When I was in high school, my track coach told me that I had one of the most natural strides for a miler he had ever seen. As a sophomore, I was told that I was expected to be in the state meet as a senior. Unfortunately, my lack of dedication and subsequent deficient work ethic got in the way and my high school track career was not what it might have been.
Years later I had been in and out of running, but each time I started running again I found a natural, comfortable stride came back to me.
Then I got hurt. A seriously bruised knee, from a fall. A sprained ankle. Plantar fasciitis. Everything changed. My stride became one of compensating and over-compensating… favoring and avoiding.
I spent most of the last year trying to recover without stopping running. Over analyzing my stride. Trying to rest during the week and go on long runs on the weekend. Trying to keep up my rigorous race schedule.
I saw my times increasing. My recovery took longer. I started to feel less and less interested in running, but not running was worse.
It was time to do something different!
I started reading. I started studying the way others run and paying attention to the way I run.
The first book I read (recommended by my friend Matt), was Quiet the Noise, The Trail Runner’s Guide To Finding God. Rami Odeh shares his personal journey with us as he discovers a closer relationship with God by spending his time in God’s creation appreciating and communing with Him. I realized that my joy of running was waning because I was paying too much attention to what was wrong and not enjoying the run for the run’s sake. I wrote more about this as I finished that book in Oh For The Love.
As I was getting ready for AR50, I started reading Born To Run. To me, the theme of this story is the escape from the commercialization of our sport. It is about running because we love to run. I got just enough of this before AR50 to really enjoy that race, even though I was slower than my target pace. Reading about Caballo Blanco, Barefoot Ted and Luis Escobar and the Tarahumara Indians in Copper Canyon, Mexico, I was captivated. Next year I WILL run the Born To Run Ultra in Los Olivos and the Caballo Blanco Ultra in Copper Canyon is on my bucket list (all it takes is money). The connection with this book is very strong for me because it starts with the same question I have: “Why does my foot hurt?”
Finally, it was time for what I knew was coming since last September… STOP running! I needed a break! I needed to heal. I needed to rest and refocus. This was a good time to do it. No big races coming up and a good break until Blood Sweat and Beers at the end of July. I started reading Chi Running. I started thinking about this several months prior and I bought the book for my iPad, but I wanted to read Born To Run first. I’m glad I did because it set me up for Chi Running as the next step. I started doing a little bit of Tai Chi and then, after a 3 week hiatus, started run/walking again, very short distances. I was completely starting over. I had to relearn how to LET MYSELF run, rather than trying to force it.
I took my 10 year old son out to run a little, thinking I would help him learn to run correctly now, to avoid injuries, but he does it naturally. This was an epiphany for me. I took off my shoes and ran barefoot in the grass. This worked really well until I stepped on a bee… and then another bee. Had I known my new Luna sandals were in the mailbox at home it might have been better. As I apply the principles of Chi to my running, I find that my form is returning. I am striking mid foot. I am not having any pain. I am ready to get back on the trails and run. I had to simply let happen what I had done my entire life. I have to run like a child, with the joy a child has when they run.
Truth be told, that’s how I fell in love with running in the first place.