In September, I started running at a long-standing club hosted by my local running shoe store. I wanted to join because I was in a bit of a running lapse and I found I had more of an incentive to run if I was with other people. Not quite misery loves company, but more of a running funk shared is a running funk... well... ignored (maybe??)
I was a little nervous and that nervousness made my attendance a little intermittent. It's hard to walk into an environment where people all know each other and have done for years. Where everyone looks very.. well serious about running and where everyone wears shoes. I wasn't a fish out of water, I was a fish stationed on the International Space Station waiting for a ride home from a passing space shuttle.
I wasn't ignored or unwelcome, but I still felt like a freak, walking into the store with my 5 toed shoes and my bizarre dress sense. I am not a unsocial person per-se, but I did feel like the geek who had been invited to the frat party by the captain of the football team and I wasn't sure why. Yeah, you can tell I am a John Hughes fan. Breakfast club rules okay?
I had my running lapse (aka running funk v2.0) around Christmas and I was pretty much determined not to go back, until I checked their web-site. I was contemplating joining one of their marathon clinics in an attempt to kick start my running (AGAIN) -maybe if I paid to be there I would feel less self-concious- when I came across a notice stating they were going to start a "Good Form" clinic. I have to mention I didn't realise it was based on the "Good Form Running" clinics based in Michigan, US. As you can tell I have evolved how I run, instead of learning it from "specific sources". It's another way to say I am "clueless" - wait that wasn't a John Hughes film. Damn.
I was intrigued. A running store having a "Good Form" running clinic. It seemed strange to me as "Good Form" and "shoes" are difficult to balance in my head. How do you prevent heel strike if you have a raised heal? So I put on my lycra, put on my brave face and decided to go back.
I had, at this point forgone, my VFF's and was in my hacked water shoes. So I did look like an authentic SCUBA diver -although one with a really cute pink running skirt- as I walked in from the Vancouver rain into the store. I initially hid in the corner, not making eye-contact and then slipped out with the "Good Form" group.
As we started running, there were comments from the group about my shoes. Mutters and whispers behind me as I scampered along, the patter of the "Shoe-Goo" drowning out what people might be saying. People then plucked up the courage to ask me about what I was wearing and why. The guy that was running the clinic also came up and talked to me. I was relieved, that I wasn't been counted as a complete freak. My attitudes were changing. Perhaps a barefoot/minimalist runner could attend a shoe store organised running club. Maybe being invited to the party was because the guy liked me and not because it was a kick-arse joke by the cool kids. (The John Hughes references are getting a little hard to make relevant now).
I talked about why I ran barefoot or minimalist. Why I thought it worked for me and how I thought it improved my form (which as it was a "Good form" clinic was handy). The points mentioned about form were pretty much what we as barefoot/minimalist runners already know. Okay, there were a few things I would or wouldn't have mentioned, but it wasn't my clinic. I was there as an observer.
I had to skip a couple of clinics and when I came back a couple of weeks later, the response to me was positive. People started coming up to me before the pre-run briefing and asking questions. I was then asked to make comments by the clinic organizer and asked to help the others with tips and hints.
Every-time I go back, the response to me has become more accepting. I get asked about form, minimal shoes and background. People are more receptive to what I am saying and are trying to see my point of view. I think they all breathed a sigh of relief when I didn't de-cry shoes or people that wear them, but more offering an alternative if people wanted it. As it became apparent that I wasn't a complete zealot, (barefoot runners always get bad press - few rotten apples I think), I can see their acceptance increasing.
This week I again attended the clinic. The organizer actually asked me to give a little talk on foot placement and form. I was being included. I think this is where I am starting to see the change.
I have maintained that Canada is about 12-18 months behind the US when it comes to Barefoot/Minimalist running. It's only with a few big name players in the shoe industry, who are bringing out their own minimalist/reduced running shoes, that people are beginning to consider the possibility. That less is more and that not everyone needs orthotics and structured shoes to be able to run.
This is good. The shoe store is stocking the NB Minimus, which although not a "minimal shoe" in my mind, (it's a reduced running shoe because of the heel-toe drop), it's a start. Who know's in 6 months time, they maybe receptive to complete "minimal running" shoes. Perhaps when you walk in you will see VFF's, Merrells, Terra Plana's, even Huaraches! Maybe they may want to do a barefoot/minimal shoe clinic. I can see potential there. I can see the difference in attitudes. It's nice to know that barefoot and minimal running is getting kick-started here in Canada and that in 12 months time, you won't feel like a "John Hughes" freak if you walk into the running club.