Born To Run – Yes, I think I was.

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I finished “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall today.  I have to say that this book was just amazing.  If you run and you’ve not read this book, then you really should.  It centres on the author’s one question, “Why do my feet hurt?”.  What follows is the author’s journey for the truth about running, which takes him to the most remote places on earth in search of a reclusive tribe who regularly run 100 miles for fun.  And they do that wearing nothing more than sandals.  No expensive running shoes of them.  Is this the way we were born to run?  Well, yes, I think it is.  This is really encouraging and if I’d not already started on my barefoot running training, this book would have got me started.

Read it.

So Far So Good

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This is much better.  I’ve ran 4 times now around the block for a 3-4 minute run.  Leaving a rest day in between each time.  I can feel the tension in my calves, but this is nothing more than what you’d expect the day after a gym session.  It feels good.  I’ve decided to do two or three weeks at this distance, just to be safe.  I don’t want a knock back again so early in my conversion.

Back on Track

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Two weeks after my abortive start and a full week after my calves recovered I had another go.  I’ve decided to start very very small.  I’m going to run around the block to start with and do this every other day for a week.  Then if no problems ensure, I will step up the distance gradually and again repeat this every other day for a week, and so on.

So today’s run was the shortest I’ve even been on.  It must have taken all of three minutes to get around the block.  It felt like cheating to stop, but nothing hurt when I’d finished, which is the plan.  The temptation was there once again to do more, but once bitten…  I am determined not to mess it up this time.

We’ll see what the rest of the week brings.  I’m also taking every opportunity to walk about without shoes on.  Mainly at home indoors and at work too.

Ouch! (still)

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Well it’s 6 days later and the tightness in my calves is just starting to subside.  I’ve spent the entire week not been able to walk without taking very small painful steps.  I can’t believe that it’s taken this long to start to recover.  I must have been on the verge of doing myself a real injury.  No wonder they say you have to start very small.  I’ll not be ignoring that advice in future.  I think I’ll wait until they have fully recovered though before starting again.  This is very annoying, I just want to get out there and run.

Ouch!

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OMG!  My calves hurt.  They don’t just ache anymore, they actually hurt – a lot!  I can’t walk properly, or at all even.  What the hell was I thinking diverting from my initial plan to run around the block to thinking that I could just go off and do 5k?  My calves certainly informed me of my folly this morning, I’ve never felt anything like it.

The advice on learning to run barefoot is all about starting very very slowly.  Which I intended to do.  I’d done the stretching for a few weeks and I’d done plenty of barefoot walking.  And when it came to the running I fully intended on starting as slow as any of the training programmes out there suggest.

But something had happened to me when I eventually got out there.  I found the feeling of freedom was fantastic, addictive even.  My feet where no longer smashing away at the pavement, they were springing effortlessly along, stroking the pavement instead of punching it.  I just wanted to run and run.  This coloured my better judgement I sure am paying for it now.  Still, give it a few days and I can start again, slooooowwwwly this time.

Running Free

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So I’ve just been for my first run in the Vivos.  And first impressions are that it felt really good.  So good in fact that although I’d only intended to run around the block, I ended up running half way around the Common.  I was actually going to run the whole of Clapham Common (5k), as I was enjoying the feeling of freedom so much, but started to feel it in my calves halfway round and decided to cut this short.  Besides all the advice was to start very very slowly, so I didn’t want to over do it first time out.

Back home and I can really feel it in my calves.  The unnatural running style of heal-striking in padded running shoes doesn’t really use your calves so there’s a lot of reconditioning of my calves to take place over the next few months.  This tight feeling in my calves is to be expected and is no different really to post-gym aching.

I can’t believe how free and liberating this style of running felt.  This is a very good first impression, I just need to take this slowing and no over do it.

Lightbulb Moment

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I’ve been a runner on and off probably all my life.  Never anything serious and I’ve never entered a race.  Previously I’d never had any fancy running shoes and pretty much just did it in standard cheap trainers.  Then I moved to London three years ago.  I found myself surrounded by many runners who all had very fancy running shoes (and the rest of the high-tech kit that goes with them).

So this time when I decided to get back into running I went and booked myself for a session on a treadmill at a running shop to be filmed and have my gait examined.  This was so that I could get some “prescription” shoes to help me stay injury free.  It all sounded very good, very scientific.  It made sense.  I was happy to shell out £130.  This was an investment in my health after all.

So I started running again.  In no time I’d built my distance up to 10k, which takes me about 50 minutes.  This is a distance I’m comfortable with and can easily do 3 times a week.  I’m not really bothered about running further than this and I’ve no plans to do a marathon.

However the party didn’t last long as although I had no knee problems (which I’d had previous hence getting the prescription shoes), I found that I was having great pain in my right heel, especially when I first got up in the morning.  It didn’t seem to affect my running though, so I carried on, thought I could just run through it.

But the pain didn’t abate, so eventually I went to see a podiatrist.  He diagnosed Planter Fasciitis and gave me some insoles that I was to wear until the pain went away.  He also told me to stop running and gave me an stretching programme to follow.  The insoles had extra arch support and also altered the camber of my feet to tilt them outwards.  I wore these for about 4 months, stopped running and waited for my feet to get better.  They didn’t, if anything they got worse.  I was very disappointed and thought I’d never be able to run again.

Then I went on a two week holiday to Goa.  As I would be wearing just sandals or nothing at all on my feet I couldn’t see the point in taking my insoles with me, as they’d look silly with my sandals.  The next two weeks were spent walking beaches barefoot and everywhere else in my flat soled (un-padded) sandals.  I had a wonderful relaxing time and forgot about most things going on in life – just what a holiday should be.

It was only on returning home and seeing the insoles that I’d left behind that I realised that I was no longer having any pain in my heels when I first got up in the morning.  In fact there was no pain at all from my foot.  The plantar fasciitis seemed to be in retreat, or even gone.  But how could this be?  I’d just spent two weeks not doing my stretching, not wearing my insoles and for the most part walking around without any shoes on at all.  This wasn’t right, was it?

I looked for answers online, but all I found was many other runners with the same ailment and no solution.  It looked like I was going to have to live with plantar fasciitis for the rest of my life and learn to manage it.

A few weeks later I happened to be watching Something For The Weekend on BBC1 when they featured a pair of Vivobarefoot running shoes.  This was the lightbulb moment when I first heard the phrase “barefoot running”.  I went straight online and soon learned that barefoot running wasn’t just about running with no shoes on, it was more about a completely different style of running. A style that many suggested was the natural form of human locomotion.  That was until 1972 when Nike invented the cushioned running shoe and made it possible to run with a longer stride, landing on your heal instead of the ball of your foot.  I was born in 1970, so I’ve never known anything different.  I had to try this out.