Tonight I had the opportunity to attend a seminar and Q&A session with Christopher McDougall, author of the best-selling “Born to Run” at the Boulder Bookstore. I read the book, “Born to Run” over a year ago and although I thought the book was very interesting and entertaining, I wasn’t sure how it would translate to racing/training. Tonight’s seminar and Q&A session was very interesting and educational, so I wanted to highlight a few interesting quotes and ideas from him.
First he discussed how America is currently “losing the fear.” Losing the fear relates to multiple things. One is that we are now losing the fear of being “naked.” Not that he meant literally we should all be running around naked, but that there has been a shift from needing the most high-tech fancy super-absorbent pronating reducing waterproof shoes, shirts, hats, etc to a more down to earth running. He described Anton Krupicka and how he runs 200+ miles a week with little more than sandals, shorts, and a bottle of water that is in the back pocket of those shorts. His description of Anton was that he was seamless, smooth, almost at one with moving. He got to talk to Anton after the Leadville 100 Mile race last weekend. He described Anton as “naked and without fear” stating that, “Yeah, I gave it my best out there yesterday but had to drop out a 75 miles. I was not able to achieve my goals today.” Now, talk about straight up honesty with no fear of repercussions or anything – Anton simply told it like it was. Another “fear” that we are losing is the fear of barefoot running. He hates getting asked the questions, “well what about glass, well what happens when it’s cold?” “Wear shoes!!!!” was his answer. Although it’s a simple answer it hits the point – he doesn’t advocate barefoot running in all cases, but there is no fear in running barefoot where it is safe. Although not said in the speech, I really like the idea of “losing the fear” of competition. As I embark on a challenge to become one of the top American distance runners, “losing the fear” of competing against the best is necessary.
Another statement he made was about a show that was recently on TV (I believe it was an HBO channel?) where these interviewers actually got two nike shoe designers to ask them questions. One of the interviewers asked, “Has any Nike shoe ever been tested and scientifically proven to reduce injuries.” The response, “The Nike Free” – which is a shoe designed to mimic barefoot running.
One man asked the question, “Okay, so barefoot running is obviously continuing to expand…but where does it go from here? Do elites start racing barefoot at major marathon?” (I did see a guy running at about mile 23 at San Francisco completely barefoot. I don’t care if it helps your form – running those streets barefoot is simply dangerous). McDougall’s response was that, No, elites will never run barefoot BUT they are minimalistic. He stated to think about what most elites wear in races…very very lightweight racing shoes that just provide enough protection. BINGO! I never thought of myself as a minimalist, but when it comes to races I definitely wear the lightest shoe possible. In fact, Mizuno makes a 3.5oz racing flat that I plan to use in my road races, even the marathon. The Mizuno Ronin flat is about 7-8oz and I could actually see myself wearing it for training runs because it is sturdy, provides enough protection, and is lightweight.
Another question asked was, “I have been running high mileage for many years without a single injury. I wear the Nike Structure Triax. What good is it for me to switch to barefoot running?” His response was, “well, are you a forefoot or a heel striker?” The lady had no idea. Chris then made an interesting point that most runners can tell you extensive details about how their shoes work, yet most do not even know how their foot makes contact with the earth, which is the most important thing! In addition, he made the comment (along with his coach who was in attendance) that although you might be not injured, you might be inefficient. That is (I believe) a very valid point and one of the first ideas that makes sense for elites to do some barefoot running. By running some miles barefoot, you can become a more efficient runner – and therefore a faster runner. He also cited a recent interview with Alberto Salazar who claimed to be changing Dathan Ritzenhein’s form to be a forefoot striker and how Alberto has been blasted on letsrun for doing that. I found it very cool that McDougall does keep up with the latest research and news related to barefoot running/biomechanics and that he has not stopped even though his book has been published.
If you have read the book, you would also know that Chia Seeds are made out to be a great “superfood” from the tribe in Mexico. Someone asked if they are really that amazing. His response was surprisingly “No!” But why? He said that most Americans are simply getting too many calories as it is. By adding another food to our diet we are not helping becoming leaner. However, he said that substituting Chia Seeds for another food in your diet would be great because they are very high in nutrition, and he does include them in smoothies and such. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I put Chia Seeds in my oatmeal because they add in nutrition. The difference is, I used to make 1.5 cups of oatmeal and now I make 1 cup but add a tablespoon of Chia Seeds and 2 tablespoons of wheat germ – which gives me the same total calories but more nutrition.
Chris McDougall was entertaining, highly knowledgeable, and very open. I look forward to reading his next book, which he said should be really really good as he likes the new material a lot. I wanted to share some of this information/quotes with everyone and would love to see some comments on if you have tried barefoot running and what it has done for you – or if you are against it and why.