“Early humans ran very comfortably without shoes. Research has proven that the barefoot strike pattern is much less stressful.”
—Dr. Maura Isles, showing up for the “Massachusetts Marathon” in a pair of Vibram Fivefingers
From the monthly archives:
Tonight, Aug. 11, we’ll be greeted in Marcus Garvey Park and serenaded off by none other than M’Bemba, the Mali grand master drummer.
It’s going to be a toasty out there tomorrow. Water stops are going to be necessary but hit or miss, so make sure to bring a handheld, waistpack or hydration pack, like this or this. We’ll stop to refuel along the way, but with a group of 70-some (and counting) runners, everyone is going to have to look out for themselves.
What this isn’t:
A race, a tough guy contest, or a trial by fiery sidewalk (although it’s supposed to be pretty stinking hot on Wednesday).
What it is:
A fun run. That, plus a celebration that the dismal days of being afraid of running are coming to an end. Fast, light-footed running has nothing to do with gimmicky shoes, as even Nike elite coach Alberto Salazar agrees. Learn to trust the equipment you were born with, and rediscover what a blast running can be.
What it lacks:
Rules. Of any kind. Run as far as you want, as slow or fast as you feel like. Start with us at Marcus Garvey Park, catch us along the way, or set a collision course from Brooklyn and double-back when we meet. Wear whatever you like, above the ankles or below. The goal is to encourage natural running, not demand it. If you feel like wearing running shoes, be my guest. Chances are I’ll sling on something myself, maybe socks or Fivefingers, if it’s as scorching as the forecast predicts.
So why Marcus Garvey Park?
Because it’s right around the corner from the Clinton Foundation. Bill Clinton has more influence on human health now than he did as President, and it’s impossible not to applaud a guy who pulls off moves like this:
Two years ago, at Nelson Mandela’s 85th-birthday party—a 1,600-person extravaganza whose guest list included everyone from Bono to F. W. de Klerk—Clinton and Thabo Mbeki, the current president of South Africa, got up in the middle of the festivities, trailed by Magaziner. “They just . . . walked out,” recalls Richard Holbrooke, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. “And went into a private room.” They returned half an hour later. It was after that meeting that Mbeki, famously reluctant to even acknowledge that HIV caused AIDS, agreed to allow the Clinton Foundation to assist his government in preparing an AIDS-treatment plan. (It was adopted by the Cabinet the following November).
I was also struck by the answer Clinton gave recently when asked what he’d still like to accomplish before he dies. Summit Kilimanjaro, he said, see my grandkids and run a marathon. And there you have it, three of humankind’s healthiest instincts and the ones that constantly appear in tales of heroism and virtue: Live long. Climb high. And run far.
So when we set off on Wednesday afternoon, we’ll loop by Clinton headquarters to not only salute his achievements for others, but encourage him to get running and notch one for himself.
Out of the blue a couple of weeks ago, I heard from John Durant. You probably know him from the Colbert Report, or the New York Times profile of his urban-paleo adventures. We got to talking, and suddenly this is happening. I’ll update soon with more backstory and details, but for now, here’s what’s going down:
Join Christopher McDougall, author of “Born to Run,” and John Durant, founder of Barefoot Runners NYC, in an epic barefoot run from Harlem to Brooklyn. Run barefoot, near-barefoot, or fully shod but barefoot curious. Rediscover the fun of running barefoot, and tap into the natural quickness and strength buried in your soles. We’ll party in the park before and after, and every step of the way. The full run is 8 miles, but feel free to join for any part of the run — see course map for meeting points.
Chris will be giving a book talk at Word Bookstore, just near the finish, at 7:30pm. The cost is $25 (and includes the book), but there is no obligation for runners to attend.
Click for ROUTE MAP
Start: Marcus Garvey Park (NW corner at 124th and Mt. Morris Park)
Time: Run begins at 4pm. Runners will begin gathering at 3pm.
Route: Join us anywhere along the way. We’ll be entering Central Park at Malcom X and 110th. We’ll be running on East Drive all the way down through Central Park. We’ll be exiting Central Park at 60th St. and 5th Avenue. Then crossing the Queensboro Bridge to Brooklyn
Finish: American Playground, near Word Bookstore at 126 Franklin Street, Brooklyn (Franklin and Milton)
RSVP: To sign up for the run, please RSVP at Barefoot Runners NYC
Wow. In this remarkable interview , one of America’s top distance-running minds is suggesting that cushioned shoes are the cause of running injuries, not the cure. There’s no competing with Alberto Salazar’s credentials: he’s a former U.S. Olympian, a three-time New York City Marathon Champ and winner of both Boston andSouth’s Africa’s fabled 54-mile Comrades. Salazar is now head of Nike elite project, and the No. 1 problem he faces is keeping his aces healthy. Some 85% of all runners who use running shoes land on their heels, a style of running that’s impossible without cushioning, while 100% of barefoot runners land on their mid-to-forefoot. Eliminate the conditioned shoe, and you eliminate heel strike. So: should you just “run the way you run” and hope engineered shoes will compensate for sloppiness — or is natural, gentle, barefoot-style running the way to go?
In Salazar’s mind, there’s no debate at all:
There has to be one best way of running. It’s got to be like a law of physics. And if you deviate too much from that–the way I did in my career–it can be a big handicap. Dathan can’t be a heel striker and expect to run as good as the best forefoot runners. You can be efficient for a while with bad form–maybe with a low shuffle stride – but eventually that’s not good for your body. It’s going to produce tightness and muscular imbalances and structural problems. Then you get injuries, and if you’re not careful – if you don’t take care of the muscular and structural issues – the injuries can put you into a downward spiral.
For years, we’ve been told that everyone has their own, unique gait that could only be corrected by some kind of shoe. Now, Salazar is blowing that up:
You show me someone with bad form, and I’ll show you someone who’s going to have a lot of injuries and a short career.