Thursday, November 3, 2011

Interesting NY Times Christopher McDougall Article on the Running Industry

Say what you want about Born to Run, whether you consider it gospel or great storytelling "based on a true story", it has put running and more specifically minimalist running right on the map.  Dead center.  A lot of that attention can be attributed to the success of the book, but much of the engine behind the movement lies in outreach, case study research, and general discussion of the topics.  So when I came across this article yesterday, I was interested to see what else McDougall had to say.

While I'm not necessarily the biggest fan of the title of the story, "The Once and Future Way to Run", I think he once again tells a great story and sheds some more interesting light on the industry.  The story is long, but I strongly recommend reading it, as it hits on multiple angles - both the industry and running form.  I'll address each one below.

On industry, we have no specific way to validate all the facts as they are laid out, but it is one heck of a story.  Whether it is the anecdotes of Dr. Mark Cucuzzella being scoffed at, at the Boston Marathon by big shoe industry leaders for praising the benefits of natural running style, or the idea that a single study done in the 80s by Benno Nigg contributed to the mass development of built up, motion control shoes as a means of "fixing" our natural gait (despite Nigg much later stating that he believed that thought process was a mistake), or of the lack of a honest shoe review in magazines such as Runner's World due to a grading system that essentially gives everyone an "A" - he covers a lot of territory in a single article.  And all them are valid arguments that merit further discussion and consideration when looking at where running is headed into the future.

On running form, we go back to the basics - recounting an exercise called 100-upping that was developed in the 1800s.  As basic as it sounds, it rings true as something all of us should probably be doing today as part of our regular routines.  Practicing form and balance is something we all need to do and this exercise is certainly one way to do it.

But this is where I think the article goes a little off, IMO.  If history is any indication, there is no SINGLE solution to anything.  And despite McDougall's claims that this might just be the "smoking gun" we are all looking for, it isn't.  It is one exercise that incorporates many elements of what properly learning to run should be.  But he is definitely spot on with this:

"Learn to run gently, and you can wear anything. Fail to do so, and no shoe — or lack of shoe — will make a difference."

So what say you?  Have a read through the article and let me know what you think.


PS - there is also a good video associated with the article explaining the 100-up drills so you see exactly what it entails.

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