Thursday, November 18, 2010

Run Like A [insert awesome reference of your own choosing]

I'm no athlete.  I wish I could say that I make up for that with other socially valuable qualities, but I'm not always sure about those either.

Don't get me wrong - I can throw a football in a tight spiral, I can hit a decent free throw percentage, and I started water skiing when I was barely old enough to walk - but I was never one of those kids that people wanted on their ball team.  One of my chief struggles was with a skill so central to sport that a relative lack of ability is a huge obstacle to enjoying sport; in a nutshell, I couldn't run.

In high school there was this program or challenge to get the Presidential Physical Fitness award, and to qualify you had to hit so many targets: some number of pull-ups, a jump rope challenge, etc.  One of the targets was to run a mile, maybe in 9 minutes?  What I remember for sure was that I completely flubbed the mile, and it was the only category that was keeping me from the award...I ultimately ran for it again and just barely made the mark.  I wasn't overweight, I was a reasonably active kid, but something just did not work for me in the running department.

Fast forward 15 or so years, and I was still no runner.  The wife and I would bike for miles, I could swim a half mile in the pool, but when I laced up the sneakers and went for a run it always felt TERRIBLE.  I don't recall why, in this context, I thought reading a book about running would be interesting, but I bought a copy of McDougall's Born to Run and absolutely fell for it.

Read it for yourself, if you like, but the thumbnail summary from me to you: people evolved to run, and to run with the equipment god gave us.  I started over, learning to run in a "minimalist"s style and I haven't looked back.

The first weeks of my adult running life I got up to a couple of miles without a walk break; a year later I ran an unofficial half marathon along Chicago's lake front.  Running is now my primary form of weight control and physical conditioning.

At this point in my life I have decided to leave evangelism behind, so I won't be knocking on anyone's door to spread the love of barefoot running, but if you want to chat about it and ask some questions, feel free to comment on this post.

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