Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen – Review

Born to Run

How It All Started

As a beginner runner, I am excited to read up more on running books. Therefore, as I was researching online for books to read, I found ‘Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen’ by Christopher McDougall. Although I was looking more for running techniques books, this book caught my eyes as it has many rave reviews.

Born to Run is a true story by Christopher McDougall but it begins more like a fictional adventure story where McDougall was searching for a tribe of Mexican Indians known as the Tarahumara. These people were said to be the greatest runners in the world and McDougall is on a mission to find out their secret. This sounds more like an Indiana Jones plot rather than a running book. Of course, finding these elusive Tarahumara runners are not easy as they lived in Copper Canyons which is highly dangerous and difficult to get to.

Pure Excitement and Interesting Details

This story is not purely all about McDougall’s adventure, he also manages to add in stories about other aspects of the sport such as ultra-running. As you can tell from the name, ultra-marathons are basically marathons at much longer distances. There is even an exciting depiction of a race called the Leadville Trail 100 (a 100-mile race) in which the Tarahumara faced off against an ultra-running challenger named Ann Trason. This is one of the most exciting sections in the book thanks to McDougall’s narration because you cannot tell who is going to win until the very last moment.

Another surprising inclusion in the book is the fascinating tale about the scientific discoveries into our past. Contrary to popular beliefs, it was highly suggested that we humans are designed to run. In fact, we are better designed than all other animals to run long distances which is deemed as an evolutionary advantage. There is also the claim that running shoes are a big elaborate scam because they cause more injuries to runners ever since Nike introduced the first pair of running shoes. To be honest, I’m not sure what to make of this claim but the evidence they put forward are pretty convincing. It was mentioned that humans are meant for barefoot running or at least some form of minimalist running to protect our legs in modern times.

Born to Run 2

The Final Race

The last arc of the story is where McDougall teamed up with another mysterious character named Caballo Blanco, someone who had stayed at Copper Canyons for a couple of years and are friends with the Tarahumara. McDougall has gathered some of the best long-distance runners in the world such as Jenn Shelton, Billy “Bonehead” Barnett and Scott Jurek – named one of the greatest runners of all time. With the help of Caballo Blanco, McDougall brought them to challenge the Tarahumara to a race. These are some of the most interesting characters that you thought you can only find in a fiction book as Mcdougall brought them to life with their larger than life backgrounds.

The final race itself was rather short, I preferred the earlier race which is better depicted. However, the final race is not short of excitements but it seemed overly simple and straightforward to me. Nevertheless, it was still very moving and full of adrenalin when the race ended. I shall save the final winner as a surprise for when you read the book.


Overall, this is an excellent read for non-runners and runners alike. I wouldn’t call this book as far as a life changing read but it is close. There are enough mysteries, excitement, drama, tears and laughter to satisfy all readers. I highly recommend this book!



13 Comment

  1. This is an interesting book to have, would have to check it out. So basically this is a fictional book ?

    1. Will says: Reply

      Hi Arthur

      This is a true story by Christopher McDougall, yes, it is a fascinating book. You should check it out!

  2. Andrea says: Reply

    Looks like you’ve just chosen my next airport book to dive into! It seems to be a very intriguing and good ready Will, thank you!

    1. Will says: Reply

      Hi Andrea

      You’re welcome. Yes, this book is a page-turner!

  3. Dan says: Reply

    I like that you mentioned the evidence that humans were meant to run barefoot. I have heard this from a few people now and i’m curious. Do you know much about those barefoot shoes that are coming out now? How do they benefit your feet?

    1. Will says: Reply

      Hi Dan

      To be honest, I am not so sure about those barefoot shoes because I have not personally tried them. Therefore, I am not in a position to comment on this topic. Hope you can find some helpful details elsewhere. Thanks!

  4. Liz says: Reply

    Being an avid runner since I was 13, I love that there is a running site like this one.
    I would like to mention, however, that it’s been proven that barefoot running is not better for you, and can cause severe foot and knee injuries. Especially if someone who has been wearing shoes their entire life try to run barefoot, and there are still foot and knee injuries among tribal people.
    Although this book spreads the rumor of barefoot running, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good read! I am with you in highly recommending it. You did a great job summarizing it! Will be sharing with my running friends!

    1. Will says: Reply

      Hi Liz

      Wow, good job on being an avid runner since such a young age, I wish I ran back then. Yes, I have not tried barefoot running so I’m sceptical about its benefits as well.

  5. Dan O'Mahony says: Reply

    Great post! I’ve been running for about 5 years and have just completed my third marathon this past weekend. Having read books on running in the past I had the recent opportunity to have a look at Chris McDougall’s Born to Run (reviewed here). It’s a rip roaring read! I tried the barefoot running a few years ago without knowing about this book. It’s pretty tough on the old feet and takes a while to build up. After nearly killing myself in a 5k barefoot I returned to the usual padded trainers.

    Saying that, I really loved this book! I truly believe the theory put forward by McDougall that humans would “run down their prey”. It would make a great present for a runner’s Christmas stocking!

    1. Will says: Reply

      Hi Dan

      Wow, you sound like a very experienced runner, congrats on completing your third marathon. Yes, this is a good read and I agree that this book will make a great present for runners this Christmas!

  6. Michael says: Reply

    This seems like a very fascinating book.
    I have always loved running my whole life, and I too have heard that running barefoot is actually better for you since it will help the smaller muscles in your ankles and feet. I might have to buy this in the near future, thanks for the review.

    1. Will says: Reply

      Hi Michael

      Thank you for dropping by, I am actually not sure about barefoot running, it sounds pretty convincing but I have not personally tried it myself. It may be something I will try once I become a more experienced runner.

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