Friday, March 9, 2012

As I continue to evolve.....

Or perhaps the word is de-volve. According to Danny Dreyer's Chi Running book, I am supposed to be trying to recapture the joyful and effortless manner in which I ran as a child. I was a child well before the era of omnipresent video technology, so I'll just have to take Danny's word for it that the younger, lither, more innocent version of me did indeed run with perfect posture and perfect lean, striking lightly on the earth with perfect midfoot strides.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I am now at the point in my heel-to-midfoot/forefoot stride transition that heel striking finally feels awkward and wrong. And it makes a certain amount of sense. Every time you hit with your heel it's like putting on the brakes. Very jarring to the body. After a couple of months of running 12-16 minute miles, actively trying to make the switch, I think the new muscles are starting to fire and the old muscles are quieting down. My knee and foot pain are fading. I just have to be careful not to do too much too soon. It's so tempting to go out and run for three hours just because I can. For the first time in my life, I am trying (trying!) to be smart about running. I'm down to like a 10-minute mile.

I have spent a small fortune on running books. Of course I have and love Danny Dreyer's Chi Running, as well as Danny Abshire's Natural Running and Dr. Nicolas Romanov's Pose Method of Running. I order them, I get excited, they come in the mail, I leaf through them for a few days, and then they sit on the kitchen table for weeks languishing unread, collecting glops of ketchup and syrup until they are stuck permanently to the fickle tablecloth of old New Yorkers and Running Times and Utne Readers and math workbooks.

Chi Running

Pose Running

I don't think any of these running gurus would watch me run and call me one of their own. I'd love to take a class with one of these guys and really have them look at my stride. It's hard to coach yourself. I'm sure I'm doing lots of stuff "wrong." I kind of pick and choose details from all of these books and add them slapdash into my catalogue of things to think about while I'm running. I have lots of Ah-Ha! moments as I'm trolling along (ie, don't lift your knees, lift your ankles, stuff like that). There's no question, this is a slow transition. A long strange trip indeed.

I get so little time to read, and I'm right in the middle of Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain as well as everything ever written by Julie Hecht (strange bedfellows there), these poor running books simply cannot compete. Chi Running is the only one I have actually read cover to cover, and plan to re-read now that I have been practicing this method for a while. This was an excellent book to get me started.

I think the Pose Running book will be next. Flipping through, I see that he has lots of exercises aimed at hips and hamstrings. I have hamstrings for the first time in my life, and they are definitely my weak link. As soon as my hamstrings get tired of lifting my foot straight up behind me (rather than out in front of me), I'm toast. I can handle the strain for 2 hours tops. I need to get started on Dr. Romanov's exercises.


It feels so good to be running again. It really is a gift. My husband Brian and I had our annual weekend trip to New York last month in which we walked all around the city eating out of diners and grocery stores for two days. I had a heavenly run early Sunday morning up the Hudson River and into Riverside Park, and back through Upper West Side. I really did feel like I was gliding along, slipping effortlessly past the super-wealthy dog walkers and uber-stylish churchgoers. With my new upright posture and nifty little hamstrings, I almost fit right in.

I'm still swimming more than I'm running. Swimming has been good to me this winter. I am now on friendly terms with all of the 5 a.m. swimmers. Early morning people are funny. We all park in the same spot every morning, take the same locker, then beeline to the same lane day after day. A young upstart newcomer beat me to Lane 5 yesterday morning and I admit I was shaken. Isn't it obvious from looking at me that I am the Lane 5 swimmer?! Things are different in Lane 3. It feels too close to the lifeguard. As soon as that girl left Lane 5, I scooted right over. I'll have to keep my eye on her from now on.

I made the difficult but necessary decision to drop out of both spring/summer races I had signed up for back in December. The VT 100 was first to go, as it became increasingly obvious that there was no way I'd be up to any kind of training mileage by mid-March. And then a month later I dropped out of the Wapack 50, which is a strenuous race run in May. I need to take the time to rebuild and regroup. I'm hoping to run some shorter trail races this summer, especially the Grand Tree series, and maybe hit a few of small, local ultras in the fall. The new Ghost Run in October especially beckons: nice folks, multi-distance, cheap, and you do not have to sign up months ahead of time.

Here's hoping!!


  1. I'm also trying to transition to midfoot/natural running but I just started this week. I actually bought a pair of Newton's to help me. I'm only running 1 mile at a time then switching out shoes so I can finish my run. Figured I do my warmup mile in them since it's usually my slowest. Discovered as I did my first mile yesterday that my right foot/leg wants to strike midfoot but my left does not. On my left side I have a neuroma in my foot and patellar tendinits. I don't think that's coincidental. So it will take me a while to get this as that dumb leg needs a lot of training. But I did notice at the end of the mile that I wasn't feeling my neuroma or my knee. My next step is to get another pair of "regular" running shoes that have a 6mm or less heel-toe drop. Ultimately I think I'll be faster and I think you will too!

  2. I am such a heel striker. I think I will pick up the Chi Running book and check it out. I'd like to give it a try once I can run again (some day!)

    Have you thought about setting up a video camera (at the track perhaps?) and running past it several times so you can check your stride, posture etc? It may be helpful.

  3. I loved "Magic Mountain" and would read it again if I didn't have a persistent cough! My running form goes from ideal when sprinting to abysmal in the later stages of an ultra, where I bend like a question mark. I like to think that the idiosyncrasies I've picked up are adaptations, like Bill Rodger's right arm making exaggerated swings to compensate for leg length discrepancies - but that's just so I don't have to think about it.

  4. I love the swim lane incident...I would be the same way. How dare she cross the invisible line of daily routine and steal MY lane! Then I would hold it against her quietly until one day there's a "run-in" with said swim lane stealer and I find out she's a completely pleasant and wonderful human being. Then I'd feel bad, but not too bad ;)

    Keep up the great work, Pam!

  5. Helen, I have been running in Saucony Kinvaras. They have a 4 mm drop and I love them. I just ordered a pair of Hattoris (zero drop) because I found them online for $28. I'm curious to try them. This months Running Times looks to be devoted to natural running.

    Dan, this is the perfect time for you to read this stuff. Injury recovery time is a good time to transition your stride, because you're running slowly anyway. There is a Chi Walking book as well. (But you won't be needing that!!)

    Steve, for a book in which almost nothing happens, it sure is gripping. This is the third or fourth time I've started it. I think I'm finally in for the long haul this time.

    Paige, you understand me!! You pegged it exactly. I feel like a weenie for inwardly glowering at this person. She's probably lovely. She probably volunteers in the community and rescues dogs. But why does she have to steal MY lane??!!

  6. HI, Pam ~

    I enjoy your posts - I am also a Mom and I've been practicing ChiRunning for about a year now. So impressive that you have been able to make changes on your own from reading the book. I bought the book. Then the video. Then I went to a workshop with a certified instructor - that was what I needed. Their instructors are AMAZING!

    I don't remember ever running as a child. That's probably why I was such a severe heal-striker before. I love looking at my before and after videos and even my race photos have changed ALOT how they look - so much fun!

    Best wishes on your journey!

    -Another Helen (I also blog at

  7. Hi Helen, fellow Chi runner! I don't know if I'm doing it right, but whatever I'm doing now feels much better than my old stride. There is a ChiRunning 2 class in NYC scheduled for May taught by Danny Dreyer himself. I'm tempted....

  8. Its really nice to read that you are getting some good running in Pam. I found those first few months of learning to run Pose quite confusing. I did use some of the drills...have a look at one called change of stance. Also, YouTube has some helpful videos of the drills. I did end up seeing a good coach for 3 lessons, and that was the best money spent on this hobby ..ever. For me, swapping between chi and Pose was a little confusing. I ended up just concentrating on Pose, but I suspect that either would have been fine.

    And it's ages since we had a book review from you! It was your blog that got me reading some of the Russian authors.

    Best wishes with the running,



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