A few months ago, I participated in a RunChat chat on Twitter - if you don't know RunChat is a twitter account that hosts chats on Sunday's and runners come together and chat about all things running - depending on the week there's specific topic. During this one week I participated in, it was all about books. Of the several screenshots I took from the chat to remember all the books, and the ones I've added to my goodreads want to read list, one book stood out to me - Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall.

Basically everything I know about running is a lie.

I feel like the runner I was before I read this book vs after I read this book are actually two different people. What I liked about this book is that it was a story of the author learning about the Hidden Tribe of super athletes - the Tarahumara - with a lot of history on running that I haven't read about before. So it was a nice balance of wow-new-running-infomation, everything-I-know-is-a-lie, and how-on-earth-will-this-story-end. So in one phrase I'd say I was having a running existential crisis.

Let's talk sneakers.

Now from the dawn of time we have been shown that if you get sneakers with X amount of support you will fly, never feel any sort of pain, will run faster due to how much support/bounce feedback and all that good stuff. And I am here to tell you that that is all a lie. Sneakers are actually the cause of most of our foot and knee injuries.

A lot of foot and knee injuries that are currently plaguing us are actually caused by people running with shoes that actually make our feet weak, cause us to over-pronate, give us knee problems. Until 1972, when modern athletic shoe was invented by Nike, people ran in very thin-soled shoes, had strong feet, and had much lower incidence of knee injuries. - Chapter 25, Born to Run

So now that we're all on the same page of having a running existential crisis, if you skimmed over that quote because wow that's a chunk of text: Your shoes are most likely causing you to be injured more than your actual running is. The book goes on to explain that the reason for this is because we've shielded our foot from their natural running bare-foot position by providing more and more support- when you try to fix something that doesn't need to be fixed, other things break (hi leg related injuries, how are you doing on this fine autumn afternoon).

The more I read the source for our injuries the more I realized my entire viewpoint of running is shaped by these mega corporations that actually aren't a magical fair god parent for my running. In fact, according to a study done in this book,  there is no evidence that running shoes help at all with injury prevention. 

on running - cloudswift sneaker on track, one foot up one down
my running children at the track, good times good times

The best shoes are actually the worst.

The way my head snapped when I read this line in the book you'd think I needed an ice pack for my neck. Let us all have a nice sit down for this running tea:

Runners wearing top-of-the-line-shoes are 123 percent more likely to get injured than runners in cheap running shoes,... Runners in shoes that cost more than $95 were more than twice as likely to get hurt as runners in shoes that cost less than $40... Wearer's of expensive running shoes that are promoted as having additional features that protect (e.g. more cushioning, 'pronation correction') are injured significantly more frequently than runners wearing inexpensive shoes (costing less than $40).- 171-172, Born to Run

So basically for over twice the price, we get over twice the amount of running related injuries. You can imagine the math I was doing in my head for my sneakers I've had since I began running all those years back. What really stumped me was that as much as the latest Nike sneaker is shown as the best in the market, it is the best in the market but not technically the best for the sport.

The more protective cushion - hi hi hi Nike Zoom I'm looking at you - the worse it actually is for you. But then there's me - flat foot human - thinking about my shoes with extra support. I always need more support due to not having a regular arch in my foot like normal people do. And having that extra support definitely does help me bounce back on the ground like I'm on a puffy lil cloud of running heaven - so how does a shoe that I think helps me be bad for me?

The way I think of it is that the additional cushion being added doesn't allow for our natural foot to move the way that it was supposed to. And by stopping my foot from it's natural running movement -  flat foot and all, my foot would run differently barefoot vs living rent free in cushion-y sneakers-  the cushion surrounding it leads to potential long term injuries. It's a barrier from the actual ground my foot should be adjusting to running on.

So feels great in the moment of running but take the adrenaline out of the equation, give it a few months and you may be saying good morning to shin splints or a knee injury. I'd say that it's fair to say that all our running related injuries stem from our shoes are fixing a problem that doesn't exist which then creates a problem that very much exists in the form of knee injuries or even the dreaded shin splints. The more you support an area, the weaker it naturally becomes on its own without the protective cage of cushion.

Running should be Easy, Light, Smooth, and Fast.

This is easier said than done. There are some days when you really feel that run. If you're a runner you'll know the type of runs I'm talking about - the ones where you're doing a mathematical equation to see if there's a way to finish your run by skipping miles in between from the start to end. A run being easy doesn't mean slow, it just means an effort that is easy to give and you're not straining to give it. No huffing and puffing, just chilling in the run with the effort that is easy for you to maintain.

I would say all too often we tend to think of we should be running faster like XYZ person, and it's like uh no. You are your own person, run your run at your easy to maintain pace that the run calls for. That's not to say you shouldn't visualize yourself running faster - I definitely do this, visualizing how much faster future me will be because I am putting in the work to get there - but don't live in the comparison of what your 8 effort is compared to an actual Olympic athlete.

Sahara running on trail, trees around path, mask in hand
the most unphotogenic runner in motion is ready for her closeup

The feeling of a run being light is a feeling I didn't know I was chasing for a long time.

When the run doesn't feel like a run and you can just keep going - not caring about the miles and just being in tune with the run- that's the best feeling, and last week, that was me. I was just running my 4.5 mile run and I was just in one word: chilling. Like I was at a easy to maintain pace on that given day, and I just felt like I was in touch with my inner running self - not caring how far I have to go, or how many loops in front of my house I have until I hear the voice telling me I've completed the mile I was running [hi about 6 loops - 12 straight away's in front of my house makes 1 mile], just feeling like I was running for the sake of running not for the sake of a pace to meet.

And that's when smooth sailing enters the chat.

When the run feels easy, when your feet don't feel like you're dragging them to the end of the run and you feel light - that's when you find your rhythm. You are in tune with the ground you're bouncing off of, you are smooth sailing. And once you find your rhythm, the fourth component of a run - FAST - is in the rearview mirror. And you know what they say about rearview mirrors - things in the mirrors are closer than they appear. Once you have Easy, Light, Smooth down, you will be fast.

So once we get to that feeling of being in tune with our running selves, what about what we're fueling ourselves with?

Now let's talk about about Scott Jurek. If you've been under a rock like I have, he is an American Ultra-marathoner. He is a living legend - named one of the greatest runners of all time - he has finished first in nearly ALL of ultrarunning's elite events. Can you just compute that for a second - he has finished first in nearly all races he's raced in! But it wasn't always like that for him, he didn't use to be the fastest runner in high school, he'd be back at the pack, ringing in at last place. As someone who was a mid-pack runner for most of my high school and middle school running I don't know - it's just felt like this was a perfect reminder of no matter when you finish the race, you are still a runner and high school is not the be all end all of the athlete you were meant to be.

Let's get back to food.

During the book, there's a section where runners are stopping under a tree waiting for water. All the other runners pulled out a granola bar or some fast energy goos to fuel. Scott on the other hand took out some pita bread and hummus. The way my middle eastern head snapped at this specific part, I was like hold on did you say pita bread? Hummus? BREAD?

"I like real food," Scott said. "It's just as portable and you get real calories, not just a fast burn." - 191, Born to Run

He didn't always used to be like that though - he used to eat junk food all day every day - lunch for him was two McChickens and large fries. So what changed? Well he did some research on traditional endurance athletes. 

In his research he found more vegetarians than he thought he would - as a Nordic skier and cross-country runner in high school, his coaches always preached about lean meat to rebuild his muscles after a tough workout. In the beginning he wasn't sure why meatless diets were the key to a lot of history's great runners, but decided to do this lil experiment on himself - go vegetarian and see how it changed him and his running. Rather than packing Snickers or PowerBars during his long runs, he instead packed rice burritos, pita stuffed with hummus, Kalamata olives, and home-baked bread smeared with adzuki beans and quinoa spread.

When he sprained his ankle he also didn't take ibuprofen and instead relied on wolfsbane and large portions of garlic and ginger.

The idea that rice and bread together to make rice burritos, and pita bread being such a staple for him in his running life was a bit mind-blowing to me - those are the two foods that for the most part are a no-go zone for runners. Bread is practically preached as avoid, and rice? I'm pretty sure swapping it for quinoa is a norm for most runners/people aiming to make healthier choices.

While going through this transformation a lot of people told him that he'd be weaker and wouldn't recover all that great in between workouts, get stress fractures or anemia. But the thing is they were all wrong - he actually felt a lot better during his runs because he was eating foods with more high-quality nutrients.

By basing his diet on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, Scott is deriving maximum nutrition from the lowest possible number of calories, so his body isn't forced to carry or process any useless bulk. And because carbohydrates clear the stomach faster than protein, it's easier to jam a lot of workout time into his day, since he doesn't have to sit around waiting for a meatball sub to settle. Vegetables, grains, and legumes contain all the animo acids necessary to build muscle from scratch. Like a Tarahumara runner, he's ready to go any distance, any time. - 192-193, Born to Run

I wouldn't say I eat processed things - I tend for the most part to snack on fruits, and eat vegetables with every meal. But the one thing I've actually avoided for most of my life was bread. I'd avoid it all costs - Pita Bread? Nope, I wouldn't eat it. It was only recently this year after about 8 years of being strict that I actually don't mind eating bread anymore. And here's Scott being a living legend all while eating a bit of Pita Bread on his runs too.

Sahara, in running rain coat with nike cap smiling head tilted away from camera; side profile
I call this the I-think-I-see-my-neighbors-car-moving-rowards-my-general-direction-act-casual / is that a neighbor walking as I'm taking a selfie

Throughout Born to Run I feel like there was a lot of unlearning from my end.

I did speak on diets in my post Counting Calories (spoiler alert: I do not believe in counting calories or dieting at all for that matter) - and I spoke on supplements/powders on how I'd need to do more research as personally I preferred naturally eating the food to be energized. (Not supplements in the sense that you're deficient in XYZ, supplements in the sense of instead of eating XYZ, I'll have this powder!) And, based on this book from Scott Jurek himself, this was the right decision. I don't have any plans to start taking supplements or energy goos - just to fuel myself with real food.

Would I ever try barefoot running?

And back my sneaker existential crisis - I would say I'd love to get to that stage of my running life to go barefoot running/like barefoot running with those specific shoes. But I also can't go cold turkey. My feet have been in running sneakers since the dawn of time, I can't chuck those to the wind and just run barefoot - hi potential injuries.  I'd have to ease myself slowly into barefoot running - the first step for me is to work on my arch that I don't have as a flat footed person. Yes, I am here to tell you what my foot specialist all those years back didn't tell me but this book did: it is possible for flat footed people to do certain exercises to have a normal arch in their foot.

In the book they mentioned Alan Webb, America's greatest miler. But he wasn't born with the so-called magical genes that made him great from the start. In high school he was a flat footed runner with terrible form, but his coach - what a literal golden human being - saw he had potential and worked with him to rebuild him to the runner that we now know as Alan Webb.

"I had injury problems early on, and it became apparent that my biomechanics could cause injury," Webb told me. "So we did foot-strengthening drills and special walks in bare feet." Bit by bit, Webb watched his feet transform before his eyes. "I was size twelve and flat-footed, and now I'm a nine or ten. As the muscles in my feet got stronger, my arch got higher." Because of the barefoot drills, Webb also cut down on his injuries allowing him to handle the kind of heavy training that would lead to his U.S. record for the mile and the fastest 1,500-meter time in the world for the year 2007.- 175, Born to Run

I actually never knew that it was possible to strengthen your feet with barefoot drills to the point of your foot having an arch and as a result going down a few shoe sizes. That was literally just absolutely mind-blowing to read, and is the first step I will be doing in my ~arch journey~ from flat-foot (literally no arch all) to having an arch. I've been taking a look at specific exercises to do and I'm excited to put it to work to see how what I thought was impossible can actually happen.

Sahara, bright orange long sleeve shirt, looking to side; side profile in image
a ongoing saga: is that a neighbor watching me

Now, let's talk about sneakers on more time and one specific thing that mega corporations aren't truthful about.

Sneakers. Now, we've all know the cycle of running so much in one shoe that the support is dwindling thin, you have holes at the bottom of your shoes, you've run 400+ miles in them, so that obviously means it's time for an upgrade right? That's something I've written about in my own How to Avoid Shin Splints post as well. Wrong. Here's the funny thing: the more cushioned the shoe the less protection it provides for your feet.

In the book it discussed a study that was done that reported that as shoes wore down and their cushioning thinned, runners gained more foot control - as the cushioning of the shoe hardened to literal nothing, runner's feet stabilized and became less wobbly. And as I was reading this, it did make sense when it was written out. For example, you know when you get a new shoe and you have to 'break it in' - well why would you have to break it in if it's perfect as is? You breaking it in wears down the cushion of the shoe therefore making it more comfortable for you when there is less cushion.

At McGill University in Montreal, Steven Robbins, M.D., and Edward Waked, Ph.D., performed a series of tests on gymnasts. They found that the thicker the landing mat, the harder the gymnasts stuck their landings. Instinctively, the gymnasts were searching for stability. When they sensed a soft surface underfoot, they slapped down hard to ensure balance.

Runners do the same thing, Robbins and Waked found: just the way your arms automatically fly up when you slip on ice, your legs and feet instinctively come down hard when they sense something squishy underfoot. When you run on cushioned shoes, your feet are pushing through the soles in search of a hard, stable platform.

"We conclude that balance and vertical impact are closely related," the McGill docs wrote. "According to our findings, currently available sports shoes... they are too soft and thick, and should be redesigned if they are to protect humans performing sports."- 173-174, Born to Run

So if you're like me and starting to think maybe we should just toss our cushioned shoes into the wind and go cold turkey into low support/bare foot running - I am here to tell you not to do that. Your foot has been in a protected environment for the entire duration that you've been in this sport, you can't just expect your foot to adapt to the ground that it's never felt before.

My plan personally to make my way to bare foot running includes foot exercises and drills to make the arch in my foot bless my flat footed existence, run in my current Cloudswift sneaker for longer than the designated 400+ miles, and slowly transition into lesser cushioned shoes. At the moment I also have the Cloud X for daily wear, so my plan is to transition from the cushion-y Cloudswift to Cloud X, and then from Cloud X to transition to an even flatter running shoe until finally making my way to Vibram Five-Finger's shoes.

A long process I know, but I can't jump from A to Z unless I want to be out of running for like my entire existence.

Sahara smiling at camera; trees behind
would you look at that! I eventually look directly to the camera to smile, love a good head tilt

I want to leave you with this quote:

Know why people run marathons? he told Dr. Bramble. Because running is rooted in our collective imagination, and our imagination is rooted in running. Language, art, science; space shuttles, Starry Night, intravascular surgery; they all had their roots in our ability to run. Running was the superpower that made us human - which means it's a superpower all humans possess.- 239, Born to Run

There's a lot I didn't discuss from the book - right after the above section they then discuss why so many people hate and some incredible data to support why, if it's possible for a human being to run down an antelope, long distance greats, and most importantly the Tarahumara tribe who never stopped running like it's their bread and butter that makes life click into place.


"The Tarahumara aren't great runners... they're great athletes, and those two things are very different." Runners are assembly-line workers; they become good at one thing- moving straight ahead at a steady speed- and repeat that motion until overuse fritzes out the machinery. Athletes are Tarzans. Tarzan swims and wrestles and jumps and swings on vines. He's strong and explosive. You never know what Tarzan will do next, which is why he never gets hurt.

"Your body needs to be shocked to become resilient," Eric explained. Follow the same daily routine, and your musculoskeletal system quickly figures out how to adapt and go on autopilot. But surprise it with new challenges- leap over a creek, commando-crawl under a log, sprint till your lungs are bursting - and scores of nerves and ancillary muscles are suddenly electrified into action. - 211, Born to Run

If you made it this far: THANK YOU and I hope you enjoyed my novella on the literal novel. Have you learned something new? Are you planning to make any running related changes? Let's chat!

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sitting on rocks, with NYC view behind, puffy sleeves
dreams as puffy and fluffy as my sleeves

I've actually tried writing this post 3 times. This is the third time, so I'm really hoping third time's the charm. I've been gone from blogging since January so I guess you can say I'm a little rusty. It's been a pretty zigged-zagged rollercoaster on my end. At the very end of January, I was offered a freelance role at a company that later on in July took me on Full Time. It was a long sought full time role for 2 years -  the constant jumping over hurdles and just wanting a hiring manger to believe in me as much as I did in myself and finally catching the wave that was meant for me to ride.

You know in track when hurdler's hit the hurdle instead of jumping over it? Yeah, that is the best way I can describe the two years of searching for a full time role. But the thing is the more you keep trying to jump and keep hitting that hurdle, one day you're going to jump that hurdle, and then the next one that follows, even if while you're hitting that hurdle you're thinking the exact opposite.

About a month into freelancing for the company, Covid-19 entered the chat.

I went remote after about a month into freelancing, and as much as I used to think I was all about that ~office life~ I genuinely don't think I want to go back to the office - the amount of time saved from no commute, not having to wake up extra early to catch the morning bus. I now use that time for my morning runs. Of course, there's the one small tiny thing of not chatting to people, I wouldn't say I'm a complete social butterfly but I do like chatting to people throughout the day. So 50% social butterfly? And the other small thing is not knowing when to turn off from work and actually separate my work self from like my actual life.

And this is where the burning question from your end is: Why did you stop blogging?

I didn't do that intentionally - if there was one thing I was adamant about it was that I didn't want to chip away parts of me until the only thing that had roots in the ground was my profession. But, I guess as I am typing this in September 2020  - a full 8 months since my last post - that is what happened. 

I knew I had to get used to the work environment  - up until this point most of my freelance clients were either 1-3 months or several weeks with no indication of possible full time role. This was the first one where it was freelance and possibility to hire. So I had a lot to learn and catch up on to make sure that I did everything I could from my end to cement that full time role into my future. 

Blogging took a backseat mainly because I wanted to be sure that I was 100% focused - I didn't want to lose an opportunity I sought for so long because I didn't give it my all. So that's what I did - I gave it my all and even stopped running and exercising for a solid couple of months to focus (hi this was singlehandedly the worst decision I could ever make in my entire life) and in July the full time offer came like a Christmas wrapped gift with a sparkly bow in my email inbox.

sitting in small barn entrance
you can't tell but I'm smiling under my mask

It's September now.

And it's been a hectic couple of months. I ended August pretty much up to the brim with work and deadlines met, and in all honesty I missed me. I missed actual me.

The lifestyle, fitness, and history crash course blogger, the crocheter who gets too excited about projects and ends up having 253498 unfinished projects and wants to start a new one anyway, the avid reader who lives through numerous adventures on a page monthly, the duolingo novice trying to learn Danish when in reality I should be attempting to learn to speak Arabic more fluently or maybe dabble into Spanish, the piano player who's trying to reteach herself the notes, and most importantly - the athlete who loved to move.

I started running after taking 2 months off so although when written ~short time off~ it felt like a millennium.  For reference, I've been training 6 days a week for the 2 years of my funemployment. Currently - I've been running consistently back and forth in front of my house to minimize bumping into anyone while running, so that's my new normal in my running life. I did actually take a week and a half off in August due to not getting a lot of sleep and having a bit of discomfort in my shoulder, but I'm back up and running. Literally.

But still I feel in terms of movement I could be doing more.

I sit down all day and stare at a laptop + monitor for more than 8 hours per day (you honestly don't want to know how many hours a day I spend on my laptop) and worry about eyesight. A week ago, I was sitting in my kitchen after a long working day and my eyes were just in one phrase: tired of focusing. The time on a my stove was blurry to me - it was 5 feet away from me. 

That's also one reason why I stopped blogging - I couldn't stand a computer screen in my ~free time~ because I was spending so many hours staring at a screen for work, my eyes couldn't handle screen on both my work time and free time.

sitting in small barn entrance
that moment when you don't know if a random small child will interrupt your photo shoot

Getting back to the sitting down all day - In the beginning of remote work everything hurt.

My hips hurt. My thighs hurt. All from sitting for so long without getting up. That continued for at least 2 months, and then my body adapted to my sedentary lifestyle of sitting in one spot for 10 hours. And this worries me. My body adapted to no movement although I am well and able to move throughout the day - in office life there's the walk for lunch or coffee/tea, but at home there is none of that walking. I sometimes don't even take a break for lunch because I prefer to just keep working instead taking a break to recharge my energy. 

When someone says 'tell me about yourself' I do not want the only thing to leave my lips to be my profession.

I've been here before though. The not blogging and slicing my hobbies away part. If you've been here long enough, you'll remember my internship 2 years ago where I tossed everything about myself away and made my work my life. I swore I'd never do that to myself. And I want to keep that promise to myself even if it is late. 8 months too late. 

There's something a coach says on the Nike app during a speed run I do - when doing a mountain workout where I would be doing mile pace, 5K pace, 10K pace, and then make my way back down the mountain with 5k, mile pace: 

You've been here before, you've just got a little more running in your legs.

And that's true. I have been here before. But now, rather than me turning to an advisor to see what I should do I (and also my family pitching in) am making the decision to not allow my work to continue to consume me like it has been. My runs don't run themselves in the same way my blog posts don't write themselves. 

I don't know if it's a ~junior~ thing but the feeling like I need to be working all hours of the day in order to prove that I am worthy of a position that I already have is a mindset I have to break. Is it a junior thing to constantly feel like I have something to prove? I love to learn new things, whether that be a new coding environment, or improving on a coding language I already know.  I love that feeling of learning. But I also don't have to be learning/working all hours of the day as much as one half of my brain likes to try to convince me otherwise. That's the quickest way to burnout and I very much want to veer as far away from the path of burnout. 

I do have a lot to learn but that does not discount what I already know. Even if at times I feel it does. I have courses that I want to do and technologies I want to improve on, but that doesn't mean I spend night and day burying myself in knowledge because I've managed to convince myself that every waking moment must be spent working towards something, and anything not meant to further me in my profession must go.

standing in front of small barn entrance

What I am hoping to ingrain in myself in the next few months is that I don't always have to be attached to my computer whether that be for work or for courses/tutorials to be better at what I do at work.

There will always be more to learn, months from now I'll be telling myself the same thing even if I learned XYZ new technologies, there will always be that feeling of I could do more. I just don't want my life to be consumed of I could be doing more rather than appreciating where I am now. 

I guess, the end of my ramble of a post is to say: Your life is yours, not your employer's. Own it.

How has quarantine been for everyone? Going on runs/exercise or learn a new hobby? Working from home? Let's get chatting!

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