Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Born to Love

I celebrated this St. Patrick's Day with a 520-mile drive home from Ohio to Virginia, listening almost all the while to a book-on-tape, Born to Run.  If I hadn't begun my day with a 6-mile run, I might have stopped halfway home to fit one in, barefoot.  Next on my list, I'm going to try it.  Not quite barefoot, I'll borrow the foot gloves we gave our son for Christmas.  If I can't find them, I might buy a pair for myself.

Did you know running injuries have increased since we started wearing fancy running shoes?  And that the more expensive the shoe, the more likely the runner is to suffer injury?  Some researchers suggest that if we ran barefoot or with slim foot coverings like our ancestors, we'd have fewer injuries, better health and longer lives.  Instead, we've learned to baby our feet, wrap them up in what amount to casts, and ignore the fact that our feet, like our fingers and faces, have highly developed natural abilities to sense their environments and respond with remarkable precision.  "Protecting" them in fancy footwear in fact does not protect them at all.  Some of the coaches of elite runners include barefoot running on grass in their training regimens and buy the cheapest shoes for their athletes, not because they're cheap but because they're safer than expensive pairs.

Most runners have heard the recommendation that we replace our shoes every 300-500 miles because they wear due to pronation (or supination).   Forget that, says one researcher, who keeps his shoes until they wear down on the edges, then switches feet.  That is, he wears the right shoe on the left foot and the left shoe on the right foot, his feet don't complain, and he doesn't suffer injuries!  As they wear thinner and thinner, they're better for the feet.

I like the approach of one of the coaches described in the book, who studied ultramarathoners (runners who cover distances greater than 26.2 miles) and the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico's Copper Canyon and concluded that the best runners run for pure joy, for the love of it, and not for money.  Not only that, they run with love for others -- their co-runners, family, friends and the human race in general.

"Run, James, run," says Virginia, "spread the love."

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