Born to Run (or cutting back on ‘gear’)

The last third of the year is when I tend to kick into action, generally scurrying around trying to fulfil the year’s determinations. One of these was to read a book of fiction weekly. That particular determination receives a giant self-satisfied tick as it was achieved before the month of October is out. I’ve read novels that I’d recommend to all-and-sundry and others that I’d just as happily recommend let slip beside the wayside, but truly, the book that has had the most impact on me is the one I’ve just finished reading (from the large pile of non-fiction books that have stacked up beside the bed this year): Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run.

Like many other of the book’s readers I’ve hurried off to the web to hunt out more information on natural/barefoot/minimalist/Chi/pose/evolution running. If you think this list is a little lengthy, wait until you hit the debates on the subject ... This article will give you a brief outline and these two articles with their myriad comments to scroll through will give you some idea of the evangelical supporters and naysayers alike.

In many ways, what I’ve read mirrors the debates on the various forms of yoga and raw food lifestyles that people can commit to. My take on such things, as ever, is to be as gentle and simple as possible, with an emphasis on listening to your body ... thus I practice Scaravelli-inspired yoga and consume unpasteurised dairy from time to time despite my eventual quest to become vegan. In the same way that I think a gradual approach to eating more raw is the best way to go, I’d urge a gradual approach to using a minimalist running shoe or running barefoot. Whilst it’s tempting to think a new shoe (or lack of one) will automatically enhance your running, I think brain work should come first, essentially, tuning into what your senses are communicating rather than being hell-bent on running a specific distance at a specific time. Read up and take practical advice on your stride, posture and footfall. Remember, in the end, as the guys at Luna Sandals write, it’s all about the joy: ‘We believe that when we become more connected and in tune with our own bodies, as well as with each other, we can often regain a fundamental source of happiness, joy and good health. We believe that our bodies are not broken by design and when we trust them, our instincts, and our desires, we often find a more genuine expression of who we are’.

Raw foodies of long-time standing have valuable wisdom to impart on what works and what doesn’t and so do some of the amazing ultrarunners out there. My own trainers are in need of an update and the following are my current considerations based on the recommendations of two phenomenal ultrarunners, Tony Krupicka and Scott Jurek (the latter’s book, including vegan recipes, is my most anticipated book release for 2012, especially after viewing Jurek's raw tiramisu from Cafe Gratitude's recipe on his Twitter account) both of whom emphasise leading as simple a life as possible. As Jurek has noted, ‘I have always felt one of the beauties of running is the lack of required gear ... we require only simple clothing and shoes’. The more complex web comes from weighing up the options of UK or foreign production, natural materials versus recycled materials and of course, what your body feels best in...

New Balance should be applauded for remaining committed to producing running shoes in the UK. I like the look of the MT 10 Minibus Trail with design input from Tony Krupicka, who answers some questions here and can be seen here. Another contender is the Cascadia by Brooks with design input from Scott Jurek who should be commended for their thinking on environmental issues (see their Green Room page) from developing the world’s first biodegradable midsole (for the Trance range) to using an outsole made from sand rather than oil for the entire Trail collection (and others). Another option (for the summer only perhaps due to the cold, wet and windy UK?) is the Luna. I like that you can choose a leather-free pair with hemp laces or even bypass a pair of ready-mades in favour of making your own. Finally, I couldn’t not mention the Vibrams which seem to cause the most debate of all (if you read their company history, you can see that they are not the flash-in-the-pan company some of their detractors claim) and have used recycled materials since 1994.

Weighing up the options of running gear isn’t that much easier from an eco point of view. Although, I’m hoping that we are all in agreement that organic cotton doesn’t really work at coping with sweaty runs. Yew clothing, for example, offers recycled performance tops that are polyester (and hence oil-based) whereas Howies offers 100% merino (obviously not an option for vegans). I’m all for the natural fibre path myself and I can wholeheartedly vouch for the latter as I have a merino Howies base layer which just keeps on going. That said, and a little unpasteurised dairy aside, it’s the fabric issue (specifically wool) that I have most of my problems with in inching my way to a truly vegan way of life, but that’s an issue for another post ... baby steps ... I’m off for a run!

Photos © Howies, Luna Sandals and New Balance



The UK statistics for the decline of both domestic and commercial orchards are shocking. According to this website in 1970 MAFF (the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries) recorded 62,200 hectares of commercial orchards in the UK yet by 1997 this figure had shrunk to 22,400 hectares. That’s a 64% decline... and I’m confident the figures up to the current day don’t provide happier reading. For this reason, but also pure greed, we spend a good part of our weekends in late September and early October visiting various orchards to stock up for the winter months ...

I’m a pear rather than an apple person myself so I will definitely be trying out the raw pear icing from Golubka at some point this week ...


Yoga and Raw Inspiration

I had to giggle when I read about Raw Rob on the Funky Raw website via Steve Charter’s advert for his forthcoming permaculture course because it chimed so accurately with how I feel about the numerous raw blogs that are less about experience than sales figures ...

‘Funky Raw Rob did his 2 week raw permaculture course Ecoforest in September 2002 – it was where he first experienced the raw life, and look what’s happened to him since then! He’s taken on Funky Raw from Ecoforest co-founder Tish, creating a much loved network that presents a different face of the raw/mainly raw movement, not catered for by the commercial ‘glammed up’ world of rampant raw egos ... I know they all mean well and are lovely people really ;)’.

Apart from the ever-amazing raw recipe blog that is Golubka and the pictorial blasts of raw energy via Kate Magic Wood, I don’t really follow any other raw (or raw-ish) blogs regularly. The lovely Neeta, Suki, Poppy and Shel would appear to have given up the blogging ghost, or post almost as often as I do ;), and I love them for living their lives away from the computer screen, but I’d yet (until now) stumbled across any replacements which truly resonated with me and the way I live my life (as simply and quietly as possible). The same can be said of the majority of yoga blogs ...

Thankfully, this past summer, just when I needed a direct hit of inspiration, a slew (well, three or four) websites and blogs were discovered which hit the spot marked ‘inspiration’. I can’t believe I didn’t know about Theresa’s (of Kitchen Buddy) blog until now, which reminds me in spirit of Momo’s lovely blog, another of my favourites, just a straightforwardly simple (but beautifully so) account of daily activities, with a healthy, organic and eco emphasis. Jules Febre’s blog is about so much more than yoga, as is the closer-to-home website of Jane Kersel who writes vividly about what yoga means to her (and who has inspired me to check out the work of Hal and Sidra Stone). Add to this merry crew, the thoughtful and reflective blog by Elizabeth Rossa, the director of Shriyoga (pictured), see for example, this entry. I love the ethos and simplicity of Rossa’s NYC yoga studio run out of two home lofts (owned by students who didn’t want to give up their yoga when Shriyoga vacated their previous studio in the neighbourhood). You just show up and put your money in the box – no sales drive, no yoga hype – just practicing in a beautiful space. I think that’s what I seek (and have found) in these new-to-me blogs. As Theresa has written ‘vegan living takes time, education and practice’ and to read and connect with other people’s experiences is an inspiring part of that ever-evolving process of ‘showing up’ and leading as mindful and healthy a life as possible ...

Studio photograph © Shriyoga in New York City.