Once upon a time, I was a runner. One of those crazy people who ran six miles nearly every day and loved every minute of it. I saw someone running when I wasn't, and I was instantly jealous. I even ran a marathon, which I still consider one of the crowning achievements of my life. A few things happened, I got side lined by a few injuries, distracted by marriage and career changes and I was referring to myself as a "use-to-be-runner" instead of present tense. Until a few weeks ago when I heard an interview on Radio West that changed the course of my athletic history. Yes, I might be exaggerating, or perhaps I'm not sure how catastrophic an event that only happened a few weeks ago will be, but it was still wicked awesome and pretty much blew my mind and I really mean it.
The interview was with the author of Born to Run, Christopher McDougall. He explains his own quest to find why his foot hurt even when he ran a few miles at a time. His search led him to a tribe of ultra runners called the Tarahumara indians. This tribe, found in Mexico, run incredibly long distances (over a hundred miles at times) even into their 60s with out injury. All on thin leather sandals. INCREDIBLE!
I won't go into a complete synopsis of the book (which I listened to at work making me fantasize about running way more than I should have), but it has completely changed the way I look at running. I learned that all the stuff I've been spouting as gospel about the wonder of the proper running shoe really has no founding. The more cushioning, the greater the risk of not allowing the foot to sense the proper way to land and thus increasing risk of injury. MIND BLOWING! It then explained the way barefoot running strengthens the foot and helps prevent injury in longer runs.
Well, I had to know if what I was reading was true, so I bought these:
These little foot-gloves that make me look like I just emerged from a murky bog, or that I'm the sister of the Swamp Thing, are called Vibram Five Fingers. They fit over your feel like little gloves and provide a bit of protection for those of us whose tootsies don't have callouses a quarter inch thick.
My first time running in them was....euphoric. I felt like a little kid, scampering through the grass, on to the side walk, around the park, it was so much fun. I've been running on them for two weeks now (and have done the most consistent amount of running since I fell off the wagon a few years ago) and so far so good. My lower legs get a lot more sore than usual, but I'm chalking it up to building muscle that has been long neglected.
So far my mileage is pretty low, just 3-4 miles at a time, but each run teaches me more about my stride and how I need to change and keep making my running lighter, easier and hopefully faster. So far I love my Vibrams and I am falling in love with running all over again. I have high hopes that this is going to be the beginning of a long lifetime of loving running again. I'll keep you posted.