Streaming thoughts on a Mile Run

I wake up late.  Not too late, just later than I want.  This is an opportunity.  I want to run.  I didn’t run for a couple of days, so I’ll kick myself later if I don’t run today.  Carpe diem!   Can’t do my normal 3 or 4 mile run.  Not today. There’s not enough time.

I’m going to run a mile as fast as I can.  Gotta go for speed once in a while, just to switch things up. There’s time for a mile, and it’s a bona fide run if I do it fast. I’m going to do it barefoot.  Good practice and I’m curious to see if I will get any blisters running fast barefoot.  Out of bed now. Brush my teeth. Open the Strava app on the phone.  Run in place and hyperventilate a little bit to get my legs and lungs ready.

Burst out of the house and down the concrete path.  Gonna run past the lake and up the hill for half a mile, then pivot right back.  Speed run.  Quick pace, longer strides, on the balls of my feet.  Perfect weather.  Just rained. A little chilly, still wet.  Past the lake now.  Quarter mile in. Feeling good.  My pace is 5:22/mile!  I’m going to set a PR!

IMG_20160411_062201.jpgBut what’s this? My lungs and legs are slowing down a bit down for some reason.  Shit.  Now just going a little faster than my medium run pace.  I’m already out of steam?  Aaaargh!  Keep going.  Quicken pace.  It’s only a mile.  Balls to the wall. Stay tall. Up the hill.  Not too steep.  Hate this hill, wish I were on a long run so I could take it easy. I love long runs. No! Focus. Keep the speed up.  Top of the hill. Half mile now, turn around.  Yea- downhill! Take advantage. Go faster! Pick it up. Pace: 6:55/mile. Not going to be a PR.

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Almost at the lake again.  There’s a person walking their dog in front of me.  I’ll go on the other side of the lake to finish.  Don’t want to slow down. For some reason I don’t run as fast when I’m running towards people. Don’t know why.  Get self conscious?  Oh well, doesn’t matter. Dirt path on this side, cool and soft today. Nicer than usual.  So glad it rained.  Usually this path’s uncomfortable. Good practice though.

Time so far: 6:30.  New goal: Gotta finish by 6:50.  Pick it up!  Balls of the feet!  Move those arms quicker!

6:45.  C’mon.
6:46.  Almost there. C’mon.
6:47.  Any second now.
6:48.  C’mon mother fu-
6:49.  Mile!

Slowing.
down.
to. a. walk…

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Accomplished, energized and spent all at once. Time could be better, could be worse, but ran pretty hard, and I’m proud of that.

Glad I did it. I remember why I don’t do this more often, but really need to.

Next time I’ll just wake up earlier.

 

-Andrew
The Running Llama

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Barefoot Running: Here’s What to Know

Here’s what you need to know: Real barefoot running is fun.

And by “real barefoot” I mean no footwear whatsoever, and by “fun” I mean fun.

There’s nothing wrong with footwear in itself.  There are times when you will want to wear shoes, like job interviews, or visits to your local obsidian mine.  There are times when you’ll want to wear mittens, too, like building snowmen armies.  But that doesn’t mean you’ll want to wear mittens all the time.  Think of how much stronger and more dexterous your hands are because they’re not stuffed into mittens all day, every day.  The same is true with your feet, which like the rest of our bodies, simply perform better when they have freedom to expand and move about.

To me, modern running shoes are like slick corporate yes-men.  They showed up one day and promised you a safer, smoother, faster ride, as if you are driving a car instead of your own two feet.  And while modern running shoes are busy fixing problems that you probably never really had, they are also inadvertently masking the problems that you do have.  They’ll tinker with your pronation while enabling you to hammer your heels on the ground.  A 34 mm midsole is no substitute for good running form, just like a 4-wheel drive is no substitute for safe driving habits.

Your bare feet, on the other hand, are like your brutally honest life-long friends.  They’re the ones that really support you, but they’ll point out your real flaws.  If you are over-striding, you’ll get blisters on the bottom of your toes.  If you are heel-striking, you’ll stop because it hurts.

Now, I wish I could point you to studies which definitively show that kicking off your shoes will magically cure your crippling joint problems, but I can’t… so don’t toss away your Bengay yet.  On the other hand, there are no studies showing that you’ll cheat injury by burrowing your feet in a pair of $150 marshmallows either.  No, it just comes down to anecdotes and your own personal beliefs on the matter.

So I say this: If you haven’t tried running barefoot yet, kick off your shoes and try it.  It’s immensely freeing.  And don’t kinda-sorta try it by only running on lush grass or sandy beaches.  Those are lovely surfaces to be sure, but they won’t teach you a thing about your running form; they’re just as forgiving as your running shoes.  Besides, the sooner you realize you can run safely on hard surfaces without wearing shoes, the better.

So if you really want to give barefoot the old college go, then do it on concrete- it’s the safest and most instructive surface you can find.  For one, you’ll see any debris in your way.  For another, you’ll get feedback like blisters and muscle soreness if your form is bad, and this feedback is what makes it possible to teach yourself how to run lighter and easier.

So HOW do you run barefoot?  There is a wealth of great advice out there, from Steven Sashen to Ken Bob Saxton to Barefoot Josh, but ultimately you are your own best coach.  Trust what resonates with you, what feels right.  Most importantly, do what feels fun.  Having said that, here is my own mix tape of mental cues that may work for you:

  • Stand tall, as if someone is lifting you up from underneath your arms.  Keep your head up, like it’s being pulled up by a string.
  • Relax.  
  • Let your core pull you forward.  
  • Keep your knees bent.  Your ankles should be behind your knees when your feet touch the ground.  Imagine your feet touching the ground underneath you, almost to the point of feeling slightly behind you.
  • Lift one foot up before the other comes down.  Focus on “picking your feet up” instead of “putting your feet down.”
  • Finally…. have fun.  Cultivate your curiosity and patience;  they’ll be your most useful tools.  You’ll probably feel a sense of freedom and exhilaration the first time you try running barefoot.  Just make sure to give yourself permission to do much less than you normally would at first, because chances are you’ll notice blisters on your feet and calves that feel like granite.  Leave the self-imposed pressure behind.  Don’t worry about speed, distance, or instant mastery of barefoot technique.  It will come with time.

I hope this helps.  I will forever be a student, so regardless of your experience level, tell me what works for you, and happy trails, my friends.

-Andrew

The Running Llama

 

 

 

 

A Walkabout Mindset

In the Outback, young Aboriginal Australians will trek out into the wilderness on a walkabout,* a deeply spiritual journey into manhood.  Typically, they do this before the age of 16, and are out in the wilderness for sometimes up to half a year.

My walkabouts, on the other hand, last about 2 hours.

Ok, ok… I use the term walkabout very loosely here.  I’m not going on a transitional journey into manhood (that took years and I call it high school).  I’m not living out in the wilderness, and I make damn sure I get home by lunch.  What I’m really talking about are my long runs.

Yes, I view my long runs as snack-sized walkabouts. Aboriginal Australians would probably laugh at my comparison, and I’d laugh with them, but frankly I’m not prepared to go on a multi-month journey into the wilderness at this point.  So I try to capture some of the same spiritual benefits of a walkabout in small bites, whenever I can.

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So here are a few guidelines for having a “walkabout mindset” on your long runs:

  • Be curious. Explore, notice something you’ve never noticed before.
  • Loosen your grip on goals, like trying to maintain a certain pace or cover a certain distance.  Let it go…
  • Celebrate the earth beneath your feet and the sky over your head.  Regardless of the weather, what’s in front of you is beautiful in it’s own way.
  • Leave the music at home.  If your mind wants to hear a particular song, it’ll pop into your head naturally.  Otherwise, enjoy the layers of sounds around you.

A walkabout mindset can lead you to gorgeous little neighborhood ravines you never knew existed.

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And if you’re just not as good a ravine-jumper as you thought, you might go wading…

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Then you might lope through a field or two, if you can get away with it…

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The walkabout mindset will connect you to the larger life happening around you.  Appreciate the presence of a universe bigger than yourself; allow the world to be as it is and you to be as you are.  It’s OK. Having a walkabout mindset is a window to freedom. Open it up whenever you want, and enjoy the fresh air.

Happy trails, friends.

-The Running Llama

 

 

*if you are easily offended on behalf of other people’s cultures, just pretend I said “temporal mobility”.

Why Running Llama?

Why Running Llama?

I’ll tell you why.

Because I like llamas.

You see, my family and I had gone to Durango, Colorado for my daughter’s first horseback ride about two years ago, and that’s when I saw him:* a tall, shaggy llama towering before me, and our eyes met.  He wasn’t awe-inspiring or majestic. He looked neither threatened nor threatening. He just looked…. content.  He seemed simply sure of himself and satisfied with his life, and it was beautiful.

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This is a llama.  No, not just a llama — THE llama.

Now I admit I like llamas, but I don’t actually know that much about them.  But this site isn’t really about llamas. No, this is a pursuit of some simple truths.  It’s a search for learning to trust my own instincts.  I’m going to cook a stew of fitness, spirituality, and daily living, and whatever other spices I want to toss in from time to time, all based in a practical minimalism that anyone can achieve. The base is contentment: working joyously with what we have, not pining for what we don’t. Like the llama, we always have what we need to live a dignified, happy life. Sometimes, we just need to change the way we look at it…

So I hope you enjoy.  Please share your thoughts.  Together, let’s learn what we can while we’re here and leave the world a little better than how it found us.

Warm Regards,

Andrew

the Running Llama

*or her − I didn’t get a good look at the evidence.