Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Running Barefoot

I went for a run yesterday.  My first in almost 3 weeks.  I had to...my body was aching for it and my mind could not focus without it.  In my last post I talked about being more gentle with my body so I was suppose to lay off the roads and trails for a while and hit the yoga mat with some new found enthusiasm.  Needless to say that lasted a whole...week.  Something was missing from my life but I didn't really realize it was running per se until I picked up a book.

That book was Born to Run and my love of, and desire for, running came back in full force.  You know what had me?  The second chapter when Christopher Mc Dougall went in search of the answer to the question "Why does my foot hurt?"  I have been asking that same damn question over and over again for months (along with why does my hip, lower back, knee hurt as well).  I almost bought into the idea I have been told over and over again by doctors, friends, and trainers since I was 22 that my body just isn't built for running.  Almost that is until I opened up this book and soaked up the story that Chris (yea we are on a first name basis now) unfolds in Born to Run.

Chris and I have a few things in common - we are both 6'3" and weigh around the same (240lbs - yea I said it).  While Chris is a middle-aged white male who writes for various men's magazines and sports journals and I am a late-20s mixed race female who is writing a dissertation, I felt a bond with Chris while reading his story.  We are connected by our body type: our height and weight somehow makes our bodies "wrong" to other people, in various ways, when it comes to running.  Like Chris I was also recommended to take up swimming or biking (both sports that I only recently learned how to do and do not do very well).  Years of playing high school and college volleyball left me sick to death of team sports and a herniated disc made me have an aversion to any kind of jumping.  All that aside I just like the feeling of throwing on some shoes, getting outside and having my body move at a faster than walking pace for a long duration of time.  My first half marathon in Prague this year left me not only sore but happy - a genuine happiness that didn't fade, even when my hip flared up at mile 10.   I was just happy to be there and be able to move with other people around me.  In my training I found myself a little giddy after an hour of running as my body was just moving in this fluid (well maybe not fluid but let's just go with that) motion for long periods of time (or what seems like a long time for me).

So long story short the book got me thinking about the benefits of barefoot running.  If Chris could go from being a tall big guy with a bad case of planter fasciities to running a gruelling 50 mile race with some of the best ultramarathon runners in the US and Mexico's Tarahumara people, and finish that race in one piece, by learning barefoot running then why not try it (or give a go as the Brits say).

Give it a go I did - kind of on accident.  Yesterday I went to the gym and took off for an outdoor run to the nearby open grasslands.  I started off in shoes cause I was still a little skeptical (plus the concrete and broken glass didn't leave me to thrilled about starting in bare feet).  But after only 5 minutes of running in those neutral cushioned shoes my right Achilles felt like it was going to tear and my right hip was getting that first tingling of discomfort.  So I broke into a walk for 4 minutes and started again with a light run.  This time the pain was instant and I was pissed.  I stepped off the walking path onto the grass, took off my shoes and socks,  placed a shoe in each hand and...took off.  I just ran.  Slow at first but as the minutes passed my confidence grew until I was running at a pace I hadn't run at in 4 years.  And you know what, it felt good.  I scared myself at one point cause it felt so good and I was going so fast that I just stopped and looked around. I was't out of breathe and my legs didn't feel like cinder blocks.   Damn - it actually worked.  It worked so well that I didn't realized I ran in the wrong direction and had to stop to figure out where the hell I was.

I put my shoes back on so I could take the marked gravel road and trotted on back the gym parking lot and arrived just as Mike was leaving.  I gave him a huge smile and said "I just went barefoot running!"  He said "Oh, how did it go?"  My reply "Amazing!" I felt like a kid again and for the first time in months I actually ENJOYED going out for a run.  But with the cold months coming I am looking into a more minimal shoe or the five finger shoes.

What I do know is it looks like I just brought my running, and sexy, back.

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