What is the common book program?All students entering Waterloo's Faculty of Applied Health Sciences (AHS) in Fall 2014 are encouraged to share the experience of reading Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall. As you read the book this summer, you can:

Discuss the book with future classmates, getting to know them better before school begins.

Consider the major issues that the book raises - which are central to the AHS curriculum.

  • Health Promotion students: What social conditions influence the running patterns of the Tarahumara people?
  • Health Studies students: What are the societal and physical benefits of running?
  • Kinesiology students: What are the connections between injuries and running mentioned in the book?
  • Recreation and Leisure Studies students: What motivates individuals and groups to run?

Join the conversation when classes begin and participate in a special event focused on the book.

Questions about the Common Book Program? Contact:

Katie Schulz
Student Relations Officer

Pamela Hurvid
Undergraduate Recruitment Co-ordinater

plot summary

From the author's websiteFull of incredible characters, amazing athletic achievements, cutting-edge science, and, most of all, pure inspiration, Born to Run is an epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt? In search of an answer, Christopher McDougall sets off to find a tribe of the world's greatest distance runners and learn their secrets, and in the process shows us that everything we thought we knew about running is wrong.

Isolated by the most savage terrain in North America, the reclusive Tarahumara Indians of Mexico's deadly Copper Canyons are custodians of a lost art. For centuries they have practiced techniques that allow them to run hundreds of miles without rest and chase down anything from a deer to an Olympic marathoner while enjoying every mile of it. Their superhuman talent is matched by uncanny health and serenity, leaving the Tarahumara immune to the diseases and strife that plague modern existence. With the help of Caballo Blanco, a mysterious loner who lives among the tribe, the author was able not only to uncover the secrets of the Tarahumara but also to find his own inner ultra-athlete, as he trained for the challenge of a lifetime: a fifty-mile race through the heart of Tarahumara country pitting the tribe against an odd band of Americans, including a star ultramarathoner, a beautiful young surfer, and a barefoot wonder.

Watch the Ted Talk

Author Christopher McDougall: Are we born to run?

reading guide

Consider the following questions from the People to People International's Global Book Club as you read the book.

  1. Why do you think the group from the US decided to take part in the endurance race in Mexico’s Copper Canyon even though it was a risky endeavor?
  2. Born to Run explores the life and running habits of the Tarahumara Indians, which the author describes as the greatest distance runners in the world. What lessons did you learn from the book?
  3. What do you think of the premise that humans are literally "born to run?" Did the author do a good job in proving this premise in the book?
  4. After reading Born to Run, what is your impression of long-distance runners? Do you believe they have ‘superpowers’ as the author states?
  5. After reading the book, what is your stance regarding running in expensive, high quality shoes versus running barefoot?
  6. Do you think that running becomes more popular during hard economic times because people are literally “running away from their problems” like Born to Run author Christopher McDougall says?

about the author

Christopher McDougall is a former war correspondent for the Associated Press and is now a contributing editor for Men's Health. A three-time National Magazine Award finalist, he has written for EsquireThe New York Times MagazineOutsideMen's Journal, and New York. He does his own running among the Amish farms around his home in rural Pennsylvania. [Biography from Random House]

The Tarahumara

A hidden tribe of superathletes born to run. 

Born to Run book cover

fun facts

  • The book remained on the New York Times bestseller list for more than 200 consecutive weeks.

  • Researchers in the Faculty of AHS assess the impact of running shoes on spine biomechanics; you might use them too, when you come to Waterloo.


The Once and Future Way to Run - New York Times

The Human Body is Built for Distance - New York Times

Washington Post book review


get the book

Download it on your ereader, buy it from your local bookstore, check it out from your local library, or order a copy from the University of Waterloo’s BookStore