In my (humble) opinion, having a broad, flexible, and open mind is the ideal approach to life. It's the "hard line" (dogmatic, inflexible, absolutist, and narrow) attitudes that get us in trouble and can cause us to land "short of the runway". Here's a little recent background to that thought.
Yesterday, while running on a fairly "technical" trail (simply meaning, lots of rocks, roots, and fallen trees etc) in my Vibram FiveFingers (extremely minimalist running "shoes"), I landed on a small, but pointed rock, resulting in a very slight bruising to the forefoot. No big deal, but this morning, it was still a little tender and that presented the following dilemma:
- Should I go back out today in the VFFs, and, given that they offer very little protection, possibly risk further bruising? Hmm, this could result in further injury that might require several more days of recovery.
- OK, Option 2: Would it be better to take the day off from running and give the foot a little time to settle down? Seemed a responsible solution, but it didn't hurt that much and I really wanted to go running.
- Or, Option 3: Should I simply bring out the old and trusty Salomon trail runners (conventional running shoes) and give the forefoot a little more protection for the day?
I began to realize that I had gone through all this self-questioning because I had begun to "buy in" to the philosophy of a few minimalist and barefoot runners out there. Again, it's the hard line, the "take no prisoners", no compromising attitude. If you're not running exclusively barefoot, you're not a barefoot runner. If you wear anything more substantial than Vibram FiveFingers, you're not really a minimalist runner. If you wear conventional running shoes, then you're probably a heel-striker. I've even heard some folks distinguish between "runners" and "joggers" - the latter described by the former with a slight rolling of the eye and disparaging tone. Rather, I like what John 'The Penguin" Bingham said, "If you run, you are a runner." That's an open attitude.
You see hard line attitudes in the sea kayaking world as well. Some folks get themselves in a knot over whether a kayak should have a rudder or a skeg or whether a paddle should be feathered or unfeathered or whether an inflatable kayak is a real kayak. I read in one blog that if a paddler doesn't have a "bomb proof" roll, then he's (she's) not an authentic sea kayaker. Give me a break!
In my mind, anyone who, for example, loves to run or sea kayak should remember that the most important thing about either sport is that the participant experiences the inherent joy of the activity. We sometimes forget that. Runners wearing "proper" running shoes sometimes look at barefoot runners as if they're nut cases. In a similarly narrow way, barefoot runners can be guilty of making shod runners feel as if they are anachronisms for not stepping up to this new (to our generation) form of running. I've said this before, if someone feels the joy and exhilaration of running while wearing cowboy boots or stilettos, and doesn't get injured, what's the problem? Unless they're running on your expensive hardwood floors!
I'm impressed by a common thread in the words of accomplished runners such as Danny Dreyer, Christopher McDougall, Michael Sandler, Caballo Blanco de la Sierra Madre (Micah True), Barefoot Ted McDonald, and the late Dr. George Sheehan. All of these amazing individuals and athletes have their preferences but all show an open mind. It is my observation, that with each of the above, the common thread is the joy they feel for running. Hard line attitudes rarely radiate joy and they most often result in the drawing of lines in the sand (or on the trail or on the water or whatever). Drawing such lines in the sand distracts and diminishes the possibility of shared joy. It's the same, I think, in life. Hard line attitudes alienate, divide, and turn people against one another. A broad, flexible, and open mind invites the fullest experience of the outdoor self-propelled passions we pursue and the shared and cooperative life most of us seek to live on this planet.
By the way, this morning, I ended up putting the Salomon trail runners on - and headed out the door. Having made the "attitude adjustment", it was a great run. That choice made a whole lot more sense than staying home and being a grumpy "minimalist-only" runner - an experience, in my mind, that would be similar to landing short of the runway!
At least that's the way I see it. Your thoughts on this would be warmly welcome.
PS: The image above is one we took at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum (the home of the "Spruce Goose"), in McMinnville, Oregon.
Another PS: This posting was the featured "Blog of the Week" at the Barefoot Runners Society website. Gosh, thanks folks!