For some reason, I’ve begun to run. I don’t really know whence the desire has sprung – nor that of my wife, who at pretty much the same time, has developed the same desire to run – but have chosen not to question it. Yes, my father has been a runner all his life, and when younger I made some abortive attempts at getting into running, but it was never sustained – probably because I never especially enjoyed it. This time, the difference is that I’m not wanting to run in the service of any other aim: not to lose/maintain weight (as much as I want to do so); not to get fit (as much as I want to do that); and not even to keep diabetes as far away as possible (as much as I am desperate to do so).
This time I just want to run.
I think a number of things have come together to create this desire. Being surrounded by the wonderful landscape of the Blue Mountains; my parents talking enthusiastically about Christopher McDougall’s book “Born to Run”; my enjoyment of the motion and freedom I found in starting mountain biking; my delight in my children’s energy and activity; and also I think my cynical demoralisation with modern society and failing politics (thus a drive towards the basic, simple, natural parts of existence).
I then read Born to Run.
When I finish some books, there is a real sense of loss, as I can no longer look forward to reading them. Born to Run was like that, and I was reading it at exactly the right time, as it reinforced my nascent urge to run. In fact, when I finished it at 11:30 on a cold dark almost-winter night, the only reason I didn’t get up that instant to go for a run – seriously, the only reason – was that I was in the midst of a nasty cold and couldn’t breathe very well. So I waited till a couple of mornings later I woke up able to breathe, and went then.
Back a day however, my wife and I had been to buy new running shoes. Reading Born to Run had left me thoroughly convinced that modern running shoes, with their airbag-laden, microprocessor-controlled, anti-pronation over-cushioned extremes were at the root of many of the problems we humans seem to encounter when we run. It seems bizarre to me now, that we’ve accepted the notion that running means inevitable injury for us. Honestly, how could we have survived as a species if we truly were so physically pathetic and fragile? So I decided I was going to go for a minimalistic shoe (that many people are describing, without a discernible trace of irony, as “barefoot shoes”). I ended up getting a pair of Merrell Road Gloves – and wore them out of the shop. They felt great from the moment I put them on.
Next day. A run. Thought I’d conk out pretty damn quickly, but surprised myself, and ended up going (mostly running, but some walking on the return journey) for 40 minutes, covering somewhere around 5 km. One thing sticks out for me above everything else: no shin splints.
Every time – literally every time – I have gone for a run since I was a teenager, I have ended up with aching shins (if nothing else). Hot and sore feet would usually feature strongly as well, as would aching knees – particularly after I busted the medial meniscus (cartilage) in one knee, and eventually had to give in and get part of it removed.
This time, nothing. Well, my calves have been letting me know they got a workout (landing on the forefoot instead of the heel, means the impact is absorbed differently; the calves have some work to do), but absolutely no pain – notably in my shins, heels, or knees. In fact I felt – and still feel – fantastic: really energised, and frankly, hanging out for my next run.
My point (if I have one) is that I think the arguments McDougall lays out in Born to Run make a lot of sense: that humans are running animals; that in fact we need to run. The fact that most of us have largely stopped doing so, may well underlie many of the problems we face (obesity, diabetes, cardiac disease, some cancers…). I have come to accept that I cannot change our political system, our society, or even the interminable self-perpetuating bureaucracy that interferes with adequate delivery of health care.
But I can run.
And I can do my best to make sure my kids (who like all children, run all the time) don’t stop running.
The rest will be as it will be, but I think – as the title – I’ve been Born Again to Run. xP
Oh, and this is where I went for my first run in who-knows-how-many years: