Running Free – A Year in Review

Learning to run should be “Easy, Light, Smooth and then Fast” said Caballo Blanco, in Born To Run. I began my journey in transforming myself into a runner exactly a year ago. And that became my mantra during the runs. My goal for 2012 was simple. I wanted to learn how to love running with a goal of running continuously up to an hour. Nothing specific about distance or pace or even finishing a marathon. Just running free.

Running Free

Top of PG&E Trail with my Luna Sandals

Top of PG&E Trail with my Luna Sandals

From my first pathetic run of 10 minutes on a treadmill (that included 2 minutes of walking), I began the journey of running free. I gave up meat, eggs and dairy. Just plants and the occasional fish. I’ve lost 20 pounds in the last year, kept it off and now running one to two 15-milers a week, mostly barefoot or on my Luna Sandals. After much experimentation, research, you-tubing, reading and just making myself the guinea pig, I came up with a set of drills that I could do all day, every day at home with no special expensive gear. That regimen has pushed my running into the subconscious, something that I can do while taking a break from the computer, while waiting to pick up my kids from school, while watching their soccer game.

Just three months after I started, my first pseudo race was an 8K charity run, only I was too shy to participate. I thought to myself, “I got to be kidding myself running a race, only after three months of learning how to run”. Nevertheless, I ended up running the route the night before the event in 45 minutes which gave me much confidence that I could do it. At this point I was running about 3 to 4 miles every other day in my VFF.

From barely running to racing barefoot

Barefoot Running Style

Barefoot Running Style

Six months in, I ran the San Francisco Half Marathon, barefooted, in 1:52 minutes and finishing in the top 10% of all runners. This marathon planted the seed in me to really document what I was going through, especially since I was unlearning quite a few things to reteach my body how to run.

The next big half marathon was the Diablo Trail Half Marathon, my first trail race with an elevation gain of ~2,500 feet. I finished this in 2:30 minutes and made me realize the importance of hill repeats and learning how to run downhill without busting my knees. I started doing laps on Wildcat Loop and experimenting various ways of running downhill, while minimizing impact and flowing with the terrain.

I followed that up with running the Summit Rock Half Marathon, a treacherous, but insanely fun trail run with single tracks, redwood trees and an elevation gain of ~2,900 feet. Looks like my hill repeats paid off. Finished 55th overall with a new PR of 2:25 minutes.

The last run of the year was a last minute decision, while there was a short break in the storm that has been busting the Bay Area for the past few weeks. Set in my training ground, the ZombieRunner Bay Trail Half Marathon is a loop around the bay trail. I pleasantly surprised myself by setting a new PR of 1:38 minutes and finishing 29th overall.

Looking Ahead at 2013

I can definitely see a Marathon in 2013 for myself and if my body lets me, maybe an Ultra Marathon. Specifically, I have my eyes on the Big Basin 50K that starts from the top of the Skyline ridge and ends up in Santa Cruz. A trail filled with redwood trees, my favorite kind. Beyond that I continue to learn more about what my body can and cannot do. When to push it and when to back off. 

The most fun I had in blogging this year was researching and writing the Tolkien’s Amazing Ultra Marathon of the Middle Earth. It was the most read this year!

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