Friday, November 11, 2011

In defense of Ann Trason (Born to Run)

There is something that has been bothering me for a while. I felt it at the time and did nothing about it. It has stuck with me and I now find myself posting about it. Clearly it’s an issue for me:) It’s the way Ann Trason is depicted in Born to Run. I never thought about it in-depth at the time and maybe it's why I didn't act but, I did walk away from the book with a sense of injustice. After writing this post, I have fully realized what my gut was telling me at the time and it has been pretty cathartic.

Ann Trason. Photo by Patitucci Photo.

Let me be clear. I love Born To Run as much as the next person. I think Chris McDougall did an extraordinary job of pulling together many fascinating running related facts and stories into a really inspiring book. A book that can be enjoyed by runners and non-runners alike. I enjoyed it so much, I am reading it again. I am also very impressed with Chris as a person. He is an exceptionally passionate man who is an inspiring speaker, as well as a writer. Check out this TED conference video. It’s also important to point out that even though he is criticized by people like Jenn Shelton for glossing over facts about the poverty of the Raramuri (Tarahumara), a Mexican running tribe central to Born to Run, he did bring Worldwide attention to them. Jenn herself may never have become involved with them if it hadn’t have been for Chris. He can also be thanked for the barefoot/minimalist running craze we are seeing right now. He was not the first to push that agenda but certainly one of the most successful. Whether you like barefoot/minimalist running or not, it’s great to see shoe companies pushing their research further and creating more innovative and interesting running shoes. We all benefit from that. It's also great to see Chris' book encouraging thousands of people to try running for the first time. I was a beginner when I read it and it really fueled me. Chris seems genuinely passionate about running and interested in injury avoidance through natural form. It’s the basis for the journey he took on Born to Run. My friend Tony shared a link of Chris demonstrating an exercise by Walter George, a famous British runner who was in his prime in the 1870's and 1880's. The more I see content like this, the more I believe that Chris' motivations are honest and I have a deeper appreciation for the spirit behind Born to Run. On a more critical note, there is no doubt that Chris can seem a little too self-promoting, over-confident and a little too black and white with his point of view but I can live with that. My main issue with Born to Run was that he sometimes seemed to use real people as vehicles to carry the overall story, regardless of how harsh or unfair it was to those people. Maybe that happens in all books in order to serve the main story thread but I don't have to like it. He wasn't writing about fictional characters. These are people who have lives and feelings. Born to Run has become so mainstream that the way people are depicted in the book will be a powerful lasting impression of who they are. All the more reason to be fair in representing them. The poster child (in my mind) of unfair treatment in the book for me was Ann Trason.

You have to read Born to Run to understand the full context of what I am talking about. To be fair, Chris gives Ann a glorious build-up. He talks about how raw and pure her talent was. He talks about her thirst for distance. I remember the part of the story where he talks about Ann completing two marathon equivalent runs in the morning followed by another 15 miler in the evening as a self reward for fixing the plumbing. He then talks about how she started competing, winning and how she became stronger, beating men and winning ultra races outright. A real impressive woman. He described her as a runner with no weaknesses. Where things start to go downhill for Ann in Born to Run is where the Raramuri come into play in the famous Leadville 100 mile race. It’s a culminating point in the book and very intense. Chris talks about Ann being so aggressive in her competitiveness that she was mean to the Raramuri tribesmen. They refer to her in the book as "La Bruja" (the witch).

A Raramuri runner. Note the smile on his face.

Like I said, I had no real reason to believe that Ann Trason was unfairly treated in Born to Run other than my gut feeling. For all I knew, she was just a real downer. But, I didn’t want to believe that she was. So, when I started thinking about writing this post, I asked myself... You don't know Ann Trason, so why do you believe her to be a better person than Born to Run depicts her? It was a fair position and this is what I came up with:
  1. Ann seemed super passionate about running. Chris made it sound as if she would do it if races didn't exist. So, how could someone like that feel anything other than adoration for a Mexican tribe who run hundreds of miles just for the joy of it? They embody her passion.
  2. If Ann wanted to win at all costs to obtain fame and glory, why wouldn’t she have become a marathoner and an Olympian? Ultrarunning wasn’t mainstream. There was no significant fame or money in it for her.
  3. Ann is the most dominant female ultrarunner in history. She broke 20 World records. Could her self esteem have been so low that she would try to intimidate some Mexican tribesmen who were in a foreign place?
  4. Ann had been beaten by men in races many times in the past. Why would she suddenly become obsessed with beating these men? These natural athletes that didn’t even have the same competitive motivations?
  5. Ultrarunning is a lonely sport but it’s also about community. You can’t do it without a crew, friends, pacers, competitors to tag along with and volunteers at aid stations, etc. Ultrarunning is about the experience – not just the win. I'm sure there are people in it to win but I think it would be rare to find one that didn't respect the experience of it.
So, with my hypothesis in hand, I turned to the trusty Interwebs for some answers. I wasn't necessarily looking for absolutes. I just needed to find enough to make me comfortable having some heart for Ann. First of all, I checked out Caballo Blanco’s web page. He was a central character in Born to Run and he was there. He may be a tad odd by mainstream standards but he seems like a good human being. Caballo said that some American runners were complaining about the Raramuri showing up for the Leadville race. He didn't go into the reason why. He also claims to have had this interaction with Ann Trason:
Ann (as she was overtaking the Raramuri): "Ask them how it feels to be passed by a woman!"
Caballo: "Learn Spanish and ask them yourself"
Ann: "I hate them"
Caballo doesn't claim to have heard the last statement. He says that other people heard her say it. Caballo also says that the reason they called her "La Bruja" was because he himself had used that word to try to describe a woman with great powers. His Spanish is limited. He never intended the name to be used it in a critical way. Being viewed as a powerful woman is not the same as being a mean old witch. Caballo can probably also be blamed for some of the weird interaction between Ann and the Raramuri. He advised them to stalk her and not pass her until the end. Apparently, when Ann stopped to take a pee during the race, Juan (one of the Raramuri) stopped and waited for her. She was understandably weirded out by this because she thought he was taunting her. Caballo said that he and the Raramuri were very impressed with Ann's performance at Leadville. She didn't win, so it must have been the way she ran. In fact, the Raramuri were so impressed, they presented her with a special gift of hand-made sandals at the awards ceremony. That doesn't sound like bad blood to me. Why would they do that for someone who had been mean spirited?

Caballo Blanco

Sarah Lavender Smith, a runner, a blogger and an old neighbor of Ann's said:
Like the terrain she runs in, Trason’s personality can seem remote, tough and demanding. Beneath that exterior, however, I found someone who’s warm, supportive and humble. If you run by her while she’s volunteering at an aid station, she’ll call out, “You can do it—you’re just gonna love that hill!” Or if you tell her she’s been called the greatest female ultrarunner ever, she’ll shake her head, look down and say, “Nah, I wouldn’t say that. There are so many good runners these days.”

Sarah says that Ann does not like to give interviews and does not like to have her picture taken. So, I think it's safe to say that she isn't a show-boater. After seeing Ann fly by her house so many times to hit the trail, Sarah said that she finally got the chance to run with her. She likened it to being given a soccer ball and being told that Mia Hamm was coming over. Sarah makes a point about Ann referencing her husband Carl breaking a course record in the Dick Collins Firetrails 50 but was too humble to mention that when she ran it in 87, she created a record that still stands today. Ann and Carl took over co-directing the event because they were really fond of Dick and after his death, they wanted to make sure that the event retained the same positive spirit. Ann said that it is the type of race that you “kind of run and have a picnic at the end”. This sounds like a confident but pretty humble woman to me. A woman who was in ultrarunning for all the right reasons.

I ran across some notes about Ann on FitnessIntuition.com. It was to do with an award they call Every Runner’s Friend. They actually talk about how she is unfairly portrayed in Born to Run. They talk about her encouragement and inspiration of thousands of runners and sight her smile and spirit at aid stations. When Ann was injured, she would volunteer at aid stations and it's awesome to know that she still does that as a co-director since her injuries have forced her into retirement. It sounds like she still has plenty to bring to the sport.

Ann Trason (far left) helps at an aid station. Courtesy of FitnessIntuition.com

Maybe Chris McDougall wanted to play with the concept of a highly trained and uptight American versus the natural and serene Tarahumara from the Copper Canyons. Maybe it made for good storytelling. Maybe Ann had an off day and did do and say some things that were off character. I don't know for sure. I wasn't there. What I do know is that there is plenty of evidence out there to support the idea that Ann Trason is a good human being who believes in the positive spirit of unltrarunning and has gone out of her way to support and mentor. I feel justified that my gut was correct. Apparently Ann herself has been vocal about her disappointment in the way she was portrayed. Regardless, the book can still be a great book. You can't keep everyone happy in a book like this. Let's not forget that this book is Chris McDougall's perspective or interpretation. As such, it is capable of being unfair and harsh. Is Rick Fisher as big an asshole as the book makes out? I don't know.

As far as I am concerned, if anyone who has read Born to Run had a slightly negative impression of Ann Trason but now questioning that viewpoint based on this post, I have paid humble homage to a very inspiring woman who deserves all the respect the running community can give. That's just my opinion. I'll leave you with an awesome quote from Sarah Lavender Smith's interview. Her new blog is TheRunnersTrip.comShe writes beautifully. She is not an untrained hack like myself :) 

“It’s a journey. … It’s experiencing something different, and exploring. I always say it’s a life in a day” – Ann Trason

40 comments:

  1. I was very curious, maybe suspicious, of the characterization of Trason as well. Certainly, the Tarahumara are exoticized on the one side, and depicted in condescending terms on the other. Typical Orientalist ambiguity, really, and of course that old discourse sells books. The way the race organizers played up gender (if they did) is precisely the way the book plays it up for its drama.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. After seeing Christopher McDougal in person pushing Jurek's book Eat and Run, it's clear that he is a bit of a sensationalist. You can't be too hard on him though because that's what makes the book such a good read. Clearly though, he didn't do autobiography level research on every character, so he is going to take aspects of them and run with it.

      Delete
  2. but this one comment by Ann Trason was captured on TV (so there is no doubt that it actually happened) -
    "Sometimes it takes a woman to bring out the best in a man".

    underlying message: Juan pushed himself to victory caused he could not stand to be humiliated by a (white) woman.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And, we, as humans and as individuals find our inspirations in moments sometimes. It is not why juan pushed himself, it is that he DID push himself and erase an incredible deficit to gain the lead. By all accounts, he merely shot around her quitely with little or no fanfare. He was neither a gentleman nor a villan in that moment. He was just a guy that decided to see if he could "do it". And he did! I have great respect and admiration for everyone that can run that far. I don't believe I can, but i am inspired by the stories of those who do and talk about it. More disgusting, in Born to Run is how Mc treated folks like Dean K. I have been inspired to do things thus far greater than i believed i could (2 marathons and loads of other smaller things) largely by reading and being inspired by people like Dean. This world is big and there is room for those that "do" and talk about their exploits as a way of promoting their craft and feeding their family and room for those that "do" and drift back to their (figurative and literal) cave. Neither is right but neither is wrong.

      Delete
    2. If you read the book in context, its implied that she has this reaction because she is told the Tarahumara hate to lose to a women, which was essentially a fabrication. Trason had no way of knowing about the fabrication.
      I agree she is not presented in the best of lights, but the Tarahumara promoter who stirs up all the trouble in the first place is the one who is really portrayed as the villain.

      Delete
  3. Interesting. Where did you see the TV coverage? I'd like to see it. Based on what you quoted though, I don't see anything terribly wrong with what she said. Women in sports take so much crap from men. I don't see why they shouldn't give a little back. A little smack talk amongst competitors is normal. I would be surprised if the Tarahumara weren't sexist. As I said though, maybe Ann played the gender card too strong that day and regrets it. Maybe there was a lot of gender pressure from people around the race that didn't come through in the story. I don't know. I still don't feel like the book is a good representation of what she stands for or what she deserves to be remembered for as an ultrarunner. I still need to be persuaded that my viewpoint isn't correct.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. good for you Simon! I agree completely. there is NOTHING wrong with what she said. quite frankly, McDougall took pot shots at a lot of people in this book, Dean Karno, Bauerman, Nike, all doctors, the front desk lady at the hotel, lots of people. I really enjoyed the book, (but for the very longggg, ad nauseum preaching about barefoot running and the evil, evil Bauerman "someone who knew nothing about running telling people how to run") but McDougall strikes me as a trust fund, sexist narcissist.

      Delete
  4. I would agree Ann was portrayed in a pretty negative light. But I think Chris did that to a lot of characters in the book. In particular Bonehead, Jenn and Ted. In my opinion Ted got the worst of it though. Chris made Ted sound like an idiot. it's also been documented that Jenn was not too pleased with her portrayal either. Come to think of it one of the few people, other than Scott, that Chris made sound cool was ... himself.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Quote: "underlying message: Juan pushed himself to victory caused he could not stand to be humiliated by a (white) woman."

    How could Ann Trason or any writer/observer possibly know what was going through Juan's mind at the time unless the writer's name was the Amazing Kreskin or the Stupendous Yappi? Massive westerner arrogance yet again.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Come on Guys, My take is: Nobody, except those people who were right there, when it happened, witnessing what was going down, know the truth. It is a STORY, with some facts and a lot of distorsion but still it's entertaining and somewhat enlightening about the races and the Raramuri people for those who don't normally read about these things.
    Give it a rest, They are all great, as far as I am concerned, I could not even run 5 miles on those mountains.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I Honestly loved reading the book and the audio book is also a great find. As was Ann Trason. I thought that there was nothing wrong with the way Ann was portrayed. she was everything i wanted to be. Fearless, competitive and she put her money where her mouth was. In australia we call it sledging. As an aussie ironman triathlete wanting to do an ultra, i had not heard of Ann. I was devastated that it hadn't heard of her before. All This talk of Ashton, dean and scott and ann was not on my radar. I hope that Ann tells her story or her side in a book and i would absolutely buy it.Although she may feel she doesn't need to. I think she is a great inspiration for all runners and especially women. Maybe chris's new book should be - Born to Run: A Hidden phenomenon, Superathlete, and the Greatest woman the World is yet to discover! My Next t-shirt will read "Ann Trason inspired me to do it". thanks Dave

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm re-reading the book now and just got through that bit. I think people's opinions of the Raramuri were coloured by Rick Fisher's representation of them, and it sounded like he led people to believe they would have a problem with being outraced by a woman. And maybe Ann felt like they were brought there to beat her which would feel a bit like an attack - Fisher's fault, not the Raramuri's. There were language barriers and Fisher didn't allow any communication. What happened, happened, but it doesn't mean we know what was beneath all that or what misunderstandings people were operating under. What I took from the book was a host of true characters who I really enjoyed reading about and to some people, being called La Bruja would be empowering.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agree. If anyone comes off as behaving like a bit of a dick it's Fisher. Would be interesting to get an alternative perspective on him!

      Delete
  9. Thanks for the discussion folks. I think that I have been clear on the fact that nobody will know for sure what all the elements at play were. Even the people who were there have their own view into the way things unfolded. I have also been very clear about the fact that none of this takes away from the Chris' contribution to running and the amazing story he put together. I'm not sure you can write a book like this without stepping on toes. As someone who works with teams of people on a daily basis, I know that you can't always please everyone. For my part, I have had a couple of people who know Ann thank me for the post and that makes me comfortable with what I have put out here for discussion. I was compelled to look into it. I wasn't compelled to look into Jen or Barefoot Ted but they have complaints about the way they were portrayed too. The one remaining Character that I am curious about is Rick Fisher. He fascinates me in this book and he takes a beating from Chris, even though Chris talks about his great accomplishments. I'd love to do a follow-up post about whether he truly is a d-bag of the magnitude that Chris observed. It's hard for me to believe that there are people out there that are like that. The sad truth is that there are. Maybe I don't want the answer.

    ReplyDelete
  10. In American culture, a woman can never be criticized, or depicted in a negative light. Men yes, especially white men. But don't you ever dare say anything bad about a woman. They are perfect, and never ever do anything wrong, or offensive. This is the unfair, messed up thing about American culture. Say anything negative about a woman and there is a public outcry, like on this forum.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. wow, you are a white american band camp loser, eh?

      Delete
    2. I think the U.S. is often overly concerned with people's feelings—male and female. People from other countries go on and on about that. I wouldn't say that it's a culture where women can do no wrong. There is still plenty of inequality that goes on. I'm not from the U.S. originally, so I like to think that I can look at it from a different perspective. This post was not about women being criticized. It was about Ann specifically. She is not a faceless representation of women. She is a known quantity. She has accomplished a lot and has a track record of being a stand-up human being. I don't think the book trashed her but I do think that McDougal could have treated her with more reverence. That's just my opinion. You are welcome to yours. Thanks for commenting.

      Delete
  11. Thank you for your gross generalization of American culture Anonymous. Even if you had a valid theory, your opinion is a little misguided on this post and here's why...

    This is my personal opinion about one particular woman. I laid out my case about why I had the opinion and it has been validated by acquaintances of Ann (male and female). Obviously it's far from being about protecting a woman just because she is a woman.

    Let's also not forget one other fact... I AM NOT AN AMERICAN! I don't think a man from Wales qualifies to speak on behalf of the American people.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I just finished reading Born to Run last night. I thought it was an amazing and inspiring book. Because of the depiction of Ann Trason, I decided to try to find more about her, which is what lead me to this blog. I am surprised to find that people felt that her character was negatively portrayed. I wholeheartedely disagree. I thought, next to the Rarámuri, she was portrayed as the next best natural runner, male or female. I loved her story. I loved her character (attitude) in the race. I didn't think she was mean, just competitive. I thought that the book portrayed Rick as the reason why there was tension between the genders, and Ann might have believed it when he said that they don't lose to women. McDougall then clarified that the Rarámuri were actually not patriarchal, but instead they are more of an egalitarian tribe.

    Although I disagree with Anonymous (April 2) that women cannot be critisized, I do believe this is more about gender inconsistent behavior, which is stigmatized. Women are stigmatized when we behave in traditionally masculine ways, such as competitive, direct, authoritarian. Men are characterized as strong leaders while women are characterized as bitches. In competetive sports, it is really no big deal when men taunt other men. I don't think that Ann taunted the Raramuri men, but shot out a wisecrack that I applauded and laughed at. I wanted to high five her. I wanted to have the same attitude, determination, and grit. She was one of my favoriate characters in the book and one that I greatly admired. I thought she was inspirational. And, that is the way I thought the book portrayed her.

    Renee Barragan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel the same, personally about Ann's character (she is Ah-mazing)!! y husband runs ultras and I've crewed for him as often as possible. The main thing to love about ultras is the lack of taunting between racers. It's a completely different race than I've ever witnessed. Generally, the people who run ultras just love to run. They are racing themselves, not really anyone else. It's very solitary. Actually reading that Micah told the Rarumari to let Ann run ahead of them until later in the race is pretty telling. For a solitary event, having someone on your heels for miles could grate on anyone's nerves.

      Delete
    2. Agree with you, Renee, Fisher is the one who seems to be the villain of the piece. It would be interesting to know how much his character has been embellished to make a good story.

      Delete
  13. Well said Renee. It's quite possible that my view is amplified by gender. I'm open to that possibility. Regardless, I'm all good with the way I read it and I'm fascinated to hear from someone who read it a completely different way. I'm glad you enjoyed the book and Ann's character in it. Obviously I did or I wouldn't have bothered writing this post. Your passion for it makes me want to re-read it.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I just finished reading Born to Run as well, and loved it! I did feel like Trason didn't come off in the best light in the description of her race with the Tarahumara, but I read it as being a result of the false "battle of the sexes" tension that Fisher had built up, and so saw her behavior as being a bit defensive, rather than nasty. :)

    ReplyDelete
  15. Human beings have good and bad qualities - that's how I took the depiction of Ann Trason in the book. I still have come away from it in total awe of her. If someone -- anyone -- is portrayed as all good or all bad, then I become suspicious, because that just isn't nature.

    ReplyDelete
  16. That's interesting...
    I didn't give it much thought my first go-around with Born to Run. I was just assuming that if she did make the "how does it feel to be beat by a woman" comment (or whatever the quote from the book is), that it was probably fuelled by the healthy competitiveness that all people who are racing feel.
    Also, it sounds like the man vs. woman angle was played up pretty hard prior to that race. As a woman, I could have a lot of fun getting revved up for a show-down like that!
    I guess I can see how Ann Trason would be bothered by that depiction, but hopefully most people who read that book won't assume anything bad about her. She's just human, like the rest of us :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hey!
    I don't normally comment on blogs but I will on this. I apologise in advance for my misspellings it's my damn iPhone and general disregard for convention.
    Just wanted to say this article was excellent as are all of the comments. I'm just reading born to run and I find it fascinating. I'm training for my second marathon and was finding it a slog but this book has given me a spring in my step. I honestly started to forget how much I love running. I felt that Ann is portrayed in a generally good light and I don't think her comment about bringing out the best in a man is mean spirited I thought it was funny. It had a nice dark twist as a joke. I have such immense respect for her and anyone else who considers such a task (I would say that I would never do one myself but I grew up obese and never thought I could run a mile. I did a marathon in 3.59 in October so what do I know about what I can't do ?)
    Overall I just want to say how incredible a story was the one he wrote about Zapotek? I had never heard of him before now I can't get him out of my mind. I never use this word Irish people generally don't but he was inspirational

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hi,Loved the book and all the real people.I do not run but health and fitness are priorities.Totally amazed at the achievements and integrity of all characters.Entered on this blog as I queried Ann and Emil,I was so awed by their ability.I also feel that Ann was not slighted.Her comment showed her competitive spirit.Although these sports are so physically demanding,mentality is the magic.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I'm reading the book at the time, and I've just finished reading about the great race in Leadville, and I do see your point in some way. But I did't get an impression that she is not a wonderful human beeing. I did google her afterwards and got a great impression of her. I think other should do that too. We have to remember that in a competitive situation things are different than in "normal" life. Maybe you have to be a runner to understand it. The author is telling a story from his perspective, and that's not the whole picture. We can only hope most people understand this, and don't jugde based on very little information. Anyway, it's a beautyful book!

    ReplyDelete
  20. I'm currently reading Born to Run which is what brought me to this forum. I have to disagree I don't feel Ann was negatively portrayed. McDougall makes it clear that Fisher was to blame for the battle of the sexes feel the Leadville 100 had. Ann simply reacted like most people would when she felt the Tarahumara weren't taking her seriously based on gender. Just a misunderstanding, happens to all of us but it doesn't make us bad people. I never got the feeling that McDougall was implying she did it for money or fame.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I'm just reading this book for the first time. I think the problem is with the narrative style in a book like this. It's not exactly nonfiction, but it's not fiction either. Nonfiction events, filled in with novel style narration is bound to paint in broad strokes. It's unfortunate for those who read this book as true (as in researched and quotes are verifiable/well-documented) but don't understand that this was not what the author intended (I hope not! it was more legend than fact in many cases).

    ReplyDelete
  22. I too agree with Renee and others who note that they walked away from the book with immense respect and admiration for Ann. McDougall made it clear that what transpired that day was the subject of disagreement for many when he noted that certain comments of Ann's were caught on video, but the causes/emotions underlying the comments were not understood. I think his version of the story makes it easy to understand why she would have been under pressure, based on the theatrics crafted by Fisher. I saw this controversy as little more than a blip on the radar of the story about Ann. In fact his depiction of her queen's gambit that day inspired nothing but awe at the sheer grit she unleashed.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Thanks for posting this blog and also for the many reader comments.

    I am re-reading the 'Born to Run' and just re-read the Leadville-Ann Trason-Raramuri section.

    McDougall did treat Trason and the surrounding circumstances with a detailed and fair overview. He is also a serious reporter, so it is important for readers to not confuse the reporting of facts that some find to be unsettling as the same as treating someone unfairly. I agree mostly with the comments by: Anonymous, January 11, 2012 1:53 PM & Anonymous, August 19, 2012 9:59 AM. Also, it is time for McDougall to prepare his sequel, or at least a detailed article that provides more details about all the main characters...including the passing of Caballo Blanco.

    Joe Sandri

    ReplyDelete
  24. Hi,

    I have finished reading this book for the first time and thought I'd also comment on the post.

    I am a male runner and decided to start reading the book as recently I've started to become a bit jaded with running. I hadn't heard of Ann before and Googled her and came across this post.

    I just wanted to say that I agree with the people here who think that Ann was actually treated well in the book. I think she came across as a person who wanted to win (there's no shame in that) and she was just having a dig at her competitors, possibly trying to get a slight extra psychological advantage. In my view, the fact that it was a female who was having a dig at a male is irrelevant.

    For me, she came across as an inspirational person and without the book I probably wouldn't have heard of her. I think the book cast her in a good light and it's been interesting reading up about her a bit more on the Internet.

    I would go as far as to say that I was surprised that a reader could think that Ann was being treated harshly. To me it seems that other people have been treated much more harshly in the book (maybe fairly, I don't know)! In some ways, I think it is the writer's style.

    Anyway, an interesting post and follow up comments.

    Regards,

    Graydon

    ReplyDelete
  25. I read through your commentary on the book and will add a quick thought. It's great that you state the positives before leading into your criticisms, that's the best approach. Reading Born to Run my only impression of Ann Trason was awe and inspiration. None of the reasons you stated put her in a bad image, for me.

    Following the storyline, not my own research, her competitive nature was fueled by all outside sources. But I did not get the impression she had a disdain for them. Her portrayal only led me, like others have posted, to find out more about her extraordinary performances.

    My feeling is do not feel she has been demonized or even as the antagonist in the book. My lasting impression is "if she is that good, and a Tarahumara beat her in the at the Leadville 100, they really are super athletes."

    p.s. I was bummed her record at the Western States was beaten this year! (2012)

    ReplyDelete
  26. Think about this.....Ann Trason came very close to winning the race outright; and this was not just any race...In this era there have been a very few women who have won 100 mile races outright; but none have won a race of this stature! In my mind she is/was the most talented as well as the toughest female runner I have ever seen. That mix of talent and mental and physical toughness comes by once in a lifetime and Ann had it in spades! None of this he said, she said crap coming out of Born to Run won't ever change my opinion of her.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I am old, but I have raced. Ann is a god. There are times when I have questioned my abilities vs the next opponent i am chasing down. Is he or she loafing some or at the limit. I always slow behind to catch my breath, pull up, chat like there is no big deal and then say "Well, I am going on. Have a good race." then run over my head for as long as I can in hopes that if the other's talents if more than mine, well maybe I can demoralize him/her some. It is called racing. Sometimes those things backfire, sometimes they were what made the difference. I saw Ann as a racer. I saw her with a humongous respect for these runners and a hope that whatever Gambit she used would be enough. I saw her with a pride bigger than any in the book when she was crushed and then got it back together to finish. Ann is a hero.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I haven't read all the comments. Just wanted to thank you for the research and the article. I had many similar reactions but but hadn't done nearly as much research into the facts.
    Kind regards to you and to all those that enjoy the off road experience, and of course, all the others. A female off road runner. "It's not everything but it's not nothing."

    ReplyDelete
  29. Ann comes across as harsh and haughty when they're being weighed mid-race, but I feel like she was led to that place by Fisher's "handling" of the Tarahumara runners. His public statements made them seem like a society of male chauvinists, and his secluding them and preventing them from communicating with anyone else probably didn't help set the record straight.

    ReplyDelete

Come on, give me a little comment.

Subscribe by email