Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Born to Run

Amidst all my other activities, I continue to try and work out, lose weight and get in shape. One of the things I have been trying to do is run more. The idea of lugging my carcass around for any distance is a little concerning because of the amount of force being put on my joints, particularly my knees. How to run without putting strain on my knees?

After looking around a bit, I decided I'd give barefoot running a shot. There are some folks out there who think that the footwear that Nike et al provide us actually do more harm than good - that we didn't have to worry about overpronation and crap like that until the shoe companies started making shoes for it. The idea is that running is natural and our foot is meant to move a given way (more ball of the foot oriented) and less the way shoes force us to (heel to toe). So I gave it a shot. And I found that running barefoot is a lot less jarring.

When I do run, I run on pavement and so the recent heat tsunami has made me a little too toasty for getting out and running barefoot. Nonetheless, I was pretty jazzed to find that I might be able to get back into running (I ran track and cross country in high school and was a biathlete in college. Of course that was tens of years and pounds ago).

In my excitement, one of my co-workers suggested that I read the book Born to Run. It was a very popular book in this area about a year or two ago and I knew that the fleet of women runners that work out at the local Y had all read it (it may have been a book club book). Another co-worker overheard our conversation and she recommended it. Our copy was out so I drove to a nearby library and grabbed their copy. The librarian there told me that she wasn't a runner, wasn't interested in running, and she loved it. I don't think it could have come any more recommended.

All the recommendations were right. I loved it.

Right off the bat I knew I would I enjoy it. The author, Christopher McDougall, is my size, lives in rural, Amish Pennsylvania and the book opens with him trying to get himself into shape by running. Just like me! When he suffers an injury while running, he begins to explore alternatives. McDougall discovers a reclusive tribe of Indians in Mexico called the Taramuhara who are considered by many to be the best long-distance runners in the world. He begins to research them and finds that not only are they great runners, they love running, tend to be injury free, run in the barest of footwear and have a mostly vegetarian diet.

Along the way, McDougall encounters a bunch of interesting folk, ranging from drug dealers to ultra-marathoners to an American who picked up and moved to Mexico to live near the Taramuhara. In the end, a race is arranged between the Taramuhara and some of the top ultra-marathoners in the world with McDougall, big carcass and all, joining them and completing it.

It's a great book and a great story. Like the one librarian said, even if you aren't interested in running, it is fascinating and entertaining. If you are interested in running, it will help you look at and question some of the beliefs you may have held to be true.

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