The best-selling author of Born to Run now travels to the Mediterranean, where he discovers that the secrets of ancient Greek heroes are still alive and well on the island of Crete, and ready to be unleashed in the muscles and minds of casual athletes and aspiring heroes everywhere.
After running an ultramarathon through the Copper Canyons of Mexico, Christopher McDougall finds his next great adventure on the razor-sharp mountains of Crete, where a band of Resistance fighters in World War II plotted the daring abduction of a German general from the heart of the Nazi occupation. How did a penniless artist, a young shepherd, and a playboy poet believe they could carry out such a remarkable feat of strength and endurance, smuggling the general past thousands of Nazi pursuers, with little more than their own wits and courage to guide them?
McDougall makes his way to the island to find the answer and retrace their steps, experiencing firsthand the extreme physical challenges the Resistance fighters and their local allies faced. On Crete, the birthplace of the classical Greek heroism that spawned the likes of Herakles and Odysseus, McDougall discovers the tools of the hero—natural movement, extraordinary endurance, and efficient nutrition. All of these skills, McDougall learns, are still practiced in far-flung pockets throughout the world today.
More than a mystery of remarkable people and cunning schemes, Natural Born Heroes is a fascinating investigation into the lost art of the hero, taking us from the streets of London at midnight to the beaches of Brazil at dawn, from the mountains of Colorado to McDougall’s own backyard in Pennsylvania, all places where modern-day athletes are honing ancient skills so they’re ready for anything.
Just as Born to Run inspired readers to get off the treadmill, out of their shoes, and into the natural world, Natural Born Heroes will inspire them to leave the gym and take their fitness routine to nature—to climb, swim, skip, throw, and jump their way to their own heroic feats.
Journalist McDougall (Born to Run) travels to the Greek island of Crete to serve up a mixture of mythic heroics and still-applicable fitness techniques. There, with amateur historian Chris White's help, he explores how, in 1944, Greek partisans and British commandos abducted Nazi Gen. Heinrich Kreipe. Further delving into the Greek resistance, McDougall offers astonishing stories about shepherds turned partisans, George "the Clown" Psychoundakis, known to run over 50 miles nightly with a 60-pound pack on his back and on a diet of nothing but boiled hay, and Costi Paterakis, who ran cross-country to shoot, from a quarter mile away, a German commander about to order a massacre. He also documents contemporary heroes like the Pennsylvania elementary school principal who singlehandedly saved her school from a machete-wielding stranger. Throughout, McDougall pauses to consider what exactly makes a hero a hero, examining history, anatomy, physiology, and fitness. This book reads as a page-turning historical account, with fitness techniques and instruction embedded throughout. Readers, regardless of their fitness levels, should come to the end feeling both inspired and a little bit winded.
Wow, just wow!
I rushed into this book after reading three other ultra-athlete type books and I expected this to be much the same (which is what I love). I was initially a little disappointed with the drawn out discussion on the war since I am definitely not a war buff, but then I got it. In learning about the war, I was gaining an appreciation for the super-athletes who had to use mind & body to defeat the enemy. I love all the twists and turns in this book. I came away with so much knowledge of the German invasion of Greece, of the true heart of the Greek people, and also a true appreciation for the level of fitness and heroics involved for those living/fighting on the ground. Keep writing Chris!
Natural Born Heroes is just superb history
A fascinating story of World War II daring on the island of Crete. A little known story of how a rag tag group of British SOE operatives kidnap a German general and, after an extraordinary journey over the mountainous Cretan countryside, are able to extricate him off the island.
This book has everything, it's a guide for your health and a adventurous recounting that may leave you a bit teary eyed. I can't describe how eye opening yet fulfilling this book is, it moves between times so pleasantly that I had a real sense of nostalgia while reading and simultaneously a yearning to utilize my newly acquired knowledge learned through its pages. I can't recommend this book enough.