Monday, May 28, 2012

Born to Run (again)

I started rereading Christopher McDougall's Born to Run. As usual, I'm finding no end of things in it that inspire me. The writing is phenomenal. McDougall tells a story as well as anyone. He's funny, persuasive, engrossing, and sets an electrifying pace. Even when he writes about podiatry and running science I am pulled along without friction.

The story is also inspiring though not necessarily for the reasons everyone thinks. Yes, Born to Run pushed the barefoot running craze. I hate calling it a craze, but I'll go along with it for now. Just this week a friend posted on Facebook that she had run a couple miles barefoot only to have a reply that "for every Brian Fay there are a million of us who need shoes." Ugh. When I show up at races without shoes people are sometimes pissed off. Last year at the Boilermaker 15K in Utica, one guy asked me "what the fuck you think you're doing." But maybe he was just upset that I passed him.

It's a craze to go against the current thinking. Most runners buy $125 shoes every three months. In four years I've spent $200 on running shoes to their $2000. Who's crazy?

Yeah, you heard right: I buy running shoes. I wear Vibram FiveFingers Seeyas and they are the lightest, most comfortable shoe I've ever worn, far more comfortable even than my Birkenstocks. I don't wear them all the time, but I like something when the pavement gets too hot or there's an abundance of glass.

Born to Run is a book much less about barefoot running than it is about rethinking the ways things are. I like that idea. It's the same thing that is going to help me push through to the next level of my life. It's what will keep the bills from piling up. It's what makes for real happiness.


The traditional thinking says, "I want this, I need that, I have to do this other thing." This weekend, I've watched my neighbors working in their yards, planting gardens, doing what they want to do. I've sat in a lawn chair reading books trying not to feel guilty about being different. I didn't go to Home Depot, didn't shop online, didn't spend money much at all. I was just happy.

I also ran a bunch. Half with shoes, half without depending on how I felt. I ran fast and slow. I ran alone and with a group. I did what made me happy.

Running is all too often about faster finishes and longer distances. That's fine, but it can be about other things and it is about other things for me. I could tell you what, but it's better to find them out yourself.

I have only two pieces of advice. One, read Born to Run. Two, sometime, leave your shoes at home and go run up and down the block. Don't commit to becoming some sort of barefoot runner. Just go play. You'll see what I mean. Actually, no, you won't see it. You'll feel it from your head down to the bottoms of your feet.

Write on.