Chris McDougall Helped Spark the Barefoot Running Craze. Now He’s Racing With Donkeys.
McDougall determines that if Sherman is going to survive, he’ll need a mission: training for the world championship of donkey running, which takes place in Colorado in less than a year. “Today, movement-as-medicine is a biological truth for survivors of cancer, surgery, strokes, heart attacks … you name it,” McDougall writes in Running with Sherman.

Along the way to the donkey race, a rash of calamities befall on the humans training Sherman: a broken hand, foot, and vertebrae – none caused by a donkey – even a broken marriage. Despite these painful hiccups, Sherman and his brethren wind up helping their handlers just as much, if not more, than they aid the animals. Donkey running offers therapy for a depressed college student, and happiness for kids with autism and epilepsy. Sherman approached running on his own terms, so a stubborn donkey taught McDougall how to adjust to those around him. “If he wants to walk, he’s going to walk,” says McDougall, 57, during a break in our donkey workout. Tall and fit, McDougall’s bare-chested – though not barefoot – and wearing a red bandana. “Breath in, breath out, man,” McDougall says. “Not everything is on your clock.”

Vella Shpringa—the world’s only Amish running club.
Lancaster County is home to America’s largest community of Old Order Amish, and among those horse-and-buggy drivers is a much smaller sub-group of Amish ultrarunners. Vella Shpringa means “Let’s all run” in Pennsylvania Dutch, and it began as a wholesome way for young Amish singles to get together on Sunday afternoons. The club soon created two magnificent traditions: They adopted an all for one, one for all motto—“The joy of running in community”—and launched the Full Moon Run, a monthly ramble under the stars hosted by various Amish families.

(From Running With Sherman: The Donkey with the Heart of a Hero by Christopher McDougall.)


Photo courtesy Trevor Raab / Runner’s World

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