Bare-ly running.

I’m not one for running. Especially on a treadmill. History has shown that, if given a choice between a treadmill and getting fat and depressed, I will choose to get fat. And I do like that my present state of fitness means that I can casually run a mile and not regret doing it, but I haven’t traditionally sought it out.

On the other hand Priti, who is a bad influence, mentioned that she was doing the Survivor Mud Run, I figured it would be a ton of fun. Because it’s not just a run, there’s obstacles and it’s not necessarily about finishing with an awesome time, it’s about finishing without skipping challenges. So I signed up.

Of course, this leads to the next problem. I need to actually train for a run. Because, while I can run a mile without any real consequences, trying to run at a non-embarrassing time through the mud might not be a great idea.

Now, if you look at me while I’m wandering around the house, you’ll notice that I don’t wear shoes. It’s de rigueur in most Indian households, which therefore means that I feel really comical visiting some of my friends because I’m putting on shoes just for the car ride. And I’ve come to start telling people “You know, if we were meant to walk around in shoes, we’d be born with them.”

I’ve been following the barefoot running thing. Now, it’s hard to talk about barefoot anything without attracting undue attention from the foot fetishists.

One thing I’ve found over the last few years is that your body is a wonderful self-regulating thing, within reason. For example, if you get no exercise whatsoever, it stops being able to regulate itself. But I it turns out that a small hard saddle and spandex bike shorts and none of those personal lubricant products that other cyclists swear by will work just fine on the bike for miles and miles and miles. Similarly, they did some studies and found that those free-radicals that the vitamin fiends were going on and on about may not be the demons that we thought they were. Taking ibuprofen to reduce irritation or taking anti-oxidants means that your body doesn’t regulate itself properly anymore, which is why I reserve ibuprofen for when I’ve really overreached or actually pulled a tendon.

Barefoot running just makes sense to how I choose the world. Now, yes, this might be a cognative bias. And I do know that some of the barefoot movement has been fed by Vibram, who has a number of patents and therefore have the market a bit locked up for the moment. But there’s pretty much no research that has been done at any point in time that shows benefits for shoes. Nobody bothered to look into it!

I was figuring that, since I probably need some running shoes, I might as well try out the Vibram FiveFingers and the New Balance Minimus shoes.

My most memorable barefoot experience to date was running up and down Olmstead Point barefoot and feeling how under control I was and how enjoyable it was. The Minimus shoes didn’t feel like that. But FiveFingers did. If nothing else, these will be great shoes for walking in the wilderness. It was the same sort of freedom as one gets walking out of the shower naked… which probably means that I’ll take up streaking next.

I got a lecture from the salesperson about how a bunch of people have had real problems with their FiveFingers shoes because they just switched without any transition. So I ended up picking up the book by Barefoot Ken Bob so I’d feel better about jumping into this. Barefoot Ken Bob pretty much says that I need to start running completely barefoot to avoid some of the issues that FiveFingers will cause. And, as usual, starting slowly. I know that I do have the heart muscle and mitochondria to do a long run… because I do long hard bike rides all the time. But I don’t have the tendons developed and I don’t have all of the muscles where they need to be. So I’m going to start with 5-10 minute runs totally barefoot before I try anything more complicated. And read the book by Barefoot Ken Bob further.