Miracle Mile of the Century

Amid the sultry sticky gloom, I stroll through derelict East Village of Vancouver, British Columbia. (Forgive the florid prose, it won’t last.) Soon, I stumble across a bronze statue of two barefoot runners. Oh, wait! They aren’t barefoot. They have cleats attached to the thin fabric encasing their feet.

What on earth are these lanky runners doing on this side of town? Turquoise blotches surround the graceful serif lettering on the plaque. As I read the inscription, the mysterious pieces neatly snap into place. I am standing on hallowed ground; this is where thousands of fans cheered as they witnessed an epic race between two of the fastest men on the planet. It is one of the “Six Most Dramatic Events in Sports History“.

Who are these runners?
Roger Bannister & John Landy

Roger Bannister breaks the 4 Minute Mile!
Roger Bannister breaks the 4 Minute Mile!

Anyone who listens to Anthony Robbins, Marshall Sylver, or any other motivational speaker is familiar with Roger Bannister. At age 25, Bannister accomplished an impossible athletic feat. On May 6th, 1954, he became the first human being to run a mile in less than four minutes. He achieved his record breaking time of 3 minutes 59.4 seconds at the Iffley Road track in Oxford. Sports enthusiasts refer to his remarkable accomplishment as the “miracle mile“.

Anyone who listens to Anthony Robbins, Marshall Sylver, or any other motivational speaker will be entirely ignorant of John Landy. Probably because Landy fell between the cracks of history.  A few weeks after Bannister set the record for the fastest human mile, John Landy, smashed it with a time of 3 minutes 57.9 seconds in Turku, Finland.

This set the stage for the ‘mile of the century‘ at the Empire Games in Vancouver.

John Landy beat Bannister's sub four minute mile. The stage is set for the dual of the century.
John Landy beat Bannister’s sub four minute mile. The stage is set for the dual of the century.
Both men had conflicting running styles and training philosophies. Roger Bannister was known for his phenomenal ability as a “kicker”. His talent for hotfooting on the last lap was legendary. His final lap was always faster than the previous three, it was this strategy that allowed him to zoom past the four minute barrier. Bannister’s training system was to workout lightly and stay fresh. In fact, his breakthrough for the sub-four-minute-mile was discovering that rest periods were the key to faster times. His rest days gave him time to reflect on meaning of running: “[Running] gives a man or woman the chance to bring out power that might otherwise remain locked away inside. …The more restricted our society and work become, the more necessary it will be to find some outlet for this craving for freedom.”

Landy’s approach to running was poles apart, he was a front runner and he trained hard, never letting up. His tactics for racing were also different. Landy liked to build unbeatable leads by smoking the competition from the beginning of the race. He said, “The mile has a classic symmetry. It’s a play in four acts.” It was a boring play because Landy’s acts were all the same. Being a front runner made sense to Landy, “I just like to run fast.” He also wrote, “We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves. It also does us good because it helps us to do other things better. It gives a man or woman the chance to bring out power that might otherwise remain locked away inside. The urge to struggle lies latent in everyone.”

Which mortal would achieve glory and victory at the Empire Games, Landy or Bannister?

Watch the Miracle Mile on YouTube.

Mile of the Century. John Landy versus Roger Bannister Race in Canada.
Mile of the Century. John Landy versus Roger Bannister Race in Canada.

In the early part of the race, Landy took the lead. Bannister hung way back in third place. He planned to run easily through the third lap, but became nervous when Landy shot so far ahead. Bannister stepped up his pace after the second lap. This was not his typical style, he preferred to run hard on the last lap, not the last two laps.  “With great poise, he spread his effort evenly over the entire third lap. In the middle of the backstretch he had cut Landy’s frightening lead in half.” When the bell rang to mark the last lap, Landy was clearly head of the pack, with Bannister chasing close. In front and on his way to proving that he was faster than Bannister, Landy made a colossal mistake. He turned his head to check on Bannister. That fraction of second was enough for Bannister to use his powerful “kick.” He beat Landy by a shoulder and won the race in 3:58.8, against Landy’s 3:59.6.

I look again at the statue on the delinquent side of town. It commemorates the moment Bannister passed Landy. I stare at John Landy. He is forever looking over the wrong shoulder as Bannister rushes past him. He’s frozen in bronze in second place forever. The statue irks me. The Vancouver Games were Landy’s to lose. And that’s exactly what he did. Landy lost because he was running against Bannister instead of running against himself.

Let’s face it, John Landy ran the mile faster than Bannister ever could. Bannister’s best mile, the one he ran against Landy at the Empire Games, was 3 minutes 58.8 seconds. Landy’s best mile was 3 minutes 57.9 seconds. So even though, Landy wasn’t the first human to run a sub-four-minute-mile and even though he lost the mile of the century, he was still faster than Bannister.

It’s tragic, Bannister retired after his victory ending his running career on the highest of notes, while Landy raced on and continued to lose race after race. Eventually, Landy burnt out and injured his Achilles tendon. His running career fizzled out.

After gazing at the statue, I search for the track. As I step toward the field, I see weeds jumping up around the cyclone fences, I wretch from the stink of rotting fish guts. The busy street buzzes with traffic. I wince when I hear the loud shout of a semi-truck’s air-horn blaring at a rusty Toyota. The once glorious track is dilapidated and barely recognizable. It’s fenced off in chain links. It reminds me of a prison yard. Like the rest of city, it decays. The track markers and rings are wiped out. The event center is filled with carnival rides. It is a forlorn amusement park. Looking at the place now, it’s hard to believe that it was here that two of the world’s fastest men ran the “Mile of the Century.”

Dilapidated track where the two of the fastest runners of the time competed in “Mile of the Century”

The current fastest mile record is held by Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj, who ran a time of 3 minutes 43.13 seconds in Rome, Italy, on 7 July 1999.

5 Mistakes Barefoot Runners Make

  1. English: Illustration of the pain pathway in R...
    English: Illustration of the pain pathway in René Descartes’ Traite de l’homme (Treatise of Man) 1664. The long fiber running from the foot to the cavity in the head is pulled by the heat and releases a fluid that makes the muscles contract. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Running on the Tips of the Toes
    Tippy Toe running will chew up your calves and achilles; it will also hammer agonizing spikes of torment into your sensitive metatarsals. (As the illustration shows, it may also activate the long fiber running from the foot to the cavity in the head to release a fluid that makes the muscles contract. It may also disrupt one of the four humors, thereby requiring bloodletting to restore balance). So, don’t run on your toes. Your heel should touch the ground, but it shouldn’t be the first part to strike the ground.

  2. Too Much Too Soon (TMTS)
    This doesn’t only apply to those who scamper the streets without shoes. It applies to everyone who races on foot. If pain darts through your lower leg, then you’re rushing your training. This is the most frustrating aspect of barefoot running. It’s taken me a few years to develop enough foot strength to run reasonable distances. Even a mile barefoot walk can give some people issues. It takes time, but your body will adapt. Persistence, not distance is the key. BTW, I cross train with Pilates and I do High Intensity Interval Workouts on my non run days. When I was injured, I still exercised I was even able to adapt some of the cardio HICT moves.
  3. Running Straight Barefoot without Sandals or “Barefoot Shoes”
    There is nothing wrong with wearing sandals or truly minimalist shoes, such as Merrill foot gloves. I do most of my running in sandals, not only because the streets in my neighborhood are brimming with tiny stone spikes (pain pyramids), but also because I enjoy the jaunty style. Let’s face it, even the Tarahumara Indians run in sandals. Most runners do not expose their naked feet to the scraggy pavement. If you live in California or some other place that offers sunshine and smooth streets, you may ignore the previous sentence, but if, like me, you live in Oregon or a place with rough streets,  heed my warning. I do enjoy running completely barefoot now and again, but most of the time, I gallop about in sandals.
  4. Monotonous, Plodding Gait 
    The main benefit from barefoot running is the ability to connect with the planet as it spins around the sun. But that doesn’t mean that you should copy your stride over and over again, every step of the way. It is important to change pace and gait occasionally, especially on longer runs. Sometimes, I run like a gazelle, skipping my body along the dirt trail, other times I run like a cross country skier, gliding myself over the long asphalt road. I often do interval sprints from power line to power line; other times I just jog at slow to go pace. I have even been known to twirl myself like flamenco dancer; now and then, I even begin or end my runs with a flashy cartwheel.
  5. Giving Up Too Soon
    Because it takes some time to develop foot strength, many runners give barefoot running a try for a month or two. Usually, they end up getting top of foot pain, achilles pain, calf injury, or shin splints. That’s when they give up and write articles such as “Dangers of Barefoot Running”. While you should not run through real pain, barefoot running does hurt a little. Progress doesn’t happen in the “comfort zone.” Getting past the initial aches is part of the fun. Think of the discomfort as friendly college hazing from the barefoot running gods. Like all gods, they require sacrifice. The oblation of pain, is a small price for many joyful secrets the gods will share with you.
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Are You Damaging Your Knees, Hips, & Spine?

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Improve Healthy Running & Walking Bio-Mechanics

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The Secret’s Out: Amazon’s Ultimate Killer Barefoot Athletic Gear & Super Nutrition Online Store in the Works

Girl shopping without shoes.
Enjoying the freedom of shopping without shoes.

Doesn’t it feel great to be active and eat healthy? Isn’t it awesome to live in a time where it’s easy to own pretty much anything you want with the click of a mouse?

Most people don’t know that Amazon also offers an array of healthy groceries and nutritional aids for the barefoot athlete.

I love Amazon! So, I’ve joined forces with them to create Amazon’s Ultimate Killer Barefoot Athletic Gear & Nutrition Online Store–a store that offers the very best Amazon’s vast inventory of knowledge and products and the very worst in titles for an online store. But I need your help. I need to find the BEST Amazon has to offer to the barefoot athlete.

Help me out, find some of your favorite barefoot Gear at Amazon. Post the items in the comment box so I can add them to the Ultimate Killer Barefoot Runner’s Life Amazon Super Store, which is also known as Amazon’s Ultimate Killer Barefoot Athletic Gear & Super Nutrition Online Store.

Visit Amazon Right Now

http://www.amazon.com

Save your Sole, Shop Bare!

 

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The 3 Miracles of Barefoot Running

Save Your Sole Run Barefoot
Save your Sole Run Barefoot

It’s been over a year since I tossed my Nike’s in the trash. Since then I have been running either in thin Tarhumara sandals or straight barefoot.

Last summer was a disaster. I didn’t run much because I battled lower leg injuries: Achilles tendinitis, a torn calf, and wicked bruises on the ball of my foot. All of the injuries resulted from over striding and doing too much too soon.

Now that I have overcome the difficulties I am having the summer I was hoping to have last summer. I’m back up to my previous mileage. And I’m loving my runs.

Here are three miraculous benefits I enjoy from running without shoes:

  1. No blisters.
    I have run 9 miles in the heat without ANY blisters on my feet. I challenge any shod runner to five miles without blisters. I am astonished after each run. On occasion I will get a tiny blister on my toe or near the ball of my foot, but they’re nothing like the heel blisters I used to get in shoes.
  2. No lower back pain.
    I took a break from running because my lower back was killing me. After each run, it would ache for days. Barefoot running has eliminated the pain. For my longer runs, I may feel a slight twinge of pain during the run, but it vanishes hours later. Barefoot running automatically improves posture while leading to lower impact forces. The bouncy cushioning of shoes blinds the foot from the terrain. As a result, the runner tends to either heel strike or hit the ground harder than he or she would in bare feet.  If you want to see a fluid PERFECT barefoot stride, watch any barefoot toddler run this summer. Barefoot children run with excellent form. And they DO NOT heel strike on the concrete or the lawn.
  3. Super Spiked Runner’s High.
    Maybe it’s childlike stride or perhaps it’s the steady pounding rhythm of my feet that releases the delicious sensation of flight, the wild insights, and the glorious communion the sexy universe. She kisses my arms face and neck with her cool breezes, she fills my eager lungs with the fresh essence of air and the scent of wet cedars; she delights me with the squish of soft earth, twisting a gentle tickle through my toes. Three miles completely barefoot in the woods is almost like smoking a joint–not that I would know what smoking a joint feels like 😉
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Covert Hippie Praises Sandals

Hirschvogel Sandals
Image via Wikipedia

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that Mr. Valen Longfeather is making some major life changes. But, at heart, I’m still a fun loving hippie. In my latest YouTube Video, I kick, yet again, the horse of barefoot shoes–you see I still mix metaphors. You may wonder if I kick the horse with a straight bare foot or with a fancy sandal wearing foot or  with some other stylish minimalist shoe wearing foot. The truth is that sometimes I kick it straight bare other times I kick it wearing classy sandals.

You are probably thinking that I am ramblings; you are probably right. Just watch the video. It is slightly more focused. It will take more than short hair, organization, goals, and better hygiene to tame this wild beast.

Thanks for watching, thanks for reading. May you be healthy, may you be happy, may you live with ease.

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5 Holiday Gifts for Barefoot Athletes

Holidays 2011
Image by Christopher S. Penn via Flickr

What do you buy for the barefoot hippie , health nut, or super athlete in the family? If they’re anything like me, they’re as persnickety as cats when it comes to holiday gifts. So, here are 5 surefire, easy gift ideas for a joyous holiday season.  The athlete in your circle of friends or family will thank you, without the insincere, patronizing grin that they’ll probably lay on everyone else.

  1. Amazon Gift Card
    This is the ultimate no-brainer present. You can’t possibly go wrong because the person can pick whatever he or she wants. Amazon sells an array of products for bare footers, swimmers, and athletes: chia seeds, blenders, agave nectar, portable gps devices, and even books! Gift Cards also add an extra element of surprise. If the odd duck in your family is anything like me, he or she will enjoy the USPS anticipation. It’s one of the secret joys buying online. The USPS also seems to ship a little faster this time of year.
  2. Invisible Shoes
    These sandals are excellent “barefoot shoes”. Steven Sashen has upgraded the traditional Tarahurma Sandal without detracting from its brilliance. The Invisible running Shoes come in several different styles. There are bare bones kits and assembled sets. The barefoot running sandals are perfect for the DIY runner. The shoeless shoes will automatically conform to your foot; their thin soles and “feel true” technology really do give you all of the barefoot feel without destroying your sole.
  3. A Good Juicer
    Another essential product for anyone who wants to live healthy. Although juicing mostly separates the sugars and other nutrients from the fiber, it allows you to create and combine nutrient dense compounds which will give you the edge with turbo boost super all natural energy drinks. You can eat the yummy pulp or use it in other secret health concoctions.
  4. The Big Ass Book of Endurance Training
    This will make the family health-nut stoked. It gives you the low down on all things endurance. There is even a chapter about minimalist/Pose Style running. The premise of the book is solid and sensible: You have to be fine and fit for endurance sports. Step by step, the book teaches you this essential knowledge. Along with tips for proper diet and detailed exercise programs, this book will give you secrets to getting into, measuring, and staying in the best shape of your life. You’ll amaze yourself and your friends with your new found stamina and vigor.
  5. Water Bottles & Hydration & Food Pack Accessories
    Good water bottles, hydration packs, and holders are the kinds of things that most runners don’t often buy for themselves. They’re great for those longer runs.
  6. Runner’s Race Medal Hanger
    This is something every runner doesn’t know he or she wants. And it’s definitely something they won’t usually buy for themselves. Having a place to hang marathon medals will give your runner pride in the accomplishments of the past and motivation for the races in the future. My wife bought me one for my birthday; I use it more than my water bottles. It also it’s a lot nicer than draping your hard earned medals on a rusty nail pounded deep into your sheet-rock.
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How to Start Running in Free Shoes

Nike Air Max LTD 2
Image via Wikipedia

Candy wants to get fit fast. She asks herself : “How do I start running without getting hurt?”
Her brain’s response: “Go shoe shopping!”

At the shoe store, Candy sees and army of brands: asics, new balance, Nike, saucany, not to mention these funny looking “barefoot shoes”.

She decides to go home to do some research. Wow! Amazon sells  them online. Then the question hits: “What size am I again?”. Last time she took up running she was 9.5 in Nike, but the time before that she was 10 in Asics. She saw one barefoot shoe site that had videos about how to make a template of her foot for to a custom pair.  But it was too much trouble.

A pair of ASICS running shoes, model GEL-Kinsei
Image via Wikipedia

Unfortunately for most of the Candys out there, high priced or custom fit running shoe won’t do the running for them. In fact, Candy’s foot might not fit  into the factory made, mass produced pair of running shoes. Sports shoes are a joke; they’re full of gimmicks such as asics “gel” even the toe glove for five fingers or the special cushioning of saucony. Candy might be better off trail running  in a plain pair of tennis shoes like the low top converse all stars than the high tech brands she saw online or at the running store. Almost any pair of walking shoes that fit her feet would serve well for running.

Candy needs to know that it’s not the shoes; it’s the runner. Athletic shoes and sport shoes can’t trail run for her. The running store wants her to think they will. They want her to believe that the shoes will magically fix all her bad bio-mechanics that they’ll make her faster, leaner, and lighter. But they won’t. The best shoes in life are free.

Don’t get me wrong, shoes are good tools for improving form. They can compensate for bad bio mechanics and keep Candy running by alleviating the strain on her foot, but they don’t solve her core issues with running.

So, I give to Candy a pair of free shoes and a few free resources  about how to start running without shoes:

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Haunted Shoes: The Harm of Over-Pronation

Pronation and below, supination (19DYp12)
Image by sportEX magazines via Flickr

Did you know that:  “Gait is the single most complex motor function of the human body?”

It involves half of the body’s 650 muscles and 200 bones, along with a large share of the joints and ligaments. (Dr. Rossi)

As many of you know I suffered from serious barefoot running injuries when I started running without shoes. I partially ruptured both Achilles tendons, I severely ripped my calf muscle, and I suffered a little top of foot pain.

After some recovery and conscious effort, I have FINALLY DISCOVERED the SOURCE of my Lower Leg Barefoot Running Injuries. In addition to “going to far too fast” a major cause was OVER-pronation.

Yes, I know some pronation is natural and good, but OVER pronation is NOT. It can damage your lower leg.

Here is text-book Runner’s World Explanation of Over-Pronation and the by the book, orthotic fix for it:

The problem I had was the bad habit of walking and running wrong. My shoes had allowed me to walk with klonky unhealthy steps and strides. They allowed me to over-pronate with impunity. However, when I took off my shoes, my body let me know right away that something was wrong.

By trail and error, I discovered the secret to my particular problem. It was to straighten my feet. I tended to angle my feet outward, this put a lot of stress on torn calf. In fact, I can tell right away if I’m falling back into the old stride because my calf will bark at me if let my foot angle out.

This video about Chi running has some practical advice about how to correct over-pronation with better form, rather than with orthotics.

Danny Dreyer describes Chi running form and the use of shoes, but I applied his suggestion to my barefoot form and they have helped tremendously. Pointing my feet straight forward rather than angling them has eased a lot of stress to lower leg. It takes conscious effort, but it’s worth it. In a few days, I will post a video of about this and show some of the other tricks I learned about proper barefoot running form.

The problem with shoes is that simply cover-up the dangers of bad form. It’s like bailing water from a leaky boat instead of fixing the leak. Orthotics will make you bail until the boat finally sinks; going barefoot will put you in a shiny new yacht.