If any of you runners (or even non-runners) need mojo, find out where Chris McDougall is speaking and go hear him! Instant mojo. He is energizing, hilarious, attractive (in the older man, balding sort of way) and inspiring.
Chris was speaking at Gear West in Long Lake at an event sponsored by The Bookcase of Wayzata and Gear West, to speak about his book, Born to Run. I’m not normally the type of person that goes to book signings or events to hear an author speak. In fact, I’ve never done so. But I loved Born to Run, and the event was close by, and I figured I needed to go to Gear West to stock up on gels for Twin Cities Marathon anyway. So, I went. And boy am I glad that I did.
A few minutes into his talk I was wishing I had brought a notebook to write down little bits and pieces of what he was saying, so I could share it on my blog and remember it for the future. I ended up using the notepad on my iphone and taking shorthand notes the rest of the time. So much of what he said could be the topic for future blog entries, so right now I’ll just put take-aways here and I’ll blog more of my thoughts about them in future posts.
So here you go, random stuff from Chris’ talk (both from what he spoke in his prepared speech and in response to the many questions that he answered):
- The Apache version of the Iron Man was: run 30 or 40 miles, kick ass to take some horses, then haul ass back to their base on the horse.
- Fear has been introduced to running only in our lifetime.
- The secret of the Tarahumara is that they ENJOY running, they haven’t lost the desire to run and they aren’t afraid of it.
- Runners are disproportionately good looking. Besides the obvious health benefits, you have to be relaxed to run. So you look better when you are a more relaxed person.
- Chris likes the F-Bomb. Me too. 🙂 At the beginning of his talk he asked if there was anyone younger than 15 in the audience. There was. So he said, “darn, that’s not a good thing, that will restrict my language and make my talk different.” Before too long he was dropping the F-Bomb anyway. Much better. 🙂
- Ultra running/trail running is the fastest growing sport. People’s fear of distance is vanishing.
- Runners are NICE. There is a sense of community among runners that you don’t see in any other sport – football, baseketball, etc. Runners wait at the finish line for others to finish to support them (which can be a LONG wait in trail runs). Running isn’t “all about me”.
- He told the story of the 2009 NYC Marathon winner, who was an underdog and at Mile 22 Paula Radcliffe cramped up and slowed. The winner (forget her name right now) could have used that opportunity to zip ahead. She didn’t. She put her arm around Paula’s shoulder and encouraged her to stick with it. Then it happened again a bit further on. She ended up winning. But she also was nice and compassionate and it wasn’t all about her. Very cool.
- He told the story of Jen Shelton at a long trail race (I forget which one). Jen had good chance of winning it. But she had a bunch of pizza and beer the night before. Between miles 25 – 30 she ends up getting sick. The two guys that she was running with at that time didn’t zip ahead and leave her hanging. Instead they wait for her and run with her to the next aid station. Chris says this is the difference between ultra runners and marathoners (though based on his example of the winner of the NYC marathon, it obviously isn’t true about all marathoners)
- The Tarahumara are very egalitarian. They treat everyone equally: men and women, young and old. When they do their running game it literally takes the whole village to be involved, because they are running for 30 – 40 hours, through the night, they need the village members who aren’t running to help light up the way. To them running is playful and fun.
- Creatures taken away from natural strength develop problems and aren’t as happy/satisfied. “What’s the cause and effect of running and being a dick to your wife?” (I loved this bit! It affirmed in my mind what I already know: when I don’t run, I am a crabby bitch. When I run, life is better).
- Fear sells. We’re afraid of injury, of running too far or too fast, so we buy all the fancy shoes that the shoe companies are pushing on us.
- No 5 year old kid is afraid of running. They just run. Fearless. And happy.
- Running is magic cure that will cure all humanity problems. Look at the Tarahumara – no diabetes, no cancer, etc.
- Cabrillo was in Leadville this summer to run the Leadville 100. Race director gave him a free entry (which has only been done one other time for someone). Cabrillo got there and decided there were too many people and too much commotion so he left 2 days early and didn’t run it. It wasn’t fun to him. If it’s not gonna be fun, it’s not worth the time and effort.
- Our bodies are designed for motion.
- The Tarahumara always run in teams. Our culture/society has taken the collaborative part of running away. We have turned it to be all about individuals. If we get a 3:59:59 we are happy, we did good. But if we get a 4:00:00, it sucks and we are pissed. Really, who cares about a second difference? Who cares about a BQ? It needs to turn around and be about fun and collaboration.
- Chris’ approach to footwear is like his approach to clothes, apply only when necessary.
- Re: orthotics and motion controlled shoes, etc: It’s all bullshit. Name any other animal that wears shoes? The only one you can name, we hammer the shoes to their feet!
- Be gentle and light on your feet and your problems will be solved.
- When he wrote the book he expected a lot of fallout from the shoe companies. He expected a hurricane. The response? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. No word from the shoe companies at all, because they can’t refute it. If anything, studies are starting to back up the minimalist running movement. (Personally, I think the shoe companies’ lack of response was brilliant on their part – had they responded it would be The Barbara Striesand Effect).
- Chris doesn’t have any goals. He doesn’t care if he gets fast. Focus on getting fast and you wont. You get fast by making it easy first.
- The Tarahumara are opportunists, as far as food is concerned. They eat a lot of vegetables, but that is because of what’s available (or not available). He had a bag of Doritos when he was with them and they wolfed it down.
- Chris’ nutrition philosophy: Eat real food. Eat lots of vegetables. Don’t eat too much.
- Winter may be nature’s way of telling us to back off a bit. Take a break from running. Ski. Do something else.
- Some idiot in the audience asked if he would run a lap around the room so we could all check out his form. He was very gracious, responding that he thought we would all be underwhelmed if he did that, so he was going to decline. Really, what are some people thinking when they ask such stupid questions??
So there you go – those are the highlights. Very inspirational. I don’t normally read books twice (in fact, the only time I read a book twice, I did it by accident. I forgot that I had already read Bridget Jones’ Diary and I figured it out about 1/2 way through when things sounded really familiar). But I plan on reading Born to Run again. Soon. And, geek that I am, I may even have my highlighter handy and highlight some cool stuff. Stay tuned and I’ll share it with you.