Review: Born to Run

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This is a book that I will henceforth carry with me forever more, stuffed in the side pocket of my backpack. It will be worn and creased, the spine having long gave way, the pages all dog leafed marking the spots where I pause and re-pause. It will stay in my backpack as I roam, as I run, as I explore the world. It will be my pocketbook manual for all things running, all things journalism, and all things life.

A beautiful tale by Christopher McDougall about a culture and a way of life. At its most basic, it is a history of ultrarunning, the toughest of endurance sports. It is about barefoot running, that feeling of power beneath your feet. It is about the Tarahumara  people who have long excelled in the art of long distance running. At its deepest it is about camaraderie, friendship, and freedom. It is an ode to a sport that is accessible to all.

It started slow, and proved difficult to get into at first. I got distracted by life but one day, about a quarter of the way through the book, it caught me and took hold. Within two days I finished it and wanted more. That day I went for the longest run I have done in a while, no complaints, no faffing about, I just ran. I corrected my posture, I smiled and the difference it made was astonishing. I ran harder, I ran faster and for once when I smiled at passerby’s, they smiled back at me.

The book is intense and memorising, you can hear the pulsing of life through its pages, hear the feet padding the dusty earth beneath, the panting of their breath, their heart in their ears, feel the beads of sweat forming , the tightening and relaxing muscles and a smile will inch its way slowly across your face.

The secret to happiness lies within its very pages.

Book Review: The Secret Race by Tyler Hamilton & Daniel Coyle

All the press releases, the articles, the tweets, the news bulletins and the radio presenters mumblings. Everyone shouting the news at you, pushing it into your face. Stacks upon stacks of information to process. I couldn’t keep up. I didn’t get it. Who was the bad guy; Armstrong, the UCI, USADA, all pro cyclists, the spectators, who? Can someone just tell me? Tell me who to believe and who to reject?

But that was then, and since then I have read; ‘The Secret Race’. It took me two days. I barely put it down. Now I get it. I get the tweets, the subtle jokes, I get to laugh and nod along. I understand the articles, I know who the professionals are, know who to believe and who to question. Now that this book has provided me with the unedited background. Now that It has provided me with the knowledge of which I was quietly ignorant. And what It has taught me above all, is that I was not there, I will never truly understand and therefore, I cannot judge.

The big secret  is out and I hope it will not be embroidered and stamped as scandal because this is a sad story, a lament about the reality of the world of pro cycling. The one the roaring crowds don’t get to see, the tale that perhaps we always knew but never asked, because if being honest, we never wanted to find out the truth.

Self confessed doper and former procyclist Tyler Hamilton and writer Daniel Coyle join forces to spill the beans on the reality of what a cyclist must face if he wants to get to the top. The Secret Race of needles, EPO, blood bags, and red eggs.  The competition off the bike, the need to be the best at all costs, the bullying, the training and all the lies.

It’s the classic tale; a story of the bad guys versus the good guys, and the ever pressing question of who will prevail?

A hard story to tell but one that needs to be told.

I suggest reading it.