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