I am a self-professed average runner who tries to hit the road at least once a week. Although I have never completed a full marathon, I do love running and the unadulterated joy of my heart pumping hard inside me.
But since the end of last year, I started having a problem with my left knee. A nagging throbbing pain would start shooting through my knee whenever I jogged. I have tried fixing the problem with cushioned socks, patella bands, ice packs and this new pair of shoes, which I switched to at the start of the year.To be honest, I did pin my hopes on these high-tech soles to work its magic for my joint, but eight months down the road, nothing changed. The nagging pain persisted. Thus it was a shock when I read this in Christopher McDougall’s book “Born to run.”
“Wearers of expensive running shoes that are promoted as having additional feature that protect (e.g., more cushioning, ‘pronation correct’) are injured significantly more frequently than runners wearing inexpensive shoes (costing less than $40).
What a cruel joke: for double the price, you get double the pain.”
The non-fiction novel “Born to run” taught me about a sport I thought I knew all along. It made me unlearn, learn and relearn about running, how to run and how best to run.
“A lot of foot and knee injuries that are currently plaguing us are actually caused by people running with shoes that actually make our feet weak, cause us to over-pronate, give us knee problems. Until 1972, when the modern athletic shoe was invented by Nike, people ran in very thin-soled shoes, had strong feet, and had much lower incidence of knee injuries,” Dr. Daniel Lieberman, a professor of biological anthropology at Harvard University.”
Having nothing to lose, I decided to experiment with a running style suggested in the book to ditch my heels-to-toe stride for a midfoot-to-toe stride. The result was instantaneous. The pain was lifted of my left knee when I ran and both my knees never felt lighter than ever before.
“Born to run” is as much a science story as it is an anthropological documentation of McDougall’s search for the Tarahumara, indigenous people in Mexico who are believed to be the toughest ultramarathon runners in the world. They are said to be able to run for hundreds of miles without stopping on steep canyon trails with shoes that are no more then thin tyres laced up with strings. And here is the irony he found:
“Shouldn’t we – the ones with the state-of-the-art running shoes and custom-made orthotics – have the zero casualty rate, and the Tarahumara – who run way more, on way rockier terrain, in shoes that barely qualify as shoes – be constantly banged up?”
[CLICK HERE for a lovely series of the Tarahumara by Nat Geo photographer Robb Kendrick]
With this central query, the book dives deep into the fascinating world of running covering everything from the evolution to the business of running, whilst alongside uncovering ultramarathoners simple love of running
“When I’m out on a long run,” she continued, “the only thing in life that matters is finishing the run. For once, my brain isn’t going blehblehbleh all the time. Everything quiets down, and the only thing going on is pure flow. It’s just me and the movement and the motion. That’s what I love – just being a barbarian, running through the woods.”
This book is definitely going under my best reads of 2013.
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. Everything I recount here is based on my own experiences because I am glad to be back running sans the pain. The feeling of pounding on my two pins on the road is liberating and makes me feel alone and free – only me, the road and the wind.
In case I do not sound convincing enough, here’s Dr. Lieberman, the Harvard professor again: