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I’ve read perhaps 1,000 books in my life and I can’t think of one I’ve enjoyed more. “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall is the epitome of a “page-turner”. Ever read a book and find yourself blowing through pages like Newt Gingrich through a bag of powdered donuts? Not here. I savored every last word in this book. The last reads I enjoyed this much were “Eat, Pray, Love” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”. It has everything you could want: a riveting narrative, intriguing relationships, fascinating scientific data, intriguing details of cultures, anthropology and history, and superb anecdotes…it has it all.

If you believe barefoot running is a foolish, dangerous activity, I submit Chapter 25 to you. Reminds me of people who are adamant we need dairy for strong bones… what they are asserting is actually the cause of the problem, not the solution. I’ve yet to talk with someone who barefoot runs and recommends $150 Nikes instead. I firmly believe if we would do as the Tarahumara (Native American people of northwestern Mexico who are renowned for their long-distance running ability) and eat closer to our biology and simply move our bodies as they were designed, most of our ailments and diseases would disappear, and we’d be more peaceful. Many of my aches and pains have abated or vanished with only minimal barefoot running. I walk barefoot everywhere shoes aren’t required. Here are some of my favorite passages:

 

“In terms of nutritional content, a tablespoon of chia is like a smoothie made from salmon, spinach and human growth hormone. As tiny as those seeds are, they’re superpacked with omega-3s, omega-6s, protein, calcium, iron, zinc, fiber and antioxidants. If you had to pick just one desert island food, you couldn’t do much better than chia, at least if you were interested in building muscle, lowering cholesterol and reducing your risk of heart disease. After a few months on the chia diet, you could probably swim home. Despite its liquid-gold status, chia is ridiculously easy to grow.”

“Dr. Ruth Heidrich (my addition…who, by the way, is 67!, vegan for 25 years and in Forks Over Knives) is a six-time Ironman triathlete and, according to Living Fit magazine, one of the Ten Fittest Women in America. She only became an athlete and a Ph.D. in health education after she was diagnosed with breast cancer 24 years ago. She had a simple rule: if it came from plants, she ate it; if it came from animals, she didn’t. ‘You get leafy greens in your body first thing in the morning & you’ll lose a lot of weight.’ So the next morning, I gave it a stab. After two bites, I was a convert.”

“Scott wasn’t sure why meatless diets worked for history’s great runners, but he figured he’d trust the results first and figure out the science later. From that point on, no animals products would pass his lips–no eggs, no cheese, not even ice cream–and not much sugar or white flour, either. He stopped carrying Snickers and Power Bars during his long runs; instead, he loaded a fanny pack with rice burritos, pita stuffed with hummus and Kalamata olives, and home-baked bread smeared with adzuki beans and quinoa spread. When he sprained his ankle, he eschewed ibuprofen and relied instead on wolfsbane and whomping portions of garlic and ginger. ‘Sure, I had my doubts. Everyone told me I’d get weaker, I wouldn’t recover between workouts, I’d get stress fractures & anemia. But I found that I actually feel better, because I’m eating foods with more high-quality nutrients. And after I won Western States, I never looked back.’ By basing his diet on fruits, vegetables & whole grains, Scott is deriving maximum nutrition from the lowest possible number of calories, so his body isn’t forced to carry or process any useless bulk. And because carbohydrates clear the stomach faster than protein, it’s easier to jam a lot of workout time into his day, since he doesn’t have to sit around waiting for a meatball sub to settle. Vegetables, grains and legumes contain all of the amino acids necessary to build muscle from scratch. Like a Tarahumara runner, he’s ready to go any distance, any time.”

 

For those of you who don’t know, Scott Jurek is widely regarded as the greatest distance runner…EVER (and a pretty great person, too). And oh yeah, a vegan since 1999. Got that? Greatest runner EVER…and VEGAN. How ’bout them chia seeds?! I’ll let that sink in for the several runners (one of whom is a nursing student) who’ve told me animal protein is necessary for energy and repair, in addition to mocking barefoot running…without trying it. Give it a shot. Ease into it by walking barefoot everywhere you can and doing some light jogging for a few weeks until your feet adapt. It feels remarkably natural and may even change your behavior in unexpected ways. Whether you’re an avid runner, fitness enthusiast or voracious reader, I can’t think of a book I’d more highly recommend. So, whip up a chia green smoothie and get to page-turnin’.
 

Born to Run

Christopher McDoug…

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