Saturday, March 19, 2011


You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend.  ~Paul Sweeney

I love books. These volumes of bounded, crisp, magical paper are precious, soothing, haunting, opening worlds beyond worlds. Some books speak louder to me than others and those I place on my shelf to revisit and share with others.

When I was younger, a feisty Miss Pippi Longstocking engulfed my world from the very moment I plucked her book from the library shelf. My mother reminds me how I would chatter on to anyone who would listen, or to simply no one at all, all about the daily fiascos Pippi would get herself into. I spoke of her as if she was my very best friend in the whole wide world. She was unconventional, assertive, strong, rebellious, independent, silly, had a horse on her porch (which she could lift with one hand) and a monkey on her shoulder.

Since Pippi, I have discovered a heap of books that have somehow made their way into my life and influenced it:

"The Gift of Fear" by Gavin De Becker
"Since Strangling Isn't An Option" by Sandra Crowe
"The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson
"The Handmaids Tale" by Margaret Atwood
"Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury

Just to name a small few.

I have learned, while advancing into my slightly wiser years, to thoroughly enjoy/learn from the words of others but to also realize that many things written are often slanted by the opinions of the writer. Opinions which are too often presented to us as facts then pushed under our noses just to earn a buck. These days I find myself more and more suspicious of what I read. If you are looking for a way to prove a point, a mere stroke of a key will unearth whatever you are looking for; fact, fiction, or just plain garbage.

I just finished reading Christopher McDougall's book "Born to Run".

It was a fantastic read. I took away several different things from this book.

1. I enjoyed losing myself in his words and quotes describing how the body acts while running. The spiritual side of the thoughts, euphoric inner peace, and animalistic motions he paints with his words sums up a great portion of why I run without flaw. It is poetic at times. I suggest anyone who enjoys running read this book. If you're not a runner, but have someone in your life that is, you might just pick up this book to read in order to understand their obsession. Heck, it might even nudge you a little towards running yourself.

2. The Tarahumara Indians are fascinating and inspiring- both their running and their way of life. What is not to like about the Tarahumara? They smile while cranking out miles on hard-ass trails all while nearly barefoot.

3. McDougall delves into quite a bit of running history including the progression of the running man (did you know that the Neanderthal and modern man are of different species?), the impact of shoe companies on our bodies, and the microscopic analysis of the barefoot runner.  He had me glued to the book through all this. Was this real? I did some fact checking throughout and it appears he did his homework.

4. On the down side, I did feel McDougall steered a bit too much into trying to sell the "we are born to run barefoot" theory. I agree, we are a running species, we do it very well (especially long distances), and it all makes a fabulous story, especially for us runners. It made me nod a lot throughout the book: This is me. I am a runner. I am simply enjoying what I was born to do, so foo on all you who think I'm crazy. However, I also don't feel that everyone has a natural gift of fleet footed-ness or if you aren't a runner then you aren't contributing to society/living up to your full potential. Not everyone enjoys running nor finds it an easy task to accomplish (which is why we have bikers, hikers, swimmers, kayakers, etc). I know when I blog about running "a little run of 6 or 12 miles" that it may be fun and satisfying to me but to another that same feat is viewed as nearly impossible, painful, or even "why would one even want to do something like that" insanity?

5. I am not 100% pushed towards barefoot or semi-barefoot running yet. Do the Vibram Five Fingers intrigue me? Oh heck yeah. The whole idea of running in bare feet would be great. I grew up in the country running around barefoot 75% of the time and nearly despised shoes. I even snuck outside in the winter and ran around barefoot just to see what it was like.  However, just last week I pulled a huge roofing nail out of the sole of my sneaker after a trail run. How it got on the trail, I have no idea, but I am sure glad I was wearing my sneakers and not VFF or barefoot. That would have been a nasty trip to the docs with a tetanus shot, that is after I managed a painful and bloody hobble several miles out of the wilderness to my car. All that said, I might look into getting a pair of VFF to build up my feet and leg muscles (SLOWLY) but I am not jumping on the wagon quite yet...right now I am happy doing a half to full mile barefoot on my treadmill.

6. In summary, Christopher McDougall makes a great point over the entire barefoot vs. shoe debate that I have seen over the past year or so:

"...the debate isn't about Bare Soles vs. Shoes. It's about learning to run gently. Master that, and you can wear — or not wear — anything you please."

Lord! when you sell a man a book you don't sell just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue - you sell him a whole new life.  Love and friendship and humour and ships at sea by night - there's all heaven and earth in a book, a real book.  ~Christopher Morley

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