Saturday, April 24, 2010

Running barefoot, but not because he's being chased by someone mad at him

Today, I'd like to delve into a subculture of sorts, a section of the general population which I've always considered just a little bit, well, different.

I know scads of runners, so I'll try to tread lightly here.

In this morning's Seattle Times, the front page featured a piece about a man named Ted McDonald. Mr. McDonald is 45 and an avid runner, with the body of an eighteen-year-old. And get this: He runs in bare feet—on all types of terrain, and in all kinds of weather.

He theorizes that humans are meant to run barefoot, and that today's high-tech running shoes are actually harmful to our knees, hips and backs. His utilizes a gait of quicker, smaller steps and plants on his outer-middle foot, rather than the heel. McDonald believes that wearing heavily padded shoes is the equivalent of donning a back brace every day for added support—it's better just to build up the muscles as a natural, bodily reinforcement.

Like I stated previously, the guy is in stellar shape, so who am I to judge? He'll probably outlive me, yet I wonder how many tetanus shots he's been forced to receive after stepping on rusty nails, glass, sharp rocks, decomposing squirrels, etc.

Mr. McDonald's story reminded me of other runners I've known or seen over the years. My dad was a marathon runner, with thirteen of the 26-mile endurance races, including Boston, under his belt. He recently stopped running due to back issues, which I know was an extremely difficult decision. Long ago, the act of running with his group had transcended from merely a form of exercise into a social activity, if not solid and enduring passion.

On his refrigerator, he keeps a magnetic picture of him and two of his running friends, posing after a race. They're all wearing huge, sweaty grins on their faces, with one of the guys displaying a huge, splotchy, wet stain in the crotch area of his spandex shorts. To this day, my dad maintains that it's a sweat stain, but I've never seen anyone sweat that much "down there." I think the guy just didn't care about finding a "temporary relief facility."

And that's my point—runners are just a little bit "off." What's up with those super short, Seventies-style shorts, which expose even the thigh-level tan lines from their swim suits? Why do they have to jog in place while waiting for lights to change? Don't those snot drops bother them as they quiver on the tips of their noses? Does that guy really need to run in the snow? Does the same guy really have to take his shirt off? Well, I suppose I would if I were him, if I weren't afraid of scaring dogs and small children with my bare torso.

My sister and wife also run, but I'm pretty sure I never will. I like to ride my bike and go to the gym, and that's good enough. Runners, keep buying your fancy Nike or Asics or New Balance shoes, or just run barefoot. I really don't care.

Just share the road with us cyclists.

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