Are you looking to reboot your running? Author Christopher McDougall, whose book Born to Run caused such a stir in 2009, is back with some practical advice

Few running books have been as influential as Born to Run. When it was first published back in 2009, Christopher McDougall’s tale of exploration and learning how to race across Mexico’s remote copper canyons, adopting the running traits of the Raràmuri tribe, sparked an explosion in minimalist and barefoot running. 

While that particular trend may no longer be so widespread, in the intervening years the American continued to receive messages of thanks from readers whose running had been changed by the ethos of eschewing expensive footwear and focusing on the movement techniques and simple nutrition at the heart of the Run Free philosophy.

It was coach Eric Orton who guided the author through that journey and, back then, in his mid-40s McDougall thought he might be lucky if the process granted him another couple of years of running.

Now 60, he is still going strong and his partnership with Orton remains. The two have such conviction about their methods, in fact, that they have recently released Born to Run 2 – the Ultimate Training Guide. 

It is exactly as it sounds. This is an explanation of processes, principles and methods to the Run Free philosophy, mixed in with the experiences of those who have tried it, as well as sections on improving your running form through to nutrition and, yes, footwear. It includes a 90-day programme to “Reboot your running” so we spoke with McDougall at his home in Hawaii to hear more.

How did this new book come about?

With Born to Run, I wrote it from what I thought was a really healthy perspective of “not really being sure, but I think this stuff works”, and I was willing to experiment and explore. It became this book of exploration.

I think a lot of times with books about sports, they come from a place of conviction and knowledge and authority and mine was from the position of “exploration, serious doubts, so far, so good” and I think hopefully that’s what made it an appealing story. I think a lot of readers found themselves in my shoes.

Now, 13 years later, I’m treated like an authority, and I keep fending that off. I’m totally not an authority but I realised that the thing Eric had promised me when I began working with him years ago came true.

He said that if you change the behaviour, you’ll change the outcome. Change the way you run and your body will respond differently – it’s not this inevitable march toward bad knees and injury and despair and frustration. It can be something really joyful.

That’s what he promised me and now it’s been 15 years and I’m still running. I kept becoming a better and better runner, so I thought this would be an interesting book to do. 

This would have been in the middle of Born to Run if I’d known this stuff, so when I went back to Eric I said: “Let’s just document dump your brain and combine it with stories of the people we’ve met that really illustrate the ideas and put it all together”.

What’s the biggest mistake you see people making?

No contest, it’s running form. There’s this conventional wisdom, convincing us it doesn’t matter. You see this again and again. “Don’t change your natural form, just run the way you run and just get the proper shoes.” 

If you’re playing a guitar, they don’t say “just play the way you play”, or when kicking a soccer ball “just smack away at it”. Every single activity, you refine a biomechanically efficient way of movement, except in running where they say “well, just buy different shoes”.

You can’t tell me that by making a movement lighter, easier, smoother and more biomechanically efficient it’s not going to be superior and this is where I become one of these raving zealots because in my case it really worked and reversed something which I thought was irreversible.

» This is an edited version of a feature that appeared in the January issue of AW magazine. To read the full article, CLICK HERE