May 25, 2014 by scratchtype1
It’s taken almost 6 weeks and I think wryly I have distilled myself to nearly 197 proof. Perhaps this is what happens when love becomes relentless, you find yourself out the door every day and doing some miles. 197 of them these last 41 days, the nearly 7 of them today weren’t the finest I’ve ever had. The legs had enough heaviness to them I hardly had to watch the pressure gauge otherwise known as a heart rate monitor. It only rarely bubbled up over 136 bpm and when I hit stop on today’s boiling away of non-essentials, the legs didn’t feel beat up any.
The best brewing day was a week ago. 13.1 miles, the half-marathon distance, run very easy up until the last 2 miles when the spirit and legs nudged me to put a little more heat to the fire. I still finished the run with an average heart rate of 134 and a bit of disbelieving amazement that while running so easy, I had done it in 2:09:24. No great time for the vast majority of those who have run for many more years than me and were lucky enough to discover that they loved to run along with maybe having a greater natural gift for it than I may possess, but for me, that’s the fastest I’ve ever run that distance and obviously I expect that if I continue to run and someday line up for an actual timed race, I’ll go faster than that as I will then actually push to run to a level where it hurts towards the end.
The legs are being transformed. Along with the miles run in the months before, the 197 miles of the past 6 weeks have made the muscles more like wires. There is little slackness to them. The muscles of the feet continue to thicken as well, having been freed from the behemoths that are sold as running shoes today. I dipped into the past this last week and received a reprint of a book by Percy Cerutty, who may have been somewhat overbearing and kooky, but a profound influence upon the running world and in Australia. He was a man who in his early 40s was told by his doctor that he maybe only had 2 years left to live. So that inspired Cerutty to see if he could defy that and he turned himself into a runner and athlete and then a coach with a facility at Portsea.
The photos contained in that book are interesting. The shoes worn by the runners are thin and minimalist in design. No gigantic heels, no insoles for plush cushions. In some of the pictures, the runners are barefoot. Much of the training at Portsea was done barefoot, and some of the runners did so even on the roads Cerutty wrote for one of the captions. I look at those photos and think of what we’ve learned from the study of evolution and see something that looks fundamentally right — run barefoot or run with as little shoe as possible.
I sometimes wonder now how it was I ran in those Nikes or Brooks before. I did have those 3 desperate runs this past winter in a pair of Brooks. It felt so alien. It felt wrong. I couldn’t feel the interaction of foot and earth. Just imagine how it must have been for our early evolutionary ancestors, running barefoot, running in pursuit of the food they needed to survive, running with the soles of their foot touching the earth, while trying to track and hunt down their prey. Do you not think that this would have led to some instincts in us about running, about how it ought to feel? I tend to think so. Of course it’s also probably meant that we developed an instinct to protect our feet, and now that our we have ways of mass producing shoes, that protect the feet instinct ties in with a bit of laziness to turn most of us into shoe-wearers. Perhaps in doing so, many of us have lost a fundamental part of being human.
I thought about that some while I took a hike in Nottingham Park recently, a small county park with an area of serpentine barrens. I did some of it barefoot and some it in the Xeros when my feet got a bit overwhelmed by the amount of small stones. It’s a strange landscape there. Largely in this region, if there is no interference, deciduous forests eventually grow. But not in a serpentine barren. The rock that is exposed will have high concentrations of minerals such as nickel or chrome, making it somewhat toxic to large-growing plant life. As a result, the barrens are filled with grassland or pine trees. Walking there had an effect of making me feel almost like I had gotten high up in some mountains and was nearing the tree line, the point where trees would no longer be able to grow. All by myself, the only company I had were my thoughts and the bootprints that someone had left in the muddy areas sometime before my walk in there.
Finally, a few pictures, which took some fussing using the camera and tripod. One shot of me head-on and another shot from behind. On the from behind shot, if you zoom it in and look closely, you’ll see a moment which has never before caught of me while running — both feet in the air.