The question I most often get asked is: ‘How can you go that far?’, sometimes phrased as “I don’t even like to drive that far!”. The short answer is: I’m not quite sure. I’m an average runner, never have been very fast, nor really enjoyed running until about two years ago. Exercise-induced asthma as a kid and later knee and back pain from what I assumed was just being older (outgrown the asthma? welcome to excruciating pain!) kept most of my runs down to 3-4 miles.
A couple of articles back, I talked about discovering Vibram FiveFingers and the Chi Running technique. That did two things that I believe really accelerated my enjoyment of running and helped me see that I could do more. First, they changed my stride, shortening it so that I wasn’t extending my legs too far (causing the knee pain) and eliminating the heel strike, which was jarring my back. I was running more efficiently, so I was recovering faster and able to do long back-to-back runs. (Full disclosure, I’m not a doctor, nor have I ever played one on TV, nor is anything I say meant to be taken as medical, or even simply “good” advice.) Second, the feeling of running barefoot made me feel like a kid again. I could feel the mud between my toes or the grass when I ran through it. Running up hill was a lot of fun, especially on trails, because my toes dug in and it was more like playing around than just running. So I was having fun running, and I was able to recover quickly, so I could go out and run some more.
So that got me started, but the challenge of distance still remained. I ran my first marathon in the Vibrams, but my feet were very sore at the end. I decided that I needed my rapidly aging feet to have a little more cushioning if I was going to go longer.
Enter the Hokas, or the Anti-Vibrams. Their sole is 2.5 times thicker than an average running shoe, but they actually allow me to run “flat footed”, keeping my stride short. The big benefit of all that cushion is that I can run longer with a lot less foot pain (and they weigh about the same as a traditional running shoe). I recently ran 55 miles in them in a 12 hour race and the only blisters I got were because my skill at wrapping my toes is below zero. And yes, I was a KISS fan when I was younger, and the resemblance to the “Stacks” that Gene Simmons wore were not lost on me, although these work better than the pieces of wood I nailed to my tennis shoes at age 11. (For those of you who don’t remember that reference, think of Jimmy’s strength shoes from Seinfeld. For those of you too young to remember that- what are you doing sitting around reading the computer?! Go outside and run!) So, the shoes are making a difference, even though I’ve gone from looking like an idiot in toe shoes to looking like an idiot in clown shoes!
Now to deal with the mental side, the repetition, the hours, the boredom. How do I do it? Well, you’ll have to wait until next week. I still have to think about it…
Filed under: About my training | Tagged: asthma, blister, chi, finger, five, hoka, kiss, run, shoes, Vibram | Leave a comment »