Monday, January 20, 2014

Part III. A breakthrough - redefining myself as a runner with barefoot form.

Running was a challenge for me since high school. Intense track training my freshman year left me walking painfully from shin splints and eventually forced me to quit track. My first running defeat. I avoided running through the rest of high school. Through college I occasionally “tested” my legs but found I could not run more than a mile without intense shin pain the following days. I happily continued other athletic pursuits in competitive road and mountain biking and swimming through college. Then graduate school started. Short on money and time, I became determined to take up running again. I figured it would provide a short and cheap workout outlet, 2-3 times per week for ~20-30 minutes.

2007 Club 10k Nationals
My first big-time race with great friends!
On the sidelines at the 2002 Tucson marathon and cheering on some friends, I ran into an old family friend, who was an experienced runner and triathlete. While chatting Mr. Soro zoomed by – barefoot – for yet another Tucson marathon win. My friend remarked how that guy was for sure going to destroy his joints and knees running barefoot.

Perhaps not. We have been running for thousands of years. Running shoes have only been on the market for the last few decades. Perhaps it is the way we run which can be damaging – not the running itself.

2007 Pemberton 50K
My first ultra!
So – with the power of the internet I searched “barefoot running” and read up on the biomechanics of running barefoot. But, how to start? My feet were tender as a baby’s bottom. With advice from a few barefoot running websites I started running 1 day a week around a grassy park and 1 day a week around a track – barefoot. Running barefoot forced me to redevelop my form which I then focused on imitating when on the road. I slowly made the switch from heel striking to fore-foot running.

My runs quickly grew longer and more frequent with less pain from my shins. Within a few months I had gone from 10-20 miles per week to 30-50miles per week. I was hooked! Within the year my new gait was effortless and comfortable.

Now both mentally and physically I declared myself a runner and continued breaking former limits and enjoying my new found freedom to explore – running!

It is hard for me to believe I wasn't able to run more than a couple of miles until changing my form in my mid-20s. No special shoes, inserts, or medical aid needed. Now I can explore the mountains at will and challenge myself to 100 mile races!
Why I love takes me to far and away places in the mountains.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. I switched to a mid/forefoot strike a few years ago, though I keep the shoes on. I'm loving it! It took me several months to transition, mostly to build up the strength in my calves. My ITB issues disappeared and my pace became more consistent. About three months in, my times started to drop dramatically. I still haven't raced anything longer than a half marathon, but I love going out for 7 or 10 miles on trails. Oh, and hills are a lot easier now with the quicker cadence.