Sunday, June 20, 2010

Born to Run

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 . . .


Faceless Ghost said...

So, are you saying the Grandeur Peak Fun Run wasn't a race?

Good job yesterday.

Luke said...

Strong work yesterday, I also was pretty motivated by Born to Run. I think you can consider the soreness and difficulties that you are experiencing right now as reversing the effects of adaptation that your body has made by not running regularly for many years. Once the initial kinks are reworked I am certain you'll find a deep pleasure and addiction in the freedom that running brings, it will become effortless (but not pain free) and it will also make you that much stronger of a skimo racer! Keep up the good work and look forward to seeing you at speedgoat(?) later this summer.

Ben said...

Great read - that book. I haven't run in years - why run when you can ride? But that book had the same effect on me. Makes me want to run for miles in the hills.

Anonymous said...

careful mate, I got into trail/mountain running to help with the ski mo racing and now it has taken on a (more domination, time consuming) life of its own.
I think B2R has gotten a heap of folks into running, gotta be good.
Still in the MT100? I love mine.

Ski Bike Junkie said...

Not to be argumentative, but I like what Mark T says about this born to run craze:

"'Barefoot Running,' the stimulus plan for physical therapists."

brian p. harder said...

As someone who works in the orthopaedic world, I have always questioned all the orthotics going out the door under the feet of perfectly healthy patients. Podiatrists and ortho foot and ankle specialists are doing a disservice to these people. Obese diabetics certainly need some help but the horse has left the barn for them long ago.

For the rest of us, McDougall makes a great point and I was intrigued. I write this while wearing my Five Fingers. Now, I'm no runner but desire to SLOWLY strengthen my feet to perhaps someday run "as god intended". As Luke pointed out, this process cannot be underestimated.

Funny that Jared started out with a "short" run of only 6 miles. Are you kidding me?? How about 5 minutes and walk home. Build from there.