Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Born to Run

I'm a little late getting anything done--I picked up a nasty cold this weekend which worsened into a sinus infection until it left me conducting the business of my little empire from the fortress of my bedroom surrounded by a moat of crumpled, used Kleenex. Not a pretty sight.

The kids would pop in to see if, in my weakened condition, I had lost my mind enough to allow them to do things I'd never normally permit--like eating a box of fudgesicles or riding their bikes down to Blockbuster for sodas and movies.

Hey, just because the body isn't at top form doesn't mean I don't know what you're doing!

But speaking of top form I'm going to tell you about this book Andrew read last week that has him flipping out. It's called Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and it's got me intrigued too.

You see, years ago I married a runner. I thought I knew what I was doing at the time but of course I truly had no idea. Andrew ran track in college at BYU back in the days when Olympians Frank Fredericks and Ed Eyestone graced the track (they lapped him pretty bad) and has always loved to run. We've even had times where we've done cross-country races as a family for short 1-3 mile distances--after all, Anchorage is a runners haven.

Unfortunately, the last five years he's had terrible trouble with various injuries. Hips, knees, and (most recently) chronic shin splints that have kept him from doing what he loves, even with physical therapy.

Which brings me to this book. I'm not sure where he heard about it but he wouldn't even wait for it to arrive through Amazon, he went right down to the bookstore and has been raving ever since to anyone who will listen. The book tells about McDougall's search for a rather mysterious tribe of Indians in Mexico who are known for running. We're not just talking speed or the chic-and-slim 26.3 miles but "ultra" distances of hundreds of miles over tough terrain.

When he finds them and learns their ways it sets him on a new quest to learn how such a thing is possible, because not only do they run like animals, ignoring the distances and difficulties, but they run barefoot.

Can you imagine such a thing? I'm having a hard time grasping the idea of a human body being able to run and move under such a continuous strain but then to think of being barefoot too blows the mind. Now, add to this that they run without the anticipated injuries and have high life expectancies makes the mystery even more intriguing.

McDougall goes on to describe how the human body--despite my own assertions to the contrary--is designed to run and the foot itself is a wonder of structural achievement that has, through civilization, been kept from its original purpose which is, to carry us along over great distance. He makes a pretty good case for the idea that in our modern, ultra-soft world shoesmakers such as Nike have encased our feet in "comfort" designed to strengthen our feet but which have unintentionally weakened them just as encasing your arm in a cast would weaken it.

I won't make you listen to the whole thing but I'll just finish by saying that he makes a pretty plausible case for returning to the basics of our bodies and letting nature do its thing--all while telling a very interesting story of this hidden tribe. Anyway, as I mentioned, Andrew has been through years of physical therapy and still suffers from all sorts of injuries and when he read this it was a case of "Well, I've tried everything else so what have I got to lose from trying something completely different that seems to have some common sense behind it?"

So he's been training barefoot.

Of course there's more to it than that--it's in the book--but after this latest round of physical therapy he decided that it wouldn't hurt to give McDougall's hypothesis a try for himself so he's been going up to the track and running barefoot. He actually doesn't run on the track itself, just on the grass on the inside and I can assure you he's received some stares but the funny thing is he hasn't had any trouble with inguries so far. No shin splints, no foot pain, nothing like you'd expect. He said after the first couple times his calves were sore, but not in an "You've done me wrong and this pain I'm sending is a message that I'm damaged" kind of way but in a "I haven't been used this way in quite some time but it feels kinda good to be back in action" way.

Anyway, the whole point of this is that it's got me thinking about running. I've never liked it but that's because it hurts. Endorphins, schmendorphins--running is just punishment but after this it's made me wonder if a softie lard-ball like myself could be trained to run and not get tired or have my knees screaming in agony. I take pretty good care of myself but need more exercise and maybe not only would I get some time with my guy (you should see how excited he got when I told him I'd like to run with him) but maybe I'll be able to do something I didn't think I could.

Anyway, I was scheduled to go up to the track with him last night until the Hand of Death grabbed me by the shoulder and filled my sinuses with cement. I'm hoping that maybe tonight I'll be able to roll my bones off the bed and give it a try. I'll keep you posted.

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Blog O' Beth said...

My tried and true method for banishing sinus infections are a combination of neti-pot, saline spray, and Emergen-C. Just keep cleansing those sinuses and you'll be back on your feet before you know it.

The book sounds fascinating but what about those of us with flat feet? I think nature messed up when it made my feet - they most definitely are not designed for running. hahaha

a Tonggu Momma said...

I don't believe in running unless someone is chasing after me with a knife.

Heart2Heart said...


What an interesting theory based on the book. My daughter going into the 11th grade loves to run but after a serious lack of training by her coach last year an orthopedic surgeon pulled her from her class.

It seems this coach when runners obtained an injury while running would ice it, tape it, or make them run less but all in all still make them run.

I will be ordering this book for my daughter and try the training in bare feet along the inside of the track like Andrew is!

Thanks so much and I hope and prayer for a speedy recovery for you. There is nothing worse than a summer cold.

Love and Hugs ~ Kat

The Source said...

First of all...hope you're felling better and out of the grip of that hand of death really soon!

I have a budding runner in the family. She ran short distances in track this past spring and is now training for cross country. Having already had ACL reconstruction and meniscus repair, as well as a bad ankle...this book might be a good idea. I may need to go find it! Thanks.

Amy said...

You might be interested in these "barefoot shoes," which I read about at here at NoodleFood. Personally, I hate wearing shoes (even though I seem to love to buy them). This seems to be a good way to protect your feet without the usual shoe structure.

Melissa-Mc said...

I hope you are feeling better soon and that he doesn't cut his feet.

Daisy said...

I'm more of a walker, myself. running barefoot? Go Andrew!

Kelly @ Love Well said...

Like you, I want to like to run. But I don't.

Let us know how it goes if you take it up. Maybe you'll be my inspiration.

Totally fascinating book, by the way.

Andrea said...

That sounds awesome! [The book, not the running :-D] I'll see if my library has it.

Alice Wills Gold said...

I'm sure you already know this, but in Knoxville where the air quality is bad and the pollen count is high I have learned a thing or two about sinus treatments....snorted saline solution is my friend.

And HOW INTERESTING...is he going to work barefoot too?

Rebecca said...

This will be a perfect "just because" surprise for my husband who loves both running and reading. Thanks!

Jill in MA said...

And just think of all the money you'll save not buying running shoes!

Chrissy Johnson said...

Send him to Moose Meadow in Girdwood to run in the muskeg...he can run barefoot in cushioned comfort until his feet get used to it (or something).

Serena said...

I love it. I need to get this book! I've been wanting to start running--I have no idea why the desire came over me all of a sudden, since I've always hated to run, but there it is. And for one who doesn't like to wear shoes, this sounds great! ;) Probably running on the grass (cushier) is helping your husbands shin splints, too. When I was in track I got the equivalent of a shin splint in my knee, and coach had me run on the grass instead of the track after that. (I did track for "fun", though I don't know why at the time I thought running would be fun...)

Holly at Tropic of Mom said...

Runners seem to write such interesting books!

thesecretlifeofkat said...

Very interesting!

Kim said...

My husband is a runner, and I think I may just have to get him this book!

Amy said...

Have you tried running barefoot yet? Tomorrow I am dusting off my running shoes and hitting the streets. I will look that book up at the library.