Born to Run: Christopher McDougall’s Cabaret

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The NYC Marathon is Sunday, November 7. If you’re going to be in the area, check out Born to Run author Christopher McDougall’s prelude event on Friday, November 5–Reinventing Running: The Cabaret. The actor–and trail runner–Peter Sarsgaard will co-host. It’ll be TED-conference style, with each speaker up for 15 min., followed by a full-stage Q&A with the audience.

Don’t be afraid of the talking heads. They’ve got something interesting to say, all about humanity’s first fine art, as McDougall calls it: distance running. You’ll hear from Dr. Daniel Lieberman, Harvard’s “Barefoot Professor”; Eric Orton, a coach who's trained McDougall; Barefoot Ted McDonald, a.k.a. BFT, a star of Born to Run, and John Durant, a proponent of paleo athleticism and nutrition.

Doors open at 6 p.m. at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, on Central Park West. Tickets go for $10 a pop, and you can get them at the Paragon Sports near Union Square or online at

McDougall was busy this weekend with a benefit for the National Kidney Foundation, but he took time out to chat with us about The Cabaret.

–Aileen Torres

Why did you decide to do this event?
I wanted to let some of the key thinkers in Born to Run step off the pages to speak for themselves. I've spoken a lot on their behalf recently, like in this video [above], so I thought it would be a blast to hand them the mic and let them tell their own stories. Very Purple Rose of Cairo-ey.

Why call it “The Cabaret”?
The last thing I wanted to put on was a ho-hum book talk, so instead we're combining rapid-fire bits of showmanship, science, and whatever it is Barefoot Ted has in mind. It's going to be more circus-of-the-mind than a lecture. But if I revealed the full reason, I'd spoil the the grand finale. If this guy pulls it off, he's a genius. 

How did Peter Sarsgaard get involved?
He's a new but ferociously talented trail runner–ferocious enough, at least, to school me and two-thirds of the field on my home course. He got in touch with me to find out more about the book and…well, I've got to button my lip about here. But he'll be taking questions at the Cabaret, so anyone who comes can fire away and ask him for themselves.

What do you expect each of the participants to discuss?
Each guest is top of their field and in the midst of groundbreaking explorations. It's really breathtaking how much has been discovered over the past year about how we survived and thrived and evolved as natural athletes, so every speaker will be tackling a different area. Ted and Durant are great speakers, but Dr. Lieberman will probably bring down the house. The first time I heard him talk, it dawned on me that you don't become head of a Harvard department unless you can absolutely kill a crowd.

Have any of you have run the NYC Marathon before? Will any of you run it this year?
Not only will this be my first NYC Marathon, it will be my first marathon in ten years. It's odd, but I haven't run a road race since before I got involved in the search that became Born to Run. I've been running tons of miles over the past four years, but I really had no interest in a big urban marathon until Dr. Lieberman talked me into it. He had a blast at New York last year, so he persuaded me to join him this year. His plan is to do the first half in his FiveFingers, then fling them into the crowd and run the last half barefoot. I'll probably do likewise, so if you're there, duck. You'll also be able to spot me because I'll be sporting this beaut on my arm and possibly face:

What have you been up to in 2010, and what are your plans for the rest of the year?
I've been drawn and quartered between researching a new book, traveling for Born to Run, running lots of trails, and trying to keep the lawn mowed. Come December, I'm nailing the door shut from the inside and boring down hard on the new book. I love the idea and the research is turning up gold, but I'm trying not to say more about it till I get further along.

Got any predictions for who will win the marathon? Feel free to name names. 
They've already won my heart: Go Meb [Keflezighi]! Go Shalane [Flanagan]! If they don't make your pulse soar, see a physician.

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