Pollak Theater Welcomes Christopher McDougall

The Journalist and Author Discusses his Bestselling Book

Accomplished journalist and author, Christopher McDougall voyaged to Pollak Theater to discuss his bestselling book,Born to Run, on October 17. The memoir has been a hot topic on campus since it was assigned as a required reading for all first year English classes at this past summer’s freshman orientations.

Love it or hate it, the book has certainly sent students running to hear McDougall speak about his expedition to the Copper Canyons to discover the secrets of running from a secluded Mexican tribe known as the Tarahumara.

McDougall kept the audience engaged with witty remarks and conversational styled speaking, answering questions and sharing experiences. Wearing a pair of Tarahumara sandals made by Barefoot Ted, a main character in the book, he described the harsh conditions and long distances where the tribe travels barefooted.

“Tarahumara Indians are human beings the way they were before the world around us,” McDougall said, referring to the modern world’s reliance on technology.  “We’ve only been around for a tiny flicker of this planet’s existence. We are relying on our physical bodies not technology. Anything we need we use our bodies to get it and anything we don’t, we use our bodies to defend.” McDougall explained the Tarahumara’s good nature and peaceful existence is a result of isolation from media and other distractions.

It was a combination of curiosity and unanswered questions that led McDougall to the depths of the Copper Canyons. In his talk, he paraphrased a chapter from his book in which he describes a trip to the doctors after a previous painful running injury. “When I tried to run, I always got hurt and saw doctors all the time. How come I get hurt all the time, and they never get hurt?” It was questions like these that led McDougall to want to learn more about extraordinary runners.  “How is it that these seventy and eighty year old guys are running thousands of miles? Or if we are all essentially the same, then how do people do things better than others?”

McDougall described his time at the Leadville Trail 100 Ultra –marathon, a mountain foot race in frost bite temperatures, as one of the most intense experiences of his life, stating that “fifty percent of runners who start the race don’t even finish.” The Tarahumara racers kept up with the world’s most well trained and competitive marathon runners with minimal effort and in homemade sandals, which impressed the entire world.

“A Tarahumara runner once told me that the secret to long distance running is not to be afraid of long distance running.” In his lecture McDougall argued that good runners run because they love to. “Running is the one fine art that separates us from every other animal. It’s the one thing we as human beings are uniquely qualified for.”

Mike Matza, a freshman and previous high school hurdler said he related to McDougall’s lecture and found his stories to be engaging. “I got really bad shin splints. I tried out the barefoot running technique and minimalist shoes, and they really worked. The problem disappeared.” Mike’s previous track experience initially attracted him toBorn to Run, and said that McDougall’s personality made the lecture all the more interesting. “I thought he was down to earth and human rather than a celebrity. And he was really easy to talk to. Everything he said in conversation was like reading the book.”

The lecture was followed up by a “fun run” to Pier Village led by McDougall. Participants, consisting of mostly track runners, signed up for the five mile run prior to Christopher McDougall’s arrival. McDougall admitted that he does not follow a strict diet or work out regime, but merely enjoys running for the experience. He also mentioned in his talk an upcoming movie based offBorn to Run, which he hopes will show people a fun and enjoyable side to the sport.

Copies ofBorn to Runare currently being sold in book stores everywhere for a further look at Christopher McDougall’s experiences with the world’s greatest runners.