An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Beach Running, and Frank Shorter

This past Monday, I had the chance to run on a beach. Long Beach, WA (okay, actually Ocean Park, which is just a couple miles north), home of "The World's Longest Beach" (no way to verify that) was the site of a two-night stay for a short vacation with my wife, daughter, mom, sister and her family. We arrived Sunday evening, had a great salmon dinner, and then battened down for the night.

I woke up first (normal), got ready to run, then headed out. It was cloudy with a very light mist falling, which I couldn't tell whether was from the clouds or from the waves, but it wasn't very windy...

I wore my Trail Gloves for the first time in a while, and the first couple blocks on the road getting to the beach weren't all that comfy. I've grown accustomed to the cushioning of the Altra Instincts. Once on the beach, though, they were awesome. It was low tide, so I had a lot of firm wet sand to choose from, and varied from near the waves to up near the high-tide mark. Strides were natural and relaxed, and I just glided along.

After 20 minutes, I stopped and just watched the waves break into shore for a while. Turning back, I followed my footsteps back to where I started. I noticed something almost immediately -- my footprints just barely showed any heel impression at all, and the forefoot had the normal "flick" pattern of a push-off. So I know I'm not heel striking, but I may still be using the calf a bit much.The other thing I noticed was that my footprints were VERY consistent. I wish I'd taken a couple pictures. But running in the soft dry sand wasn't fun at all...

Later in the day the sky cleared and the wind picked up a bit, and we were flying kites on the beach. High tide this time, so not a lot of wet firm sand. I left my shoes in the car and just went barefoot, and noticed that it was much easier to run on the soft sand barefoot than with the Trail Gloves.

I think I want to go back. Especially if we have the same beautiful weather we had the past couple days. And I'll just leave the shoes and do the whole run barefoot.


Pete at RunBlogger posted the videos from a symposium a couple weeks ago or so, and one of the panelists was Frank Shorter, winner of the 1972 Olympic Marathon, all-around nice guy, and long-time runner of minimalist nature.

He commented that all the runners of the time ran as we seem to be rediscovering with minimalist and bareform running, mainly out of necessity.

I remember doing a biathlon (as it was called at the time -- this was before the winter biathletes got all up-in-arms and we had to start calling it "duathlon") near Portland in, oh, must have been about '90 or '91, and there were a couple featured athletes at the event -- Kristen Hansen and Frank Shorter. I remember going up to Kristen's bike and asking her about her wheels, having no idea who she was... I knew Frank by sight, having been a long-time runner myself, but I didn't see him until well into the race. In fact, I got to see him twice on his second run. Once while I was finishing up the bike leg, and then again as he was finishing.

He looked utterly fluid, like he was floating. He defined the art of maximal effort looking effortless. And this was the SECOND run...

Later, as he accepted the award for first master's finisher, I was equally amazed at just how spastic he looked walking up to the announcer... The contrast was striking.

No offense, Frank. I just wanted to mention, mostly, just how much seeing you run for those few seconds struck me as the epitome of fluid, natural running.

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