One More Read Before I Go.


These days I remind myself a lot of my SodaStream’s* carbonator: highly volatile, best left sitting perfectly still in a cool place to avoid the risk of sudden explosion. I’ve got a laundry list of complaints about life, including a complaint about the phrase “laundry list of…” What the heck is a laundry list, and who makes them? “Wash this stuff” is a really short list, especially if you’re like me and gave up separating whites from darks long ago. So “laundry list” doesn’t cut it for me.

So I’ve got a grocery list of complaints about life. Ready? It’s hot. Our house is a sauna. The car battery died, so we had to spend money/time we don’t have replacing it. My wedding dress isn’t “finished,” the seamstress needs “more time,” even though she’s had it since the first week in March, and the only alteration is the hem. It’s just getting hemmed. Oh, and I can’t pass a set of bar exam practice questions to save my life [or my job.]

Keeping sane is my #1 task these days. I hope my attempts combat the effects of the aforementioned crap.  My strategy is basically twofold: reading for pleasure and CrossFit. This read combined those two [well, reading and fitness actually] – and I didn’t even have to get off the couch.

Born to Run, written by a journalist who wrote for both the NYTimes Magazine and Men’s Health, follows Caballo Blanco, one of the world’s best, most fascinating [and most elusive] “ultrarunners.” To get an idea of what an ultrarunner does: combine four[ish] marathons, run them back-to-back in a desert or forest and add in a few minor obstacles like, you know, mountain climbing or wading through streams. 100+ miles? NBD. For an ultrarunner, that is.

I bought the book after “Caballo Blanco,” AKA “Micah True” [also not his real name, but I’ll let you find more out for yourself] passed away during a run. My interest was piqued by all of the news coverage of a man pushing 60 who could run far and fast in the middle of nowhere for days. The man’s basically a legend. He spent most of his time living in a hut in the Copper Canyons of Mexico, running with a tribe called the Tarahumara who happen to be probably the fastest, most fit and most healthy people on the planet. Their story alone is enough to make this book a worthy purchase, but the book covers so much more.

It’s not only about Caballo Blanco and the Tarahumara, it’s about crazy races, incredible athletes, and challenging generally accepted notions about running, fitness, and food. Particularly, the book gives powerful evidence that we don’t need to rely so much on fitness “technology” [and I use this term to mean not only GPS trackers and heart rate monitors but also “running shoes” and sports gels]. The historical chapters are fascinating – one in particular covers the birth of Nike. I’ll give you a hint: by that point in the book I had already resolved to spend less money and less time worrying about the “quality” of my running shoe, but after reading that chapter decided I’ll probably completely forego Nike running shoes altogether.

The science is equally as captivating. The author provides a detailed run-through of our evolution as a running – rather than walking – species. Short answer: humans are born to run, and we were born to do so long before fitness companies started marketing insane products to “turn us into runners.”

The science also correlates ultramarathon ability [and extreme fitness in general] with a positive attitude. Many of the athletes discuss how their running strategies include acceptance of the fact that at some point they’ll hit a wall and want to pass out or quit because of the extreme pain and exhaustion. But rather than “train” to make it such that they never hit said wall, they train such that when they inevitably hit it, they can embrace the pain and learn how to deal with it. Acceptance over avoidance. It seems so simple, and it’s a running strategy divorced from cushioned air pockets and compression shorts.

Perhaps its a strategy that applies outside running, as well: accept that bar exam and wedding planning are miserable, embrace it, and plow through. Might be the best way to avoid combustion. At the very least, I’ve been drinking iskiate, a Tarahumara chia-lime drink discussed a lot in the book, and I have to say there might be something to its appeal. But secret tribal drinks aside, this is my second I-really-think-you-should-read-this book of the summer. Anyone else on board?

With this, I retire until July 25. See you on the other side of the bar exam.

Side note: love that thing.

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Categories: Fitness

Author:ryesandshine

Courtney grew up in Reading, PA, and has lived in New York City (where she earned a bachelor's degree at NYU), Prague, Philadelphia, and Charlottesville (where she received a J.D. from UVa Law). Courtney and her new husband will settle in Philadelphia following a six-week Euro-trip extravaganza in September of 2012. Courtney's interests include music, writing, criticism, fitness, travel, cooking, and sports. Please enjoy the blog. LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/courtney-marello/1a/375/b30 Tumblr: http://abarrelofoddsandends.tumblr.com/

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  1. What I Read and Maybe You Should, Too. | Ryes and 'Shine - October 3, 2012

    […] 8. Born to Run, Christopher McDougall [7.2.12] – Again, please read! You can check out my comments here. […]

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