Monday, November 9, 2009

A Book Review

I had to do it. There was too much chatter on the internet not to read this book. My thoughts random as they may be are what follows:

Running – The stories of running in this book are priceless. The feeling that is running is one that you can’t match in anything. It is pure, it never disappoints and it will make your day better even if you thought you were in a good way to begin with. The story of the two young runners without a care in the world getting lost struck home. I remember fondly a run in the Rocky Mountains that was scheduled to be 90 minutes and ended up 3.5 hours. I had no water, no food, no ID and no idea where I was. Mary was not too happy with that run. Ever since I have to give fairly detailed descriptions of where I’m going. We never did find out if anything happened to those two young runners. They drank out of a mud puddle in Mexico. Did they ever get sick?

The Race – I really wish there was more detail on the race. If Scott Jurek was really there, where is the race from his eyes? A reporter should have gotten into the heads of the runners. What was their account of the race? To devote what seemed like 30 pages to the study of man chasing his food and 10 pages to the epic race seemed cheating. OK, I get it, before we had tools to kill or capture food, we ran it down. I don’t need t know how the scientists spent their life proving it. It’s still not 100% clear to me that this is how it was done. At least the 30 pages didn’t convince me. When Jurek turned up the heat in the last 2 miles what was the pace. Did he leave everything out there or did he give it up to the local?

Running Barefoot – The bulk of the chatter on the web is regarding barefoot running and how bad the shoe companies are. I’ll address the shoe companies next. I wonder if Mr. McDougall put the 3 rules of barefoot chapter in before or after he got his “deal” with Vibram 5 fingers. It doesn’t really matter. What Mr. McDougall summarizes is what I wrote more than 6 years ago. It wasn’t my idea either so I’m not taking claim to it. The point is, if you want to really stay injury free in running, have strong feet. The way to get strong feet is get them out of shoes and make them work. That doesn’t mean run barefoot although doing so won’t kill you. What it means is no shoes on in the house. Pick up marbles with your toes, roll your foot over a tennis ball regularly and just regularly treat your feet well. Stronger feet are happier feet. Happy feet make happy people and oh by the way, happy runners.

Athletes – Mr. McDougall makes a good point. You need to be more than a runner; you need to be an athlete. Make your entire body strong and you stand a better chance at running for the rest of your life. That’s why you see Triathletes kicking ass at 65. Because they are tri-athletes. They do more than just run and therefore stay relatively injury free. By the way Mr. McDougall comparing Anne Trason to Lance Armstrong and saying she’s the “better athlete” is not really fair. Anne a great athlete was an Ultra Runner. Although the competition is stiff it’s not cycling. Anne didn’t have kids growing up in Europe with the goal of becoming Western States Champion. For many in Europe and now in the US, becoming Tour de France champion is it. Millions try only one does it each year. There aren’t millions of runners running 100 miles. Maybe some day but not just yet.

Shoe Companies – Not really making friends here Mr. McDougall To say that a Nike designer told you Nike makes a new Pegasus each year to get runners to stock up on the previous version is a bit crazy. Yes, in the marketing and sales world it’s a proven fact, sales dip if a shoe isn’t refreshed each year. Keep the shoe new and fresh keeps the masses coming. But back there in an office in Beaverton there is a group that is constantly trying to make that Pegasus a better running shoe. They don’t care about revenue; they care as much about running as you do. Most of the cool new stuff in running comes from talking to runners. Listening to what they say and then trying to solve a problem. If that solution becomes the latest marketing campaign that’s not on the original group solving the problem. That’s on the money hungry company. But isn’t that the American way, make as much money as you can? If not why does that brand you now endorse have a Running catalog. They weren’t even doing running shoes in the first place. Their line of “Running” shoes has more than tripled and they will update them regularly.

I will point out that the studies on running shoes reflected in this book were done in the 80’s. One such study said that you are twice as likely to be injured in a shoe over $95 than you are in a shoe under $40. That study was completed in 1989. Prior to 1989 there were very few shoes over the price of $95. In fact there were probably a total of 5 or 6 total. Asics, Nike and New Balance each had one. Not too many others that’s for sure. The point is that study is not valid today. Not even remotely valid. Mr. McDougall would argue I believe that injuries haven’t changed in fact they’ve gotten worse. I would turn that around and say Mr. McDougall look around you. In 1989 there was no Team n Training. There was no Rock n Roll Marathon. Boston did not sell out. I argue that instead of looking at injuries, let’s look at runners. There are more runners today, crossing a finish line successfully than ever before. Let’s celebrate runners not bash Running shoe companies.

Running Shoes – I’ve posted recently that less is more and I firmly believe it. I believe you start with the barefoot and work your way up, not the other way around. If your foot is ultra strong, you need less shoe. Plain and simple. If your foot is weak you need some help and you need to go with the least amount of help (usually stability) you can get away from. If you come in with week feet and extra weight on your bones you simply need more shoe. Until you loose the weight of course. Even Mr. McDougall was told he couldn’t go barefoot yet; your feet aren’t strong enough.

I’m also a believer that you don’t need all that stuff in your shoe. Let’s start with the shoe itself. Layer upon layer of stuff on your shoe doesn’t make it better. In fact unless it’s done completely correctly it probably means the shoe isn’t that good. Cut one of your old shoes up with a ban saw and look at what you’re paying for. If there are lots of layers in the foam or layers on the upper you probably paid for someone to put those layers there. Now lets look at what you put in your shoe. That insole you are buying to put in your shoe is creating more shoe. Remember you want the least possible so ask the person helping you, is this the least amount of shoe I can get away with.

Running – Again, I wrote about this and even did some videos long before this book came out. Yes, there is a better running form. Yes, it can be learned. If you learn proper running form and build strong feet you can run forever. I suggest build the feet first. Then learn to run proud with a straight back, short strides, high cadence and be light on your feet. That’s proper running form. Practice it over and over and over. Heck every time I go for a long run I watch my form. I try to match my form from start to finish. My heart rate drops dramatically when I concentrate on form.

Mr. McDougall you created quite a stir. I congratulate you on your book and the adventure of a lifetime running in Mexico. A really good read but not revolutionary and may I say a big skewed to your opinion and not pure fact. Thanks for the interest in running. We’ve been doing it for years and love it.

It’s a good life….


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