Sometimes perhaps it pays to work with professionals and I regret not having done so a long time ago when I first took up running.
I know…this is the third article on running in the last few weeks, but hopefully it will be the last one before the Mumbai Marathon on January 15. I have written today’s piece simply because something so weird and terrific happened three weeks ago with respect to my running style that I think my experience will be of help to those reader runners who are not particularly well-trained and/or find it difficult to run fast and/or keep getting injured frequently.
The last time I wrote about front-foot running, it was predominantly as part of the concept of barefoot running that has become quite popular after Christopher McDougall’s book “Born to Run”. I was quite carried away by the book and even went and bought a Vibrams Five-Fingers sole that simulates barefoot running. I haven’t had the guts to start using it but about two weeks ago, when I developed shin splints around 30 minutes into one of my running sessions, I switched consciously to a front-foot running style despite being in my standard cushioned Nikes that typically are meant for heel-first running.
It seemed after a few minutes that I was floating on air and for the first time in a long time I achieved a 6:30 mins / km time (my standard time is around 7:30 mins / km), and my shin splints disappeared.
Then I did something stupid!
Having read somewhere that the Bata canvas shoes we used to wear in school also simulate barefoot running, I went and bought a pair. (This too was an effort simply because most Bata stores don’t carry adult-sized canvas shoes…also the largest size they carry is a No 10, which was a little tight for me and they also actively dissuade you from buying these shoes in their stores, probably because they cost only around Rs. 200 a pair). Enthusiastically I started running in them. After 20 minutes, I had pain in both my lower legs, ankles and feet and I felt everything locking up. I stopped running and then waited for about 4 days for the pain to subside.
I have been observing fast runners for the last two months and most of them seem to be doing front-foot running despite wearing cushioned shoes and so on a hunch I too decided to continue front-foot running using my standard Nikes.
The last four runs have been so terrific…one better than the other. I have virtually no pain, I routinely do an under 7:10 mins / km pace, the running seems to take much less energy and it really feels like I am gliding on the running surface.
I cannot believe that for the last 10 years that I have been running, I have been running wrong.
And no wonder, I was never able to get my speed up, always had cramps after long runs and more often than not I felt like I was just plodding along!
And that’s why this article. If you are one of those runners who identifies with the kind of problems I used to have, please start front-foot running right away. If you Google “barefoot running”, you will find videos that show how this is to be done…however you don’t have to be barefoot for front-foot running.
This year, for the first time, I feel that I can perhaps finish the half-marathon in around 2:30 hours. To me that is a really, really big deal!