In March, I read Born to Run by Christopher McDougal. One of the premises of Born to Run is not only that humans evolved to run but that humans evolved because they run. A central focus of the book is the Tarahumara indians who have a legacy of long distance mountain running. The Tarahumara run incredible distances in sandals. McDougal argues that the body is not born to run in the types of shoes that have been marketed and produced in the last 40 years of human history and goes so far as to suggest that the modern running shoe is the root of many injuries associated with running because it promotes landing on the heel as opposed to the mid or forefoot.
Over the last couple months, I've been testing his theory: Am I, the SLC Samurai, born to run?
Initially, I was skeptical. I have never loved running. In fact, I've always disliked running. I think I might have even told one of my runner friends that "running is gay." Sorry.
But I was truly inspired by Born to Run, and became somewhat enamored with the thought of being able to run | in the mountains | without injury |in an effortless manner | for a long time. I became somewhat enchanted with the Tarahumara and their minimalist approach. After all, they are the literal embodiment of the motto, Light and Fast.
So, I bought a pair of New Balance MT 100 shoes, a minimalist shoe that promotes the "natural" way of running. They are very light, very flexible, and most importantly, the heel is not as bulky or raised up as the modern running shoe. And very quickly, I determined that they weren't all that comfortable. A week before the WURLOS (in April), I strapped on the MT 100s and attempted to run home from work -- about 6 miles or so. After about 4 miles, I couldn't run anymore because my feet and calves hurt. I could barely walk the next day, and I was so sore that I worried I might have to put the WURLOS off. I almost concluded then that I was not born to run.
The WURLOS has come and gone. The Uinta Highline traverse has come and gone. And I still wonder whether I am born to run. I continue to run trails. I run home from work -- successfully I might add -- once in a while. I continue my search for the perfect shoe. My feet always hurt. And I am happy to report that I have begun to believe that it is possible for me to run | in the mountains | without injury |in an effortless manner | for a long time.
Case in point: yesterday I ran in my first-ever running race, the Wahsatch Steeplechase. I ran it in 2:37 for about 16th place. It was a 17 mile race up Black Mountain and down City Creek canyon. Most of it was on trails. There was about 4500 feet elevation gain. And I enjoyed it. Running up Black Mountain at 6:00 in the morning, chasing some fast guys that were obviously born to run, was inspiring. While I took a fair amount of Vitamin I(buprofen), I ran the race without injury, and more significantly, there were moments when I felt like my effort was relatively effortless -- in the "zone" you could say. But I admit there were also times when I thought to myself, "man, if I only had a bike right now." And it was a pleasant surprise to discover that 17 miles is not too far out of my range.
Even though I can barely walk today, I'm beginning to think that maybe, after all, I was born to run . . .