Funny how when I first transitioned to barefoot, shoes were my nemesis. That was completely unintentional. I had no idea that I would hate wearing shoes after I started barefoot running. But I did. I loved running barefoot. I still do. In the beginning, my knee issues seemed to vaporize, my neuroma was gone, my plantar fascitis seemed to be in remission and it felt as though I could run farther than I could in shoes before my ITB crap reared its ugly head. And there's something about feeling the sun on my toes that's intensely satisfying. And the tingling after my barefoot runs continues to be slightly addicting. I sometimes crave it now.
Then as the weather started getting colder I started looking at some sort of minimalist alternative. It was hard being in that in-between state where I felt like barefoot was the only way to run but realized if I wanted to run in 25-30 degree weather I would much rather have something on my feet. At least for the first couple miles or so on frozen asphalt until my feet warmed up.
So my first choice were the VFFs which inevitably turned out to be a complete fail. Not because VFFs are bad, but because VFFs were bad for me and my webbed toes. Yeah. I don't know what I was thinking. Even after altering them so that they were relatively comfortable I still had trouble in them. There was lingering pain in between my toes and I would always have my ITB stuff creep up on me whenever I ran in them. At first I thought my form was being messed up by the shoes (which was entirely possible), then I thought it could be muscle imbalance. And as it turns out running completely barefoot helped but did not make the pain go away completely and to be honest, I hadn't a clue what the fuck was going on. I thought maybe I transitioned to shoes too soon and I was stuck.
So when I contacted Seth close to five months into my transition to barefoot running, I was in a bad place. I was frustrated and pissed off at my body for failing and frustrated with myself for not listening. I'm pretty sure he agreed I was a mess, but he seemed pretty confident he could get me on track.
Fast forward to a little over a month ago when I was able to run nearly 29 miles of trail in minimal shoes without any pain from my IT Band at all. For those of you who actually follow my posts on a regular basis (which may be none of you, in which case this little synopsis is probably helpful) you will remember how incredibly ecstatic I was about this little accomplishment. Every race I ran this past year prior to the marathon was peppered with a complete body fail. I was optimistic after every race, but the evil ITB monster always had me in submission and smothered in doubt.
So what made this one marathon possible? Was it that I had finally honed my barefoot/minimal running skills after a year of giving it the good ol' college try? Was it my alternative training which allowed me to stay injury free without long, slow distance running? Was it the strength training and mobility work? Or was it my attitude and belief?
To be honest I don't think any one of those things did it. I do think ALL those things together did. Don't be fooled. I still feel that I have lots of work to do, but I think all those things had to happen simultaneously in order for it to work for my body and for me to have the success that I did. Had I done most of those things but left one out I can't be sure I would have been able to cross that finish line. Each one of those parts (strength, mobility, form, and belief) is crucial to run naturally. And lets face it. Our bodies are not meant to sit in an office chair all day (like I used to do) or type vigorously on a computer about random shit on our blogs like I am now. Our bodies were built for movement and when we don't move we atrophy. Yeah. That's right. We get all fucked up.
So in addition to building my strength and increasing my flexibility I think its important to reset my body every once in a while by stripping off the shoes and running completely barefoot because really, our bodies by nature aren't meant to wear shoes either. Not only does this stimulate my nerves, correct my bad running habits and connect me with the earth, but it resets my mojo as well. And isn't the mojo what makes it all worth it?
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