I have been minimalist and barefoot running since May 2009, so it seems weird that I am only now reading a book that advocates this. I have been hanging out on the Runners World Barefoot forum for a while and this book usually comes up in posts a couple times every month. Usually from runners, who have read the book, and want to try it out. I have been the opposite.
I have a couple of impressions already. Firstly, it is validating what I already know; for me at least. Wearing running shoes breaks your feet. Expensive, properly fitted running shoes broke my feet (literally) within 3 months. I have now been running barefoot or in Vibram's for 6-7 months and apart from the initial discomfort, I have had no injury problems. In fact my feet, ankles, knees and hips are stronger than they ever have been.
Secondly, and more profoundly, I have been captivated by the idea that running is about having fun. Runners run for many reasons; Health, happiness, sanity, money, you name it. I initially started running for health reasons [Leg Bone density], and then sanity when I hit depression in Christmas 2008. Most runners will accept that if they don't run for a few days they get grouchy. I am a case in point at the moment. I had a stomach bug a couple of days ago and I haven't run for about 5 days. I have a run tomorrow and it's all I can do to stop climbing the walls at the moment! I am about to get a glass of wine, which I am hoping will just keep me from damaging furniture till 9am tomorrow.
It was only when reading the book that I thought about how my mental state affects my running and NOT that running affects my mental state. In the book, it puts down the theory that happy runners who have no other motives than just to have fun run further and faster, than those who have goals in mind. It cites many internationally renowned runners known for finishing astonishing races who start and finish the race with big grins on the faces and probably no real training plans. This is where my thoughts on my depression, my running and 'cause and effect' come in.
As mentioned, I have been suffering from depression pretty much since December 2008. This ties in with when I started running. When I started running it was hard and painful and I hated it. It was all I could do to go 5K. Over the last year, as with anyone, I have had my ups and downs. Before I started minimalist running, I hated running. When I started minimalist running, I was starting back from scratch after my heel break. It took time, but as the summer progressed, I got better both mentally and physically. Running made me happy. The last few months, have been another roller-coaster mentally. The weather and difficulties with my son were getting me down, and my training for my last-minute half marathon felt off. I wasn't enjoying it. Even afterwards, I didn't have the motivation to continue. The last month, I have tweaked a few things, my mental state has improved and my running endurance has increased. I have found new trails, I am running further, running longer, I am having fun again. So was I depressed because my running was off, or was my running off because I was depressed?
The more I think about the last year, I am beginning to think that my mental health is the key to my running. I certainly run for the "endorphin hit", but it's only occurred to me that being happy to start of with is the key to the runs that will provide it. Did that make sense? Haven't even started the wine yet!
I have certain goals that I want to achieve next year, but I am thinking I should change my attitude to the training. I am going to throw the whole idea of the "schedules" and "milage plans" out of the window. Yes, I am certainly going to make sure I do some work towards the marathon; but I am going to plan my runs on having fun rather than how much I should do each run over each week. I will not make my runs a chore. I am going to make my run's recreational. If I am not having fun, then I'll stop and do something else. If I am having a blast then I am going to keep going. Goals are great, but if I can't laugh while I am achieving them, then I am spending a lot of my life doing something that is not making me happy.
So let me get the wine and say "Here's to being a happy runner; medication; and BBC Radio 4's Friday comedy podcast"