Notes & Quotes: Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

The following are my favorite quotes from Christopher McDougall's Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.
  1. The Tarahumara may be the healthiest and most serene people on earth, and the greatest runners of all time.
  2. The ancient saying of the Tao Te Ching—“The best runner leaves no tracks”—wasn’t some gossamer koan, but real, concrete, how-to, training advice.
  3. Next time you line up for a Turkey Trot, look at the runners on your right and left: statistically, only one of you will be back for the Jingle Bell Jog.
  4. Only the face and hands compare with the feet for instant-messaging capability to the brain.
  5. The Tarahumara geniuses had even branched into economics, creating a one-of-a-kind financial system based on booze and random acts of kindness: instead of money, they traded favors and big tubs of corn beer.
  6. And if being the kindest, happiest people on the planet wasn’t enough, the Tarahumara were also the toughest: the only thing that rivaled their superhuman serenity, it seemed, was their superhuman tolerance for pain and lechuguilla, a horrible homemade tequila brewed from rattlesnake corpses and cactus sap.
  7. He seemed to live off the land when he ran, depending on korima, the cornerstone of Tarahumara culture. Korima sounds like karma and functions the same way, except in the here and now. It’s your obligation to share whatever you can spare, instantly and with no expectations: once the gift leaves your hand, it was never yours to begin with.
  8. Iskiate is otherwise known as chia fresca—“chilly chia.” It’s brewed up by dissolving chia seeds in water with a little sugar and a squirt of lime. In terms of nutritional content, a tablespoon of chia is like a smoothie made from salmon, spinach, and human growth hormone. As tiny as those seeds are, they’re superpacked with omega-3S, omega-6S, protein, calcium, iron, zinc, fiber, and antioxidants.
  9. I should have been there when this ninety-five-year-old man came hiking twenty-five miles over the mountain. Know why he could do it? Because no one ever told him he couldn’t. No one ever told him he oughta be off dying somewhere in an old age home. You live up to your own expectations.
  10. Make friends with pain, and you will never be alone. —Ken Chlouber, Colorado miner and creator of the Leadville Trail 100
  11. Ultrarunning seemed to be an alternative universe where none of planet Earth’s rules applied: women were stronger than men; old men were stronger than youngsters; Stone Age guys in sandals were stronger than everybody.
  12. The lion can lose and come back to hunt another day, but the antelope gets only one mistake.
  13. Distance running was revered because it was indispensable; it was the way we survived and thrived and spread across the planet. You ran to eat and to avoid being eaten; you ran to find a mate and impress her, and with her you ran off to start a new life together. You had to love running, or you wouldn’t live to love anything else.
  14. [Joe] Vigil could smell the apocalypse coming, and he’d tried hard to warn his runners. “There are two goddesses in your heart,” he told them. “The Goddess of Wisdom and the Goddess of Wealth. Everyone thinks they need to get wealth first, and wisdom will come. So they concern themselves with chasing money. But they have it backwards. You have to give your heart to the Goddess of Wisdom, give her all your love and attention, and 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.
  15. Strictly by accident, Scott [Jurek] stumbled upon the most advanced weapon in the ultrarunner’s arsenal: instead of cringing from fatigue, you embrace it. You refuse to let it go. You get to know it so well, you’re not afraid of it anymore.
  16. The only way to truly conquer something, as every great philosopher and geneticist will tell you, is to love it.
  17. Leonardo da Vinci considered the human foot, with its fantastic weight-suspension system comprising one quarter of all the bones in the human body, “a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.”
  18. Running shoes may be the most destructive force to ever hit the human foot.
  19. Painful truths:
    1. The Best Shoes Are the Worst
    2. Feet Like a Good Beating
    3. Even Alan Webb Says “Human Beings Are Designed to Run Without Shoes”
  20. Runners in shoes that cost more than $95 were more than twice as likely to get hurt as runners in shoes that cost less than $40.
  21. Blueprint your feet, and you’ll find a marvel that engineers have been trying to match for centuries. 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 an arch; push up from underneath, and you weaken the whole structure. Buttressing the foot’s arch from all sides is a high-tensile web of twenty-six bones, thirty-three joints, twelve rubbery tendons, and eighteen muscles, all stretching and flexing like an earthquake-resistant suspension bridge.
  22. Blaming the running injury epidemic on big, bad Nike seems too easy—but that’s okay, because it’s largely their fault. The company was founded by Phil Knight, a University of Oregon runner who could sell anything, and Bill Bowerman, the University of Oregon coach who thought he knew everything. Before these two men got together, the modern running shoe didn’t exist. Neither did most modern running injuries.
  23. Vegetables, grains, and legumes contain all the amino acids necessary to build muscle from scratch.
  24. You’ve got enough fat stored to run to California, so the more you train your body to burn fat instead of sugar, the longer your limited sugar tank is going to last.
  25. 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.
  26. The first step toward going cancer-free the Tarahumara way, consequently, is simple enough: Eat less. The second step is just as simple on paper, though tougher in practice: Eat better. Along with getting more exercise, says Dr. Weinberg, we need to build our diets around fruit and vegetables instead of red meat and processed carbs.
  27. Eat like a poor person, as Coach Joe Vigil likes to say, and you’ll only see your doctor on the golf course.
  28. Anything the Tarahumara eat, you can get very easily. It’s mostly pinto beans, squash, chili peppers, wild greens, pinole, and lots of chia.
  29. Under [Dr Ruth Heidrich's] 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.”
  30. “Hills are speedwork in disguise,” Frank Shorter used to say.
  31. I knew aerobic exercise was a powerful antidepressant, but I hadn’t realized it could be so profoundly mood stabilizing and—I hate to use the word—meditative. If you don’t have answers to your problems after a four-hour run, you ain’t getting them.
  32. Even though our brains account for only 2 percent of our body weight, they demand 20 percent of our energy, compared with just 9 percent for chimps.
  33. If you can run six miles on a summer day then you, my friend, are a lethal weapon in the animal kingdom. We can dump heat on the run, but animals can’t pant while they gallop.
  34. A curious transformation came over us when we came down from the trees: the more we became human, the more we became equal. Men and women are basically the same size, at least compared with other primates: male gorillas and orangutans weigh twice as much as their better halves; male chimps are a good one-third bigger than females; but between the average human him and the average human her, the difference in bulk is only a slim 15 percent. As we evolved, we shucked our beef and became more sinuous, more cooperative … essentially, more female.
  35. What else did we have going for us? Nothing, except we ran like crazy and stuck together. Humans are among the most communal and cooperative of all primates; our sole defense in a fang-filled world was our solidarity.
  36. It’s easy to get outside yourself when you’re thinking about someone else.