Though I’ve always been a runner (or at least since the Girl Scout Olympics in elementary school), it was not until my 30’s that I became a marathon runner. I had been wanting to run a marathon for quite some time. A marathon, to me, is something that is do-able, but not immediately or all at once. It is something that requires training, practice, and sustained effort over time.
I tend to be more of a ‘if I can’t do it immediately why bother doing it’ person in many respects, so I had always thought a marathon would be a good discipline for me, an example of something that, poco a poco, could be accomplished by setting your mind (and training schedule) to it.
I’ve now got 3 marathons under my Asics, so to speak. Rome (which is not a bad first marathon), Belfast (including a nice scenic path by the city dump) and New York (which I ran in honor of my dad and to raise money for the Labrecque Foundation). But in each of them, though I trained (and found out that I’m actually quite a fundamentalist when it comes to a running training plan) and though I finished, I never felt all that great (of course not, you might be saying) and wished that I could have finished stronger.
Around the time that I was toward the end of my training for Belfast a friend introduced me to” target=”_blank”>Chi Running. Though I liked the idea of it (learning to allow gravity to power your running, rather than seeing running as a struggle) and though I tried to implement it, I was far along in my training and the chi running fell by the wayside.
That was in 2006. On a trip to the Philippines in 2010 the friend I was visiting brought it back up, as she was using the Chi Running techniques and highly recommended them. Though I had run the NYC Marathon in the intervening time, I hadn’t really run since (that was in fall 2007) as I’d been struggling with a ‘niggle’ in my right side. (Yes, niggle is a technical term.)
So, while in Manila, I finally bought the Chi Running. book, a new pair of running shoes (I hadn’t even brought mine with me on the trip, that’s how little I was running) and put my good intentions back out on the course.
Around that time, and while at the running shop in Manilla, I had also heard talk of ‘barefoot running’ as well. The idea behind barefoot running is that, without all the excessive padding of our ‘modern day’ running shoes, our feet can actually strike the ground properly, which actually prevents the injuries that some are saying are actually caused by the fancy, expensive running shoes.” target=”_blank”>Vibram Five Fingersare one solution to this idea of ‘shoeless running shoes’ (and a way for companies to make money off of ‘barefoot running’…though, you can always go barefoot for free…)
I still had the desire to run another marathon. I still struggled with that ‘niggle’ in my right side whenever I would run. So, I just sort of trudged along, not really running, but not really ready to give it up either.
Many months before a friend had recommended the book” target=”_blank”>Born to Run, saying I would love it. I had checked at the library and it was checked out and on hold, and then I forgot about it. That is, until another friend lent me the copy of it that she had just read saying, “You’ve GOT to read this. You’re gonna love it.”
” target=”_blank”>Born to Runis the story of the Tarahumara, an indigenous tribe of ‘running people’ in northern Mexico. It’s also the story of ultramarathoning, trail running and barefoot running–telling the story in such a way to make both sound unbelievably compelling.
So I tried it. Not the ultramarathon part (yet). But the barefoot part. I don’t have any of those fancy” target=”_blank”>Vibram Five Fingersshoes (yet), but I do have a beach, and a pair of free-washed-up-with-the-tide-fake-crocs. So I put on my running kit (a phrase I picked up from the UK, meaning ‘running outfit’ which doesn’t have nearly the same ring to it) and the washed-up-with-the-tide-crocs and walked down to the beach during low tide.
I ran. Maybe it was psychological. Maybe it was the influence and inspiration of Born to Run that had not yet worn off. But I ran. I felt great. No niggle in the right side. Just me, the beach, the waves (and Tigger). It felt so good that I did not want to stop. But, remembering what happened to Forrest Gump, I figured I’d better start gradually.
So, we’ll see how it goes. I’ve ‘barefoot run’ along the beach a few times now. So far so good. I’m probably still a wee bit away from a barefoot ultramarathon trail run, but, poco a poco, who knows?