Chris McDougall – Writing Untold Stories about Running and Amazing Human Performance


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Chris’s Wild Idea: To explore the limits of human potential, and to write amazing stories about it.

Chris McDougall is the author of the bestselling books, Born to Run and Natural Born Heroes. His first book spawned the barefoot running movement and altered the running shoe industry forever. It’s also being made into a movie starring Matthew McConaughey.

Natural Born Heroes dove into the history of how every-day citizens and amazing athletes on the island of Crete withstood the German forces during World War II. This is the kind of thing he loves: finding amazing stories about less-known athletes achieving amazing feats, and digging in to learn about their strategies, training, diets, and more, then sharing them with readers.

In 2011, I traded Chris surf lessons for barefoot running lessons for a story in the Adventure Journal. Since then, Chris has become not only a great writing mentor, but also a friend. On this episode we talked about his life since the success of his books, what techniques he learned while researching them (including movement based exercises used by the Cretans), why he may discourage you from becoming a writer, and why donkeys (yes, donkeys) make great running partners. Chris is an amazing storyteller and I think that really comes through in this podcast.

Listen to this Episode if

  • You’ve read Born to Run or Natural Born Heroes.
  • You’re interested in the minimal running footwear revolution.
  • You want to shift your diet and improve your performance.
  • You’ve thought about moving to the country.
  • You’re a runner of any distance.
  • You want to be a writer.
  • You want to know how the heck he trains with donkeys.

Key Takeaways

  • 5:05 – Chris’s book Born to Run changed the running industry.
  • 6:55 – What shoes Chris is running in now.
  • 9:50 – How Chris found the story for his next book, Natural Born Heroes.
  • 14:45 – His take on healthy eating and diet for athletes.
  • 20:10 – Parkour is a sport that highlights human ability.
  • 24:50 – Why Chris doesn’t necessarily believe you should follow your passion.
  • 26:30 – Chris didn’t follow his family’s path to becoming a lawyer.
  • 31:00 – How he started writing Born to Run.
  • 33:20 – Chris LOVES living in Amish country.
  • 34:55 – Do donkeys make good running partners? According to Chris, yes.
  • 37:30 – One of Chris’s favorite books.
  • 38:00 – How Chris avoids injuries.
  • 39:15 – Chris’s writing process mostly involves procrastinating.
  • 40:30 – Why Chris discourages people from writing a book.
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