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Paleo Running-Introduction

February 20, 2011

The Austin Marathon and half marathon took place this morning. I came pretty close to hopping in the 1/2 just for the heck of it, and to get a little exercise. Better judgement and a comfy bed persuaded me not to.  Race start was at 7am, Colleen was trying to wake me up at 5:30am, and I had been up til about 12:30 the night before, so I was tired. Not only that, my body had felt a bit stiff from runs and ride the week previous.  I had spent some time the night before trying to find a pair of shoes I could use. My super cool Mizuno Wave Universe II shoes had finally suffered the final blow on a trail run last Tuesday after months of running on stuff it was never designed to run on, on MY feet no less.

And something told me my makeshift repair with packing tape a) wouldn’t last 13 miles or b) wouldn’t be very comfortable.

My other options were an old pair of Brooks Adrenaline 6 that didn’t fit too well anymore, or my Xterra trail runners. I won the Xterras at a race and while they are reasonably light (for a trail shoe) and have more flexibility than average, they are still a beefy trail shoe and not the best for 13 miles of pavement. I also had the option of going completely barefoot. Now this is right up my alley, but I hadn’t worked up the foot toughness and mechanics to even seriously consider this option. With two important athletic outings planned for the coming week and nothing whatsoever invested into this race, it was a no-brainer to stay in bed and get some more zzz’s.

The previous day I actually made it out to the marathon expo to check it out and say hi to Colleen since she was working the Trigger Point booth. I was also hoping maybe some vendors would have some racing flats or barefoot shoes I could buy to try out in the race. What I found instead totally deflated me and inspired me to write this post.

I by no means consider myself a running “expert”, but in a lot of ways, this makes me better qualified to give running advice.  It’s like having the innocence of an unborn child not yet touched by sin. Let me tell you but a few of the things I stumbled upon at this expo. Of course, there were shoe shops trying to sell shoes, “running specific” clothing, gu’s, watches, hats, headbands, you name it. If you told them you were interested in shoes, they proceeded to analyze your pronation/supination, and how much “stability” or cushion your feet would need, as well as any other marketing fodder from the shoe manufacturer they could throw at you. They would then take your $80-100 (or more) and you would walk out thinking you got a good deal. One company was selling bracelets or bands that wrap around your limbs to “maximize your energy flow”, sort of like those magnetic bracelets you see on TV. There were 2 or 3 companies selling earphones that wouldn’t fall out. There were companies selling energy bars, drinks, gels, blocks, etc. With the exception of Larabar, they were all chock full of super processed crap that probably did more harm than good, yet somehow they claimed their product would improve your performance.

I could go on, but basically all but a few of the companies there (such as Trigger Point-they have a legit product and don’t have a hard sell) were trying to convince the runner that their product would somehow improve running performance, comfort, or enjoyability.

Why in the world do we humans have to take something so basic and primitive such as running and insist on complicating the crap out of it?  Dogs and cats don’t need shoes, so why do we?

Because SOCIETY has said so ever since we were born, and as a result, our feet have been denied the opportunity toughen up and our brains have been denied the proprioception to learn how to move naturally. Our feet are very unlikely to get tough since society demands us to wear shoes (even if it didn’t, I bet most Americans would wear shoes anyways), but at least we can gain back that neuro-muscular connection by wearing something just thick enough to protect from sharp objects. Glass on hard paved roads is something paleo people never had to deal with anyways.

Shoe selection is but one aspect of running I would like to examine this week, both from a paleo and modern perspective. Being the Caveman I am, I’m obviously biased towards the paleo, but cavemen were akin to using tools to their advantage, so perhaps there are some modern conveniences that do make running more worthwhile. Stay tuned.

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