Let me start off by saying that I didn’t really have interest in reading this book. I was at the library to grab a book for Lauren and some videos for Jack. On a whim I decided to walk by the non-fiction running section and saw it sitting there. I figured “what the hell” and picked it up.
My impression of the book, before reading a single page, was that it was a 300 pages of telling me why I should ditch my shoes for some Five Fingers. I’m happy to say that it was much more.
The book starts with the author, McDougall, at the doctor’s office because of foot problems. Traditional western medicine has failed him and the only solution given is to quit running. This leads him on his journey to the Copper Canyon, home of the ancient tribe known for their athletic abilities – the Tarahumara. Also residing in the Canyon is a mysterious character who’s real name is not known, the Tarahumara know him as Caballo Blanco, “The White Horse”.
The rest of the book is laid out as such. Caballo’s dream is a race between Americans and the Tarahumara on their territory, the Copper Canyon. A few distinguished ultrarunners have decided to join Caballo; including Jenn Shelton, “Barefoot” Ted McDonald, and Scott Jurek. As you approach the final chapters where the race takes place, you are taken off on several tangent stories. Its in these stories that I really enjoyed the book. It was like a mini history lesson in ultrarunning.
I can’t deny that this book is full of embellishments. The way its written, you have to question how much is accurate. The people in the book are turned into characters of themselves. The way they are portrayed in the book makes for an excellent story, but does the author go too far? The book reads like something Mitch Albom would write. He take the facts and finds a balance between journalism and romanticism.
Overall I really enjoyed the book and recommend it to others. Its a very easy read that had me eagerly turning each page. McDougall really knows how to make a non-fiction, journalism piece play out like a fictional story. That said I also suggest to follow-up the story with listening to some interviews of the people involved. The UltraRunner Podcast has managed to have several of the characters in the book on their show. Check out their archives (and subscribe to the show; its a great listen).