Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Barefoot Running Book, by Jason Robillard

I've been following Jason Robillard's blog, Barefoot Running University, and recently had a chance to meet him in Fort Worth at one of his barefoot running clinics.  If you've read his blog, attended one of his clinics, or had the chance to meet him at a race, you'll know that Jason loves to run and is a passionate evangelist, spreading the good news of running.  In my estimation, his promotion of barefoot and minimalist running is an outgrowth of that passion.  He believes that running is best enjoyed with less on the feet, and wants to help other people discover that.
Jason is a spokesperson and consultant for Merrell.
Jason first published The Barefoot Running Book in 2010.  This new edition adds to and expands on the original, making it a more complete and up-to-date resource.  If you've read Jason's blog or attended on of his clinics, you won't be surprised by much of what you read.  Although Jason prefers barefoot running, he is very realistic about wearing footwear appropriate to the surface on which you're running.  Through trial and error, and personal preference, every runner should seek the footwear that provides the best foot flexibility, ground feel, and protection, depending on the terrain.

By the same token, although there are many schools of thought on running form, Jason's take is try them out, see what works for you.  He writes that he's learned something from Chirunning, the pose method, and others, but he's not tied to any one method.  He encourages the reader to do as he did: check them out, experiment with the methods they promote, and find what fits you best.

His laid-back, do-what-works-for-you tone may detract from the book for readers who like firmness and certainty.  But for the runner who wants an introduction to barefoot and minimalist running, The Barefoot Running Book is a perfect place to start.  It's simple, practical, and realistic.  It may not be "everything you ever wanted to know about barefoot running," but it definitely points you in the right direction.  Now take those "foot coffins" off and run!

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Terry Hitchcock's Run

In this space I have written about the feats of well-known runners like Dean Karnazes, Michael Horton, and Marshall Ulrich.  These men are world-class ultramarathoners who have run big miles, setting them apart as ultra-elites.  Joining this small group is Terry Hitchcock, whose mega-marathon run is documented in My Run.  Unlike those other runners, Hitchcock could scarcely have been considered a runner before he decided he would run a marathon a day for 75 days.  But that's exactly what he did, running from Minnesota to Atlanta, arriving in time for the start of the 1996 Olympics.

Hitchcock's wife died of cancer in 1984, leaving him to raise 3 kids on his own.  Shortly after she died, he lost his job.  A decade later, at age 56, he decided to draw some attention to the experiences and challenges of single parents, so he came up with his plan to run to Atlanta.  Although he had not run marathons before, he found a trainer to help him prepare.  He was slow (at one point he said he ran about 8 hours a day), but his endurance held up and he seemed to stay strong.

Besides the painful process of running that far, the other painful part of the film was the dissolution of his team.  He started out with a support team in an RV, but they fled, so he was left with only one of his sons to support him for much of the run.  They did get some free hotel stays, though.  The focus of My Run is more on the runner than the run himself, following his personal journey.  Runners who see the film will probably be asking, How did he do that?  Karnazes, Horton, and Ulrich are seasoned runners with impressive running resumes.  Hitchcock is just a guy.  Which is really the message of the film: regular guys can do the seemingly impossible, whether it's running 75 marathons or raising 3 kids on his own.

Here's his web site: http://www.terryhitchcock.com/index.html

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Nice Place to Run: Port Aransas Nature Preserve

Last weekend was our annual family gathering at Sandcastle Condominiums in Port Aransas.  We've been going there for over 30 years; when I think of going to the beach, this is it! 
The boardwalk during the day.
Although we've been going to Port A for decades, I was not aware of a new addition to the Port A landscape, the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture.  After the kids were settled in for the night, a few hours after the hot sun had set, I took off for a couple of night runs.  The Nature Preserve is just a couple of miles from Sandcastle.  After a brief run on the concrete bike path behind the softball field, the nature trail begins, with a mix of crushed gravel trail and boardwalk. 

The primary use of the Preserve is nature walks, particularly for bird watchers.  But birdwatching is not much of a night time activity, so I had the whole place to myself both times I ran there.  With the moon nearly full, I turned off the headlamp and enjoyed the quiet solitude as I ran.  My only regret was that the trail didn't go on and on.  I took several loops and out-and-backs to extend my time there.
As you can see, there is NO shade. So in July, night running is best!

Adjacent to the Preserve, you can run along the seawall beside the ship channel.  It's cool watching the big tankers and cargo ships slide by in the night.  But watch out for the fishing lines!  It's a popular place for night fishing, and fishing line is hard to see in the dark. . . .

I always look forward to the family beach weekend in Port A, but now I have one more thing to look forward to--night runs at the Nature Preserve!
Aerial view of the loop around Salt Island.
Picture credits: top 2 from Bury Partners, aerial shot from City of Port Aransas.