Tag Archives: Science

Books I recommend

Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall
Chris McDougall really did a phenomenal job of combining the history and unique lifeview of the Tarahumara indians, the experience of ultrarunning, the conspiracy of the multi-billion dollar running shoe industry, his personal experience fixing injuries with barefoot running, ultrarunning characters like Ann Trason, Scott Jurek, Barefoot Ted, Luis Escobar, the crazy antics of Jenn Shelton and Billy Burnett, all cumulating in “the greatest race the world has never seen”. Chris is a total pro, and each chapter is packed full of facts, quotes, and antics that will get you laughing, thinking, and inspired to run. I think it’s one of the best running books I have ever read.

Ultra Marathon Man, by Dean Karnazes
Dean Karnazes, the writer and subject of Ultramarathon Man, is a wild man. He describes in great detail several of his ultramarathon feats including his first Western States 100, a failed Badwater Ultramarathon, the first marathon at the South Pole (and one of two people to run around the world naked – try to figure that out), and the first solo effort of The Relay (199 mile relay race from Calistoga to Santa Cruz). In the middle of the running stories and descriptions of his feet, his digestive challenges, his food intake (if you burn 600 calories an hour and you run for 48 hours, how do you manage to choke down 29,000 calories just to stay even?), he takes a crack at talking about how he does it, why he does it, what he eats, and whether or not he is sane. His philosophy is good, the running stories are awesome, and the motivational lift is huge.

50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days
Are you a runner who wants to run more, run faster, run better or even to simply start running, and need a little bit of motivation, there is one book by one man that you want to read. Ultramarathoner Dean Karnazes’ 50/50-Secrets I Learned Running 50 marathons in 50 Days-and How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance! book, with the help of Matt Fitzgerald delivers Karnazes’ journey of running 50 different marathons in all 50 states, in 50 consecutive days. Beyond telling of his story of this incredible feat, he writes tips on how you can recover more quickly, how to adapt to extreme conditions, how to prevent muscle cramps and overheating, how to pace yourself, and most importantly, how to stay motivated.

They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky, by Benson Deng, Alephonsion Deng, and Benjamin Ajak
This book is a first person account of the effects the continuing civil war in the Sudan has had on three young Lost Boys. Benson Deng, his brother Alephonsion Deng, and their cousin Benjamin Ajak all were between four to six years old when war exploded in their small world in the African Sudan. From that moment on until they were near their twenties, they lived in fear of the soldiers who killed and tortured their countrymen – and of their own people of different tribes who bullied and beat them. They lived on subsistence rations – if there were any at all. Many times there was nothing to eat or drink. Moved from refugee camp to refugee camp, they lost each other only to reunite somewhere else. For weeks and months these children ran naked, fearing soldiers, lions, hyenas, famine, diseases, and the brutality of war.

Yoga Beyond Belief, by Ganga White
Yoga is not spiritual hooha; there is a scientific element to the healing it provides alongside the spiritual. Yoga Beyond Belief is a guide for Yoga users to enhance their experiences with their meditations and rituals. Although aimed at those with some experience, it is simple enough for novices to read and learn the art.

Training strategy

Some runners may mistakenly believe they can simply scale up a marathon training program but this is not the best way to devise a training strategy. Instead the athlete should plan on increasing his weekly mileage as much as possible without making himself susceptible to overuse injuries.

Most people would assume that the normal progression would be 5K’s, 10K’s, 10 milers, marathons, and then a 50 miler. I think that is appropriate in most cases. However, I don’t think you necessarily have to run a marathon before you run an ultra. In fact, most runners won’t attempt an ultra after having finished a marathon or two. The thought of going almost twice as far, hurting twice as much, and training twice as hard, is just an unbearable thought.

You don’t hurt twice as much. In fact, ultras are easier than marathons. Marathons are much more intense and most people run the entire distance. In ultras, only the very elite are able to run 50 miles non-stop. Some elite runners (who run all the way) are beaten by other runners who mix in walking with their running.

Additionally the runner should also carefully evaluate the terrain and profile of the course and should be sure to incorporate similar hills and running surfaces into the training to ensure he is prepared for the race. Ultra marathons can usually keep high intensity speed workouts to a minimum during the training process because these workouts are not likely to be beneficial during the ultra marathon.

The key to success is time on your feet. You need to adapt to spending long periods of time on your feet and moving forward. Longer runs (>4 hrs.) can be broken up with walking breaks. In fact, learning to walk and then run again is a key to success in ultra-marathons.

New research shows that pacing in running races is controlled primarily by the subconscious brain. Throughout each race, your brain calculates the fastest pace you can sustain without endangering your life and uses feelings of fatigue and reduced electrical output to your muscles to ensure that you run no faster. The more experience you have as a runner, the more reliable these calculations become.

“Stopping briefly for walk breaks in both training and racing is the key to being able to move forward at all times,” says Buffalo Chips ultrarunner Becky Johnson, who finished her first 50-miler in 2003.

Another thing I do, this one without any scientific basis but just my intuition, is to sing. I think music is the best pacer you can have and when singing out loud while running and walking I exercise my breathing better, expand my aerobic capacity.

A 30 mile run is by no means easy no matter how you look at it. Even if you walk most of it, it is still a really long walk. You can’t control what happens after 20 miles or so. That is when most of the pain and suffering happens. It takes a lot of discipline and determination to finish the last part.

You can, however, control the pace of the first 20 miles to make the last 10 much easier. The most important is to resist the urge to start faster than the ideal pace. Now I make sure I keep a speed during the first 20 miles that is very comfortable and at points even feels really easy, because I know that if I push it hard in the beginning it will feel like hell at the end. I also make sure I keep drinking fluids and eat small portions along the entire way.

Benefits of running barefoot

In terms of pure physics you can measure the barefoot benefit by less weight and drag. Typical running shoe can weigh anywhere between 10 and 16 ounces. Take off the weight and you remove a bit of resistance. Assuming that you take 1,800 steps per mile (that’s roughly 3 feet covered in each stride length), you can expect to move a 10 to 16 ounce shoe about 47,000 times during a full marathon. Granted this can fluctuate depending on the runner, however you can expect well over 30,000 strides for just about anyone who runs a marathon. With a bit of simple math it’s easy to see how taking off 10 to 16 ounces of weight can add up.

For most runners though it seems that the primary motivation for trying barefoot running stems from a history of chronic running related injury. In a quest to run injury free runners are willing to try just about anything. Some turn to yoga. Others see sports therapists and/or chiropractors on a frequent basis. The majority of runners with injury turn to top of the line running equipment that’s coined as being the cure-all for maintaining a healthy running lifestyle. Our options include Custom orthotics, stability control shoes with massive heel and arch support, and the list goes on.

It’s not an entirely one-sided story though. I have noticed that my feet and calves get very sore. After my first 2 mile run barefoot my calves felt like they typically would do after a 10 mile run in shoes. I also occasionally felt a burning sensation in my left heel. Those problems disappeared after a few weeks of training.

Despite the unique soreness in my feet and calves I viewed it as a positive experience. The soreness told me that I was making them stronger and building them back to a natural state of incredible strength and dexterity.

See also:

Barefoot running
Are running shoes a waste of money?