Born To Run

April 30, 2022

Book Notes

Born To Run Book Cover

When I read a book I have the habit of highlighting certain passages I find interesting or useful. After I finish the book I’ll type up those passages and put them into a note on my phone. I’ll keep them to comb through every so often so that I remember what that certain book was about. That’s what these are. So if I ever end up lending you a book, these are the sections that I’ve highlighted in that book. Enjoy!

Your feet are like a minnow bucket full of sensory neurons, all of them wriggling around in search of sensation. Stimulate those nerves just a little, and the impulse will rocket through your entire nervous system; that’s why tickling your feet can overload the switchboard and cause your whole body to spasm.

To the Tarahumara, asking direct questions is a show of force, a demand for a possession inside their head.

Grueling, grimy, muddy, bloody, lonely trail-running equals moonlight and champagne. But yeah, Ann insisted, running was romantic; and no, of course, her friends didn’t get it because they’d never broken through. For them, running was a miserable two miles motivated solely by size 6 jeans: get on the scale, get depressed, get your headphones on, and get it over with. But you can’t muscle through a five-hour run that way; you have to relax into it, like easing your body into a hot bath, until it no longer resists the shock and begins to enjoy it. Relax enough, and your body becomes so familiar with the cradle-rocking rhythm that you almost forget you’re moving. And once you break through to that soft, half-levitating flow, that’s when the moonlight and champagne show up: “You have to be in tune with your body, and know when you can push it and when to back off,” Ann would explain. You have to listen closely to the sound of your own breathing; be aware of how much sweat is beading on your back; make sure to treat yourself to cool water and a salty snack and ask yourself, honestly and often, exactly how you feel. What could be more sensual than paying exquisite attention to your own body?

He’d discovered why those Russian sprinters were leaping off ladders – besides strengthening lateral muscles, the trauma teaches nerves to fire more rapidly, which decreases the odds of training injuries. Also, High altitude has a curious effect on metabolism.

The American Approach – ugh. Rotten at its core. It was too artificial and grabby, Vigil believed, too much about getting stuff and getting it now: medals, Nike deals, a cute butt. It wasn’t art; it was business, a hard-nosed quid pro quo. No wonder so many people hated running; if you thought it was only a means to an end–an investment in becoming faster, skinnier, richer–then why stick with it if you weren’t getting enough quo for your quid?

Everyone thinks they need to get wealth first, and the wisdom will come. So they concern themselves with chasing money. But they have it backward. You have to give your heart to the Goddess of Wisdom, give her all your love and attention, and then the Goddess of Wealth will become jealous, and follow you. Ask nothing from your running in other words, and you’ll get more than you ever imagined.

“Don’t fight the trail”, Caballo called back over his shoulder. “Take what it gives you. If you have a choice between one step or two between rocks, take three”

“Lesson Two”, Caballo called. “Think Easy, Light, Smooth, and Fast. You start with easy, because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don’t give a shit how high the hill is or how far you’ve got to go. When you’ve practiced that so long that you forget you’re practicing, you work on making it smoooooooth. You won’t have to worry about the last one–you get those three, and you’ll be fast.”

Posted on the wall of Vigil’s office was a magic formula for fast running that, as far as Deena could tell, had absolutely nothing to do with running: it was stuff like “Practice abundance by giving back,” and “Improve personal relationships,” and “Show integrity to your value system.” Vigil’s dietary advice was just as bare of sports or science. His nutrition strategy for an Olympic marathon hopeful was this: “Eat as though you were a poor person

Nothing works out according to plan, but it always works out.

Shoes block pain, not impact.
Pain teaches us to run comfortably
From the moment you start going barefoot, you will change the way you run.

Just the way your arms automatically fly up when you slip on ice, your legs and feet instinctively come down hard when they sense something squishy underfoot. When you run in cushioned shoes, your feet are pushing through the soles in search of a hard, stable platform.

Your foot’s centerpiece is the arch, the greatest weight-bearing design ever created. The beauty of any arch is the way it gets stronger under stress; the harder you push down, the tighter its parts mesh. No stonemason worth his trowel would ever stick a support under and arch; push up from underneath, and you weaken the whole structure.

“I’ve worked with over a hundred of the best Kenyan runners, and one thing they have in common is marvelous elasticity in their feet,” Dr. Hartmann continued. “That comes from never running in shows until you’re seventeen.” To this day, Dr. Hartmann believes that the best injuiry-prevention advice he’s ever heard came from a coach who advocated “running barefoot on dewy grass three times a week.”

If you can’t see the top, walk.

Next time your feet are sore, walk on slippery stones in a cold creek.

Even Cliff Young, the sixty-three-year-old farmer who stunned Australia in 1983 by beating the best ultrarunners in the country in a 507-mile race from Sydney to Melbourne, did it all on beans, beer, grains, potatoes, and oatmeal.

No eggs, no cheese, not even ice cream–and not much sugar or white flour either. He stopped carrying Snickers and PowerBars during his long runs; instead, he loaded a fanny pack with rice burritos, pita-stuffed with hummus and Kalamata olives, and home-baked bread smeared with adzuki beans and quinoa spread. When he sprained his ankle, he eschewed ibuprofen and relied instead on wolfsbane and whomping portions of garlic and ginger.

By basing his diet on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, Scott is deriving maximum nutrition from the lowest possible number of calories, so his body isn’t forced to carry or process any useless bulk.

And because carbohydrates clear the stomach faster than protein, it’s easier to jam a lot of workout time into his day, since he doesn’t have to sit around waiting for a meatball sub to settle. Vegetables, grains, and legumes contain all the amino acids necessary to build muscle from scratch.

Running downhill can trash your quads, not to mention snap your ankle, so the trick is to pretend you’re running uphill: keep your feet spinning under your body like you’re a lumberjack rolling a log, and control your speed by leaning back and shortening your stride.

You don’t stop running because you get old, you get old because you stop running.

Whenever you run, remember that feeling of straining against the rope. It’ll keep your feet under your body, your hips driving straight ahead, and your heels out of the picture.

Watch kids at a playground running around. Their feet land right under them, and they push back.

Kenyans have superquick foot turnover, Quick light leg contractions are more economical than big, forceful ones. You might ask, “Don’t I want a longer stride, not a shorter one?” Well, you ever seen one of those barefoot guys in a 10K race? It looks like they’re running on hot coals.

Imagine your kid is running into the street and you have to sprint after her in bare feet. You’ll be up on your forefeet, with your back erect, head steady, arms high, elbows driving, and feet touching down quickly on the forefoot and kicking back toward your butt.

The way to activate your fat-burning furnace is by staying below your aerobic threshold–your hard-breathing point–during your endurance runs.

When your feet aren’t artificially protected, you’re forced to vary your pace and watch your speed: the instant you get recklessly fast and sloppy, the pain shooting up your shins will slow you down.

The Nike Pegasus, for instance, debuted in 1981, achieved its sleek, waffled apotheosis in ’83, and then–despite being the most popular running show of all time–was suddenly discontinued in ’98, only to reappear as a whole new beast in 2000. Why so much surgery? Not to improve the shoe, but to improve revenue; Nike’s aim is to triple sales by enticing runners to buy two, three, five, pairs at a time, stockpiling in case they never see their favorites again.

Only go as fast as you can while holding a conversation. The faster you can run comfortably, the less energy you’ll need.

According to Dr. Robert Weinberg, a professor of cancer research at MIT and discoverer of the first tumor-suppressor gene, one in every seven cancer deaths is caused by excess body fat. The math is stark: cut the fat, and cut your cancer risk.

We need to build our diets around fruit and vegetables instead of red meat and processed carbs. When cancerous tumors are removed by surgery, they are 300 percent more likely to grow back in patients with a “Traditional Westen Diet” than they are in patients who eat lots of fruits and veggies. Stray cells left behind after surgery seem to be stimulated by animal proteins. Remove those foods from your diet, and those tumors may bever appear in the first place. Anything the Tarahumara eat, you can get very easily. It’s mostly pinto beans, squash, chili peppers, wild greens, pinole, and lots of chia.

Grow some wild Geranium or buy the extract online. Geranium Niveum is the Tarahumara wonder drug. It’s as effective as red wine at neutralizing disease-causing free radicals. As one writer put it, wild geranium is “anti-everything” (anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antioxidant).

Under her Tarahumara-style eating plan, lunch and dinner were built around fruit, beans, yams, whole grains, and vegetables, and breakfast was often salad.

You get leafy greens in your body first thing in the morning and you’ll lose a lot of weight. Because a monster salad is loaded with nutrient-rich carbs and low in fat, you could stuff yourself without feeling hungry–or queasy–when it came time to workout.

Follow the same daily routine, and your musculoskeletal system quickly figures out how to adapt and go on autopilot. But surprise it with new challenges–leap over a creek, commando crawl under a log, sprint till your lungs are bursting–and scores of nerves and ancillary muscles are suddenly electrified into action.

If you don’t have the answers to your problems after a four-hour run, you ain’t getting them.

Whenever you feel a twinge, check your diagnostics:

For the first time in my life, I was looking forward to superlong runs not with dread, but anticipation. How had Barefoot Ted put it? Like fish slipping back into water. Exactly, I felt like I was born to run.

When you can’t answer the question, flip it over. Forget what makes something go fast–what makes it slow down?

We live in a culture that sees extreme exercise as crazy, because that’s what our brain tells us: why fire up the machine if you don’t have to?

The reason I was feeling so much stronger today than I had on the long haul over from Batopilas, I realized, was because I was running like the Kalahari Bushmen. I wasn’t trying to overtake the antelope; I was just keeping it in sight. What had killed me during the Batopilas hike was keeping pace with Caballo & Co. So far today, I’d only competed against the racecourse, not the racers.

Before I got too ambitious, it was time to try another Bushman tactic and give myself a systems check. When I did, I noticed I was in rougher shape than I’d thought. I was thirsty, hungry, and down to just half a bottle of water. I hadn’t taken a leak in over an hour, which wasn’t a good sign considering all the water I’d been drinking.

ProBar–a chewy raw-food blend of rolled oats, raisins, dates, and brown rice syrup.

The hills were so tough, Eric admitted, that he’d been on the verge of dropping out himself. A bad-news burst like that could come across as a punch in the gut, but Eric believes the worst thing you can give a runner midrace is false hope. What causes you to tense up is the unexpected; but as long as you know what you’re in for, you can relax and chip away at the job.

@joekotlan on X