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The Legacy of ‘Born to Run’

  • By Brian Metzler
  • Published May. 9, 2013
  • Updated Mar. 31, 2014 at 2:54 PM UTC
"Born to Run" has had quite a profound impact on the running world. Illustration: Matt Collins.

“Born to Run” was published five years ago this spring.

Christopher McDougall’s “Born to Run” hit bookstore shelves five years ago next month. Its impact on the running world has been considerable. Here’s a quick glance at a few of the ways it influenced the running world.

1. McDougall’s 304-page autobiographical account of running almost-barefoot with the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico has sold more than a half million copies worldwide and has remained on the New York Times bestseller list for more than four years. Although it contains some hyperbole, the book has earned its keep (and rave reviews) because McDougall’s vivid story-telling and in-depth reporting appeal to everyone from new runners and veteran ultrarunners to non-runners and couch potatoes alike.

2. Micah True became a cult figure known as “Caballo Blanco,” a simple man who years ago without any fanfare befriended the impoverished Tarahumara (a.k.a. Raramuri) people of Mexico and for 10 years organized a race to help support them. Sadly, the 58-year-old reluctant celebrity died during a trail run in New Mexico in the spring of 2012 after leaving his winter home in the Copper Canyon region of Mexico for his summer home in the foothills of Boulder, Colo. But his free-spirited legacy, his race and the worldwide attention on the Tarahumara endure.

3. The book was one of the primary catalysts for the minimalist running shoe revolution that helped spur brands to develop lighter, lower-to-the-ground shoes using less material. While some would argue that “barely there” shoes led many runners to run with insufficient cushioning and protection under their feet, there’s no question the paradigm shift helped runners rethink about how much (and how little) they really need in a shoe. It also spurred running shoe manufacturers to build lighter models across all categories.

RELATED: 5 Questions With Chris McDougall

4. McDougall’s indictment of the running shoe industry also helped further the natural running form movement, which has led to runners realizing that it’s not only shoes that help them run better but good mechanics and dynamic strength, too. Four years later, though, there’s no clear-cut answer about what kind of gait is best or if runners should even try to change their form. The end result is that more runners are running more efficiently in lighter shoes than a decade ago, if only because shoes are lighter and built with less material.

5. Numerous books have been written about running form, minimalist shoes, barefoot running or the spiritual essence of running since “Born to Run” hit bookstores, including “Anatomy for Runners” (Jay Dicharry), “Tread Lightly” (Bill Katovsky and Dr. Peter Larson), “Chi Marathon” by Danny Dreyer, “Eat & Run” (Scott Jurek), and “Natural Running” (Danny Abshire). The latest good one worth a read is “The Cool Impossible,” by trainer/coach Eric Orton, who was instrumental in teaching McDougall how to run better and become more fit.

6. The movie adaptation of “Born to Run” appears to be stuck in Hollywood. Originally, reports said actor/director Peter Sarsgaard would be directing the movie adaptation of “Born to Run” and Jake Gylenhaal, his brother-in-law, was expected to play a lead role. An IMDB report later said the movie would be produced by the husband-wife team of Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy, who have individually and jointly been tied to many blockbuster productions from Steven Spielberg and Lucasfilm. However, McDougall said in 2013 a major shake-up occurred . A new script was expected to be completed last year, and a new director was supposed to be unveiled last summer, but the movie is still listed as being “in development” on film industry websites.

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