"I'm not a hero' said every hero ever.
But what makes a hero, and can you train to become one? This is one of the questions asked by Christopher Mc Dougall, recommended by my husband and passed on by the long distance runner who lives up the road from us, known about town for running at least 100 kilometres a week. Not the kind of book I'd expect to read, given I struggle to run to the mailbox.
But this isn't just a book about running. It's about parkour, and Nazis, and kindergarten teachers fighting guys with machetes and wrapping them in bear hugs so that they become disarmed.
The synopsis reads:
On the treacherous mountains of Crete, a motley band of World War II Resistance fighters--an artist, a shepherd, and a poet--abducted a German commander from the heart of the Axis occupation. To understand how, McDougall retraces their steps across the island that birthed Herakles and Odysseus, and discovers ancient techniques for endurance, sustenance, and natural movement that have been preserved in unique communities around the world.
I challenge you to read the first few chapters and not be hooked, as farmers and priests, woman and untrained soldiers survive against the odds in the mountains of Crete on boiled hay and still manage to defeat the Nazis. I am hooked - give me a book about the two European great wars and I'm pretty much sold. In this book, heroism becomes a virtue rather than an ideal. Compassionate people are heroes, he finds. A strong knowledge base. An understanding of how to use fascia over muscle.
Boy the opening story is a fantastic one. Given that Hitler was a mean mofo who relished killing, Churchill worried he didn't have a chance. Cue training not soldiers, but poets and scholars, people who knew their way around languages and the landscapes of Europe that were prepared to train to defeat the Germans on a whole new level. Anyone can train to be a hero, went the premise. And boy did they become heroes - I don't want to give it away, but I'm up to Chapter 9 in a few hours and I'm spellbound.
“The art of the hero wasn’t about being brave; it was about being so competent that bravery wasn’t an issue.” ― Christopher McDougall, Natural Born Heroes: Mastering the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance
Where to next? Apparently, into the world of ordinary heroes. It's not something you're born with - it's something learnt. I'm inspired.
Watch me run to the letterbox.