Although I’ve never traditionally been much of a runner, I’m almost all the way through Christopher McDougall’s book, “Born to Run” after having opened it only two days ago.  I can’t put it down.

If you haven’t read it, the book delves into the sport of ultrarunning, and the Tarahumara tribe of Mexico’s Copper Canyons, a people who have been virtually untouchable in endurance in spite of the technological advances that we have in the first world.

If you’re not familiar with them, type in a BRO website search for the Tarahumara… Editor-in-Chief Will Harlan has set up his own non-profit to help feed the tribe, and he has been able to travel down and run with them on several occasions over the past few years.

The pivotal moment and biggest lesson for me in the book thus far occurs in the description of the brutal Leadville 100 race, in which Martimano and Juan, two Tarahumara runners, are chasing Ann Trason for the win.  At mile 60, Ann was still ahead by 12 minutes, but onlookers were shocked to see the two Tarahumara men crest a brutal hill at full stride (where everyone else walks) and laugh to each other about something.

While all the competitors in that race were at their body’s limit, grinding away and hoping to survive the pain, these men were focusing instead on the privilege of being able to run that far, and enjoying the camaraderie of running together.  When all was said and done, Juan effortlessly overtook Ann in the final ten miles, nearly causing her to DNF because it demoralized her so much.  Fortunately she didn’t, because her battle with the tribesmen pushed her to smash the women’s record by over two hours, and her record that day still stands.

That story and idea really inspired me… peak performance through pure joy for your sport.

It is so easy to get caught up in our goals and the hard work and training to achieve them, that we can miss the real point of the whole thing… to have fun and smile.

I know that I have been as guilty of it as anyone.  It’s difficult to deal with having a mechanical failure, other uncontrolled circumstance, getting lost, or just having a bad day as an athlete, especially when you have worked so hard to perform well at THAT MOMENT.  It is those times that the world can seem against you, and it is easy to let fly and outwardly express your frustrations to others.  I have definitely done this many times, and fortunately have always had good friends around to check me when I do.

When it comes down to it, pure joy for what we are doing is what will bring out the greatest creativity, the most passion, the highest level of commitment, and ultimately… the best performance in our endeavors.  There is no more powerful force than this, and it is something that I will seek to apply to everything that I do moving forward.

By the time you finish reading this blog post, I will have probably finished the book, and I can’t wait to learn more about the Tarahumara and how their approach can enrich all of our lives, both in athletics and otherwise.

When you’re outside doing what you love this week, don’t forget to smile.