ChiRunning by Danny Dreyer: A Long-term Book Review

Danny Dreyer opens his book with one eye-opening statistic – that out of 24 million runners and joggers in the United States, 65% will have to stop at least once a year due to injury. However, he contends this is not due to running itself, but to the way we run. Our running is often determined by self-imposed goals and external factors, instead of focusing on just enjoying the running process. The stated goal in the book is to help the reader run the way they used to run as a child – happy, relaxed and carefree.

I first picked up Chi Running more than a year and a half ago, recommended to me by word of mouth. I read it through, tried for a while to incorporate some of the goals into my running, and then both the book and its methods faded from injury. Then last autumn, I realised how much I was enjoying my running, and that I should probably take action to make sure that I can continue enjoying injury-free running right into old age. I was very much inspired in this regard by Arpan DeAngelo, who at 52 became the oldest man to complete the 3100 Mile Self-Transcendence race, the longest road race in the world – his philosophy of placing enjoyment of running and looking after the body has certainly served him well. So I picked up ChiRunning for the second time and resolved to take time to put this method into action.

ChiRunning aims to change the runners form so that instead of using easily injured parts of the body like calves, we instead engage core muscles like abdominals and hip flexors to do the running. The runner’s basic stance in ChiRunning reflects the ancient art of T’ai Chi; this wisdom is combined with commonsense principles of physics, such as leaning forward whilst running to put less pressure into the foot strike and enable gravity to do some of the work.

The explanation of the technique takes up only a few pages in the book, but the author leaves you under no illusions that it wont take work and dedication to change your habits of running to incorporate this technique. Indeed, he suggests that switching to ChiRunning will involve nothing less than a whole change in one’s philosophy and reasons for running, and that a runner making the transition should put aside any racing plans until the technique is properly assimilated. Hence much of the book is a motivation for this change, as well as some extremely practical tips to overcome our natural reluctance to changing long-held habits.

With this book, the author is not just trying to explain the technique for ChiRunning, but to develop a complete runner’s handbook that covers everything from stretching and loosening to diet to race preparation. Information that has been common knowledge in the running community for many years is juxtaposed with some very original suggestions, all with the aim of increasing the joy that one gets from running. The wealth of information here means every time I open its pages I invariably read something new I didn’t pick up on previously, and I always make sure to leave it on my kitchen table so I can pick it up every so often and refresh the good habits I have acquired.

The author, Shane Magee, currently has a 3:09 best marathon time. He also helps out with the website of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team, the largest ultrarunning organisation in the world. Among other events the Sri Chinmoy Marathon team put on the 3100 Mile Self Transcendence Race – the world’s longest road race.