20 minutes with Christopher McDougall

Wow. Last week was awesome. I had the fantastic experience of meeting Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run. Chris’s new book, Natural Born Heroes, was released in the UK in April and I had the pleasure of being invited to the launch event, where I was also lucky enough to receive some one to one interview time.

Natural Born Heroes
Image courtesy of Amazon.co.uk

When Chris McDougall stumbled across the story of Churchill’s ‘dirty tricksters’, a motley crew of English poets and academics who helped resist the Nazi invasion of Crete, he knew he was on the track of something special.

To beat the odds, the tricksters – starving, aging, outnumbered -tapped into an ancient style of fitness: the lost art of heroism. They listened to their instincts, replaced calories with stored bodily fat and used their fascia, the network of tissue which criss-crosses the body, to catapult themselves to superhuman strength and endurance.

Soon McDougall was in the middle of a modern fitness revolution taking place everywhere from Parisian parkour routes to state-of-the-art laboratories, and based on the know-how of Shanghai street-fighters and Wild West gunslingers. Just as Born to Run got runners off the treadmill and into nature, Natural Born Heroes will inspire casual athletes to dump the gym membership for cross-training, mud runs and free-running.

Blurb, Natural Born Heroes: The Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance.

I’ll be covering the book and the event in a further blog post, but for now, here’s some thoughts from the great man himself…

Christopher McDougall and I - what a gent!
Christopher McDougall and I – what a gent!

I’ve never interviewed anyone before and I was nervous and worried about coming across as an idiot. Chris really is a nice guy, as fucking cool as he seems, and he soon put me at ease. And yes, he was wearing those sandals.

Born to Run

“Yeah. I think the barefoot trend was already there. It just needed to be mainstreamed”.


“I don’t know. People were doing ultras. I think people get tired of running for speed and people are starting to run for enjoyment. Maybe Born to Run accelerated the process of entries.”

I told him his book made me want to do an ultra but how 3 years later, I still haven’t done one. He laughed. We briefly talked about barefoot shoes and my brief dabble with Vibram Five Fingers and my calves hurting.

“It’s normal. But it’s your body telling you just take it slow and don’t do too much straight away”.

Wise words from the man himself.


“Woman can throw. They just need to be reminded how”.

We talked about bowling briefly and he smiled.

“And when you throw those shots, you feel fucking great? Your body is strong, the movement is natural. We need to get back to that”.


“Everyone should participate. Things like parkour, it’s for everyone. It’s about being useful. Everyone participating”.

I asked about competitive athletes, whether he thinks we’ve lost our way slightly, how elite athletes spend so much time conditioning themselves to excel at just one thing. His answer is simple.

“Competitive sports are for people to show off”.

There’s a lot of truth in that statement.

“There’s a lot of talk about a 2 hour marathon. Who cares? It’s not useful”. 

Natural Born Heroes

Chris is a runner, a real life action man if you will. He was formerly a journalist. I ask him if he almost sees himself as a “running historian”.

“Yeah, I guess I am”.

We talk about parkour and how it features in his new book.

“It’s awesome. It’s about skill. Not perfomance. Throwing. Jumping. Running. We can all do it”.

Does he have any other books in the pipeline?

“Oh yeah, I’m always thinking! But I gotta keep quiet for now”.

The Boss

Any words from Bruce Springsteen?

“I have no idea if The Boss likes it. He hasn’t said anything, so I guess he’s cool with it!”

We agree that Born to Run is THE song for running.

We stopped there, Chris suffering from a nasty sore throat and losing his voice. I directed him to the nearest Boots and we said goodbye after a quick selfie. A true gentleman, with interesting and wise views. I’ll be covering the event and the book in a later blog post, but I’d like to thank Chris for his time with a slightly rambly fan, and Becki at Manifest and Anna-Marie at Profile Books for arranging this interview for me and inviting me along.

“Fuck exercise. Enjoy moving”.


4 thoughts on “20 minutes with Christopher McDougall

  1. I absolutely love that state “Fuck exercise. Enjoy moving” – that would so be my tagline if my blog wasn’t so parent based!!! Doesn’t quite have the same impact “Sod exercise. Enjoy moving” does it!?
    Sounds like a fab experience – great post Helen!!! :-) xxx

  2. Great interview, he sounds a lovely guy and a fun one too! I’m listening to the book whilst I run at the moment and am really enjoying it

  3. How exciting! What a great it interview and experience. I’m a little embarrassed to admit I’ve not actually read his first book despite meaning to for ages. I might have to use Kats insipration and listen to it instead.

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