prey when we had to run much further and longer to feed our tribe. This curiosity is what gave us the mindset to create new tools and harvest mass crops. Curiosity to see how far we can really go is why we exist in such abundance on this planet.
Whenever I am in perfect stride in nature, away from all of my daily distractions, I feel a sense of connection with the Earth. It is as if I was born to be there in that very moment, and that I could run forever. This sense of flow is what some would call a "runner's high." The runner's high exists for a reason: to send a signal to our brain, confirming that we are doing the right thing by pushing past the limits of our curiosity. This was the original high that humans experienced.
Unfortunately, we as humans have discovered a new way to artificially experience this high with stimulants and drugs. I believe that drugs and addictions are a curse on this Earth, and that they prevent us from truly experiencing the fullness of this life. They send us fake confirmation signals, and are far too easy to obtain. Without putting yourself through hours of endurance and commitment, you can spend brief moments with an artificial substance that gives you a similar effect.
For me, I run because I want to see how far I can really go. I feel a great call on this Earth to further develop the great sport of running, and to eradicate the curse of addictions. I full-heartedly believe that running can be a miraculous tool for healing addictions. One man cannot do this alone, but the hopeful part of this dream is that there are 64 million runners in the United States alone. There is power in numbers, and anyone who has ever experienced the runner's high knows that there is no drug to replace it. We can all do our part by simply understanding the power of running and the negative impacts of addictions. Let's see how far we can really go.