Thursday, April 12, 2012

Lessons From Christopher McDougall

Last night I attended a lecture by Born to Run's Christopher McDougall. Sorry, I do not have any pictures because I'm lame. Also, his talk was really engaging and I sort of just forgot. I was supposed to go on a fun run with him and some other locals beforehand, but I did the right thing, which is listening to my body and my body told me I wasn't ready to try and keep pace with anyone yet. Better safe than sorry.

Chris McDougall
Back to the lecture though! It's been a long time since I've seen a lecture without a powerpoint or slides or anything, but all it takes is one speaker to make you remember just how captivating words alone can be. He opened by talking about Caballo, how he first met him, and his passing two weeks ago. Caballo seems to have died in what Chris described as the exact way he would want to go - doing something he loved, running.

Caballo Blanco
He spent the rest of the lecture talking about meeting the Tarahumara for the first time, doing research for the book, observing the Tarahumara's unique running form, and how our species is designed for running. A few of the major things I took away were:

We're Born to Run
Well, obviously. I read the book, so I knew what he was talking about. But hearing him explain it again - our evolution as a species, how we are exceptionally good at sweating and breathing at the same time, how we are fundamentally designed for running as fish are for swimming and birds are for flying - it hit home. Kind of nice to know you're doing exactly what our species is designed to do best.

Run free
When someone in the crowd asked him what he thought about the newest Newton running shoes, his answer was simply that we shouldn't spend so much time focusing on "the stuff." It's not about the latest shoes* or the time on our Garmin. Of the things that influenced him the most he said Jenn Shelton's motto "run free," was one of the best. I've naturally been incorporating this into my injury recovery and hearing him talk about makes me think "running free" will have an extended stay in my life.

*Chris himself was sporting some huaraches made by Barefoot Ted, which he wore to the fun run and the lecture. 

100 Up
I imagine the question he most often asked by runners (and was last night) is how exactly the Tarahumara run. It's not something he could really explain, but he told the audience to go home and find a video called the 100 Up. See the video below for a demonstration. You can also read his original New York Times article about it here.

Have you tried the 100 Up? How do you feel about "running free?"


  1. Haha, I always forget to take pics too...
    This sounds like such an interesting event- and I have to agree that people do focus too much on "the stuff.." and believe me- I like my "stuff" but I'm often amazed at the overload of crap that your average 6 mile per week runner seems to need... (not that there is ANYTHING wrong with being a 6 mile week runner! but you get the gist of what I'm saying...)

  2. Cool!! I really liked that book even though I'm a bit skeptical of the minimalist movement. Ok, I'm gonna give my spiel but it's really just because I think about this stuff way too much too often and I need to get a life, lol.

    The largest, most rigorous study that just came out comparing runners in minimalist and traditional shoes, from here at UVa, found that if runner's are already using a fore or mid-foot gait with higher cadence then they could run in any shoe. It's about the gait not the shoe, the minimalist shoes just so happen to force people who don't want to or know about the proper form of running to change their gait...which is also a wrong assertion because the UVa study found that 50% of runners in the Vibram shoes still landed on their heels. WHEW, you can tell that I've given this some thought!! :-)

    But I think the 100 UP exercises are really good for promoting a running gait where your legs land under your hips and not in front. Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Thanks for the UVa info! What I found most interesting about hearing him talk, and what was really ironic I think, is that while his book no doubt helped launch this multi-million dollar minimalist running shoe movement, he doesn't really buy into any of those products. He preached form, not footwear, which I think is important for all runners.

      Now if only I can perfect those 100 Ups...

  3. My good friend is a neighbor of Chris'-they live in southern Lancaster County. And we all went for a run on the Conestoga Trail this past Saturday. It was my first time running with him. I think he was glad to get a chance to talk about other things for a bit as no one (there were 6 of us) asked him about Micah and he did not talk about him.
    Interesting that he did wear a pair of the new New Balance 110's though ;)

    I definitely would have loved to hear his speech though!

    1. Oh man that's so awesome you got to run more one on one with him in a small group! Maybe he only brings out the huaraches on special occassions haha. I actually would have loved to hear his opinion on the NB 110s!

  4. So very cool! It was also smart to not push yourself to run when your body wasn't ready. Still jealous you got to to go this!!!

  5. That's very interesting. So cool you got to go hear him speak. I like that 100 video- I have not heard of it before but I imagine (know) my running form could do with some work.

    Great job knowing to skip the run. Coming back from injury is hard and takes patience. I know how hard it is to skip runs but I know its best in the long run.


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