Sunday, March 18, 2012

Is there such a thing as a perfect runner?

On March 16, 2012, The Nature of Things aired a documentary called "The Perfect Runner." I happened upon it quite by chance through a post on a friend's page, but once I found out about it I figured there was no way I could miss it.

The basic premise of the documentary is that in prehistoric times, humans evolved physiological traits to become efficient runners in order to escape predators while hunting them better through persistence hunting.

It was an interesting documentary, and I'm glad I watched it, albeit with some skepticism. I would however caution that anyone who  is a new runner watch it with a grain of salt, especially when they arrive at the part about barefoot running (I would say at the very least, get your gait assessed before you try any barefoot running slippers) and ultra marathoning (what they left out in the documentary is that the host, Niobe Thompson, trained upwards of 100 kilometres per week before attempting the 125-kilometre Canadian Death Race -- he didn't just up and attempt it, like they made it seem).

This morning after my run, I happened to bump into a fellow Halifax runner, Jon Kirk, who trained for and attempted an ultra marathon last year at Leadville, Colorado. I asked him for his thoughts on "The Perfect Runner." As the co-manager of the Spring Garden Road Running Room, he also knows a lot about shoes, and gait.

"Well, it left out a lot of things, like that barefoot running isn't for everyone," he admitted, pointing out that the researchers who were interviewed have the luxury of having all kinds of high tech equipment at their disposal in order to understand gait, impact and so on when someone runs barefoot.

Jon and I both agreed, however, with the documentary's sentiment that our sedentary lives, which have become the norm, are abnormal. While most of my non-running friends tell me that they are impressed with how far I run, centuries ago this used to be the norm, and the only way to survive. Somehow, we've forgotten this along the way.

Those are my thoughts, in a nutshell. If you missed it, it's well worth watching. Or, you can read through my live-tweet of the episode, here:

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