In Born to Run Caballo Blanco said "Run easy, light, smooth, and fast." Ken Bob Saxton says that running barefoot should not be work, it should be easy. I don't think I know what either of them are talking about.
If you've been around the forums a lot and read my posts you may have noticed me saying that I've been having some bad runs lately. I thought it was just an on and off kind of thing, but thinking back on it, the only "good" runs I had were my 3/4 mile runs home from work, which weren't really long enough for me to hurt myself. First my feet were slapping, so I tried to fix that. Then I was really uncomfortable, and I realized I was running too stiff legged. Then my right calf was bugging me, so I tried bending my knees more. One day all of these things happened together, and no matter how much I bent my knees, I couldn't fix anything. This whole time I was also feeling kinda heavy when I ran.
Well today I finally figured it out (or at least I think I did, we'll have to see if it holds true), I was sacrificing my form in the interest of running "easy".
I had been trying to stride out, not bend my knees very deeply, and even pushing off a little (though I didn't realize it at the time) doing anything to make my running "easier". Whenever I really focused on picking my feet up, my upper quads and hip flecors would start to burn, so I thought "Well that can't be right, this is supposed to be easy." I don't really think the other ways I tried running were actually any easier, they just used less hip muscles, and they made my feet and calves hurt before I got far enough to get tired.
So on my run today I decided to let my upper quads and hip flexors complain, so long as everything else was going good, and everything else did go good. It took me about a mile to really get into good form, since I'd been avoiding picking up my feet in this way for a while. Once I got it though it was really good, my feet would just barely kiss the pavement, and then they'd soar back into the air (well, if by soar we mean lift up like a foot). My feet felt good, my calves felt good, my knees felt good, my torso was just floating on top of my hips, and I was cruisin'. At one point when I was running uphill on some sand and dirt, I felt like I was flying (and I was going UPHILL!) The only not good thing about it was that my quads and hip flexors were grumbling. They weren't in pain, and I wasn't breathing super hard, they were just getting a work, while the rest of my body relaxed. Hopefully they get whipped into shape eventually and this form gets easier, but you know what, I'd even be okay with it if it stayed the same. Ican deal with the little bit of exertion if it means everything is working right.
There may be something I can do to make it easier, but Ithink I'll just stick with what I've got now and let mileage iron it out for me. One of the very few things I learned from shod running is that if you run enough miles your body will take care of a lot of efficiency issues for you, with little or no consciouse input. 400 some shod miles over the summer took me from bounding (Iprobably had 8 inches or so of vertical movement with each step) to a fairly smooth stride. I can't wait to see what I'll be like when I get into the higher mileage barefoot, and tonight coming in from my run (5-ish miles, 45 minutes, same time I used to run it in shoes), I had the same feeling Ihad last year when I started really workingon my runs, except without the foot pain, and the knee pain, and the gasping for breath. After 4 months of trying to figure out this barefoot buisiness, I, ladies and gentelman, am back.
AHA! (Giving up on easy and the best run I've had in a long time.)
Blog entry posted by Danjo, Oct 31, 2010.