Planet Wild Launches! It’s a new adventure, travel and fitness site that will bring readers and multisport athletes an even greater taste of the great outdoors. The site is done in conjunction with RailRiders Adventure Clothing. Feature Stories Include:
Amazon Crossing: Mickey Grosman’s 5,000-Mile Quest
Becoming a Navy SEAL: Lessons in Survival
Montana’s Yurt-Dwelling Ultrarunner Mike Foote
Bunion Derby: America’s First Transcontinental Running Race (1928)
Confession of a Barefoot Trail Runner in the Pacific Northwest
Lots more: travel and fitness tips, as well great videos. Go here.
In radio interview last week with conservative talk-show gabber Hugh Hewitt, Republican vice president nominee and Eddie Munster lookalike Paul Ryan boasted that his personal best in the marathon was "Under three, high twos. I had a two hour and fifty-something." But that turned out to be a whopper of a lie, as Runner's World's super-sleuthing Scott Douglas soon found out that his PR was actually 4 hours, 1 minute, and 25 seconds at the 1990 Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota. Why would a politician in the national limelight make such a fib? Yes, Ryan is an PX-90 exercise fiend with minimal body fat. But he ain't no sub-three hour marathon runner. Shame, shame. Then again, Ryan has repeatedly shown his callous disregard for the truth, whether it pertains to the economy, climate change or Medicare. Here's New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd on Congressman Pinocchio's appearance at the Republican National Convention: "In his speech Wednesday night the altar boy altered reality, conjuring up a world so compassionate, so full of love-thy-neighbor kindness and small-town goodness, that you had to pinch yourself to remember it was a shimmering mirage, a beckoning pool of big, juicy lies."
And here's an excerpt from the Hewitt interview:
Hugh Hewitt: Hey, in high school, what did you do in high school? Were you a speech and debate guy? Were you a bandie? What were you?
Paul Ryan; : No, I was student government and athletics, honor society, you know, that kind of thing. I was kind of a combination. I was class president my junior year, I was the school board rep my senior year. I lettered in varsity, you know, my first year in high school, mostly soccer and track. I was a distance runner and a soccer player. So kind of well-rounded. I can’t, I can play a cowbell. That’s about it for instruments.
HH: Are you still running?
PR: Yeah, I hurt a disc in my back, so I don’t run marathons anymore. I just run ten miles or yes.
HH: But you did run marathons at some point?
PR: Yeah, but I can’t do it anymore, because my back is just not that great.
HH: I’ve just gotta ask, what’s your personal best?
PR: Under three, high twos. I had a two hour and fifty-something.
HH: Holy smokes.
Yes, holy smokes is right. Meanwhile, a Ryan press spokesperson recently came clean that Ryan had gotten his times wrong. That he was his brother who ran that fast. But who ever forgets their finishing time in their first and only marathon, even one over two decades ago?
The Olympics are often the stage where political, not athletic battles, are often waged.
For many years, human rights groups have pressured the Olympics to force Saudi Arabia to include women on its Olympic team. Now that effort has finally paid off. Last week, the IOC announced that Saudi Arabia would have women on its Olympic team for the first time at the London Games. The athletes are Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani, who competes in judo, and Sarah Attar, a 19-year-old junior at Pepperdine University, who is a distance runner.
Attar actually doesn’t live or train in the desert kingdom. She resides in San Diego, California, but has dual citizenship because her father is Saudi Arabian.
Although at Pepperdine she has run both the 1,500 meters and 3,000 meters, she will be competing in the 800 meters in the London Games. Because her fastest time is far below the Olympic qualifying standard, the New York Times reported that “Attar will compete under a clause that permits some athletes below the standards to compete with the aim of broadening Olympic participation.”
Her PR for the 800 meters is almost 40 seconds slower than the top three women who qualified for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team (Alysia Montano came in first, with a time of 1:59.08. Geena Gall finished at 1:59.24 and Alice Schmidt placed third with a time of 1:59.46).
But there’s a lot more to this story than is immediately apparent, and is one that speaks volumes about the role of women in a conservative Moslem country.
And the irony is that if Attar were living in Saudi Arabia, she wouldn’t have been a competitive runner. Or even be allowed to run on a track or the road. In fact, as the Associated Press reported, “Women in Saudi Arabia bear the brunt of their nation’s deeply conservative values. They are often the target of the unwanted attention of the kingdom’s intrusive religious police, who enforce a rigid interpretation of Islamic law and make sure men and women do not mix in public…There are no written laws that prohibit women from participating in sports, but women are not allowed into stadiums and they cannot rent athletic venues. There is no physical education for girls in public schools, and no women-only hours at swimming pools.”
According to the New York Times, human rights groups hailed the IOC decision “as a step forward for Saudi women in their quest for basic rights, but emphasized that the fundamental problem in the Gulf country — the legal gender segregation — remains firmly in place. ‘The participation of two Saudi women in London is an important breakthrough, but will not hide the fact that millions of Saudi girls are effectively banned from sports in schools in Saudi Arabia,’ said Minky Worden of Human Rights Watch.”
By the way, as of July 30 and three days into Olympics competition in London, there has been no mention of these two Saudi women athletes in that country's state-controlled press. So obviously, two opposite messages are being sent: one to the outside world that Saudi Arabia is gradually modernizing, and the other for internal domestic consumption is that women will remain second-class citizens with very few rights.
To get additional perspectives on this issue, you might want to read this piece in the New York Times or this essay on Natural Running Center's website by D. Casey Kerrigan, M.D., creator, chairman and head of manufacturing for OESH Shoes. Dr. Kerrigan, who ran track in high school and college, is now a trailblazer in another male-dominated arena: the manufacturing of athletic and everyday footwear.
Newcomer to the natural running footwear sector is Skora Running, whose shoes are stylish, innovative, and unlike anything else out there. It seemingly has all the right ingredients for a high-performance shoe. For example, Skora's zero-drop Form has an upper made with goatskin leather and sheepskin leather lining; asymmetric lacing and no-tongue construction to provide a glove-like fit; minimal cushioning and a curved section profile in both the forefoot and heel. And the shoe doesn't come cheap, either ($195). Skora's new "Run Real" video is also cool to watch; the techno soundtrack and crystalline cinematography alone will want you to go out and run, no matter what's on your feet. Alas, the video woulda scored a lot higher if it only showed more of the shoe. Going for mood and effect is okay if you are Nike and everyone on the planet knows the brand. Skora might want to do another video with the same footage but maybe add some extra scenes with detailed close-ups of the shoe.
ASICS’ New Gel-Lyte 33s Are Being Marketed As Light and Fast, and with an Ad Campaign that Makes Little Sense
ASICS' new Gel-Lyte 33s seem like the bizarre offspring of the candy-colored Newtons and mega-popular Nike Frees. Bright colors for the uppers are being combined with a lightweight super-flexible tread to make runners think they are going pseudo-barefoot or minimalist. Never mind that the 33's heel-to-toe differential is as steep as any beginner's bunny ski slope. But the ASICS gang realized that the Nike Frees were mopping up the competition in the minimalist footwear sector. The Beaverton bunch needed to have their toes stepped on. Nor can ASICS can be accused of being all that original. They aren't. Their new print ad campaign for the 33s seems mighty Hunger Games-ish. Then again, do you really want to equate running shoes with an arrow. Wasn't the mighty Greek hero Achilles felled by an arrow in his heel in the Trojan war?
What a scene last week outside the Supreme Court as the affordable Health Care reform act narrowly passed (5-4), and members of the press ran like the wind to report the breaking news since television cameras were not permitted inside the building. And despite the fact that both CNN and Fox News incorrectly mangled the court's ruling, it's good to see that some of these television reporters (or interns) came prepared by wearing running shoes! Check out their form and foot-striking!
“Hey, wait a minute, what happened here?” – Shoe Store Clerk
“Well, my faithful dog was bringing me my shoes and they fell apart in his mouth.” – Homer Simpson
“I’m sorry sir, our warranty doesn’t cover fire, theft or acts of dog.” – Shoe Store Clerk
In our new book. Tread Lightly: Form, Footwear, and the Quest for Injury-Free Running, by Dr. Peter Larson (Runblogger) and myself, we explore the reasons why pain is so frequently a part of the life of the modern runner, and search for potential solutions to the ongoing injury epidemic. Could it be the shoes? Running form? Even diet? Tread Lightly arrives at a pivotal time as the running world is in the midst of a revolution. Runners everywhere have begun to move away from the big, bulky, and extra-cushiony shoes that have filled store shelves for decades. Many runners have even gone so far as to experiment with barely-there minimalist footwear or barefoot running in an attempt to overhaul their running form in an effort to escape injury. In the process, some have seen chronic injuries disappear, while others have developed new problems in their attempt to run in a barefoot-like style. Tread Lightly addresses these and other topics, including human evolution, how footwear developed, foot strike, and common running flaws. The book can be purchased on Amazon. Go here. The following excerpt is from the chapter “The Recreational Runner.”
The sixties began, curiously enough, with an anti-shoe bias among a distinguished roster of champion runners. We all know about the unshod Abebe Bikila whose bare feet flew over the cobblestones en route to winning the marathon at the 1960 Rome Olympics. (The Ethiopian runner wasn’t the first marathoner to go barefoot in the Olympics; that honor belongs to South African Tswana runner Len Taunyane, who finished ninth at the St. Louis Games in 1904.) Fewer of us are probably familiar with the serial accomplishments of Herb Elliott, a talented Australian middle-distance runner who appeared twice on the cover of Sports Illustrated, in 1958 and 1960, each time running barefoot! Elliott held the world record in the mile (3:54); and at the Rome Olympic Games, he won the gold medal in the 1,500 meters and bettered his own world record with a time of 3:35.6. He trained under the tutelage of his iconoclastic coach, Percy Cerutty, who embraced a mind-body, holistic approach to training that was centered around barefoot runs on the beach and sand dunes, discussing poetry and philosophy for mental stimulation,avoidance of wheat flour, and no water or liquids during meals.It also helped that Elliott possessed a graceful, natural running stride. From 1957 to 1961, Elliott was the preeminent middle-distance runner in the world. During this four-year stretch, he never lost a 1,500-meter or mile race.
Known as “Europe’s Barefoot Champion,” England’s Bruce Tulloh won the European 5,000 meters championship in 1962 by racing unshod on the cinder track. Tulloh had started running barefoot three years earlier because he was convinced that shoes were slowing him down. In short order and without shoes cramping his style, Tulloh won his first British amateur title barefoot and continued racing and setting U.K. records, including the two miles in 8:34, until he retired from competition in 1967.Two years later, he ran across the U.S. in sixty-four days—but he wore shoes due to his uncertainty about road conditions. Tulloh, seventy-six, who lives in Marlborough, England, went on to coach many top British middle-distance runners, authored several books on running, including a popular one called Running is Easy. He even spent a short spell in the early 1970s in Mexico’s Copper Canyon with the Tarahumara Indians and, like others who have had that opportunity, was amazed by how far and effortlessly they ran in their huaraches.
In 1961, Tulloh, who later became a biology instructor at a small British college for twenty years, was briefly placed under the microscope by a famous medical researcher interested in barefoot running. Dr. Griffith Pugh, who achieved fame as medical leader of the 1953 Everest climbing team, tested Tulloh on the track. In a 2011 interview with Running Times, Tulloh described the process: “Dr. Pugh had me run repetition miles, to compare the effect of bare feet, shoes, and shoes with added weight. He collected breath samples. It showed a straight-line relationship between weight of shoes and oxygen cost. At sub-5:00 mile pace, the gain in efficiency with bare feet is 1 percent, which means a 100 meter advantage in 10,000 meters. In actual racing, I found another advantage is that you can accelerate more quickly.”
Barefoot racing was also popular among other elite British runners, such as Ron Hill, who ran barefoot when he took second in the International Cross-Country Championship in 1964. The following year,the shoeless endurance athlete won the Beverley (England) Marathon, in 2:26:33. At the Mexico Olympics, he placed seventh in the 10,000 meters—again without shoes. Hill also told Running Times, “I was going to run the marathon at the 1972 Munich Olympics barefoot, but the Germans laid new stone chippings on parts of the course.”
In the United States, Dale Story, a junior at Oregon State, won the 1961 NCAA cross-country championship by running barefoot. In a recent interview with an Oregonian newspaper, he reminisced, “People laughed at me. There were acorns on the course. Those guys thought I was absolutely crazy. They said, ‘Man, you’re going to hurt your feet.’ Didn’t bother me at all.”
Given the fact that these highly accomplished runners—Bikila, Elliot, Tulloh, Hill, Story—had achieved success without shoes, then why didn’t more of their contemporaries take up barefoot running? One likely reason might have had to do with perception and habit. Perhaps there was something retrograde, an anti-modern reversal of the natural order of things, about barefoot running that made it seem far too primitive to have any real appeal for almost all westernized runners at the time. Or maybe it was due to practical concerns like having one’s unprotected feet encounter broken glass, sharp objects, or unwanted debris. These are all legitimate considerations that continue to resonate today among runners.
But in the early 1960s, there was something else standing directly in the path of barefoot is best. Quality running shoes designed specifically for road racing and training had finally begun to appear—not in mass quantities by any means, but in limited numbers. Runners looking for that competitive edge were drawn to Tiger Cubs that were manufactured by Japanese-based Onitsuka. The lightweight Tigers had flat-bottom rubber soles, were easy on the feet, and held up pretty well. They could be purchased via mail order for the discerning few. Demand was still quite small because running was very much a fringe sport attracting only the diehards.
“The 1960s,” says runner Hal Higdon, who went onto become a well-known author and contributing editor for Runner’s World, “was a decade both dark with despair and bright with hope, an era when the Boston Marathon attracted only a few hundred starters, most of them capable of breaking three hours. Nineteen fifty-nine was the year I ran my first Boston. We were a scurvy lot, the 150 of us who showed up in Hopkinton, our deeds largely unheralded.” At least, this small, nearly invisible group of malnourished American and British long-distance runners now had the option of running in decent shoes.
Buy Tread Lightly. Go here.
Lori ("Lolo") Jones is America's top female hurdler and a lock for an Olympic medal in London, that is, if she can prevent clipping a hurdle like she did in Beijing. The media adores Lolo. She's beautiful, she's athletic, she's the American record holder in the 60-meter hurdles. She also has that exotic vibe going, with a DNA mix of French, Native American, African American, and Norwegian ancestry. She's less a melting pot of America than a scrumptious multi-ethnic fondue. The ASICS and Oakley sponsored track athlete is 29 years old, and so this might be her last Olympics. She's also a virgin, a fact she recently revealed in an interview on HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” that she is not having sex until she is married, in accordance with her deeply held Christian faith. Sex? The ultimate hurdle for the accomplished athlete? Given all the silly media noise and blog chatter surrounding her declaration of remaining chaste until marriage, Lolo felt she needed to tweet a response: "Yes i’m a virgin. #1 reason why I’m single bc guys deuce out when I won’t put out. I do so to honor God & future husband." Lolo, your sex life is your own business, not the public's. And just remember, when walking down the church aisle on your big day, there are no hurdles standing in the way. Those come later.
Earlier this week, Skechers agreed to pay a $40 million settlement after the Federal Trade Commission and 45 states' attorney generals accused the shoe company of falsely promoting the weight loss and health benefits of its "toning" shoe lines. In a report on SFGate,com, "The consumer protection agency said the company's false claims of 'shape up while you walk' and 'get in shape without setting foot in a gym' misled consumers into believing that purchasing shoes from the Shape-Up, Tone-Up and Resistance Runner lines would help them lose weight and tone their bodies.The shoe company, which first launched its Shape-Up line in April 2009, has made close to $1 billion in sales from its fitness shoes, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The shoes retailed at about $100 a pair, and the Resistance Runner, Toner and Tone-Up models sold for $60 to $100 a pair in mid-2010."
Skechers had used celebrities such as Joe Montana and Kim Kardashian to hawk its footwear in TV and print ads. Only $5 million of the $40 million fine will be shared among the states. The remainder will eventually go to consumers who are eligible for a partial refund in the out-of-court settlement, and can submit claims on the Federal Trade Commission website. By the way, the talentless and media-ubiquitous Kim Kardashian, who has made a lucrative career of simply being famous, has a net worth of $35 million. Life just ain't fair.
A disclaimer at the end of the FTC statement emphasized that the settlement did not constitute an admission of guilt on Skechers' part. Huh? In other words, this all seems still sketchy. In a statement released last week, Skechers Chief Financial Officer David Weinberg denied the allegations of "unfounded claims," but added that the "exorbitant cost and endless distraction" of all these class-action lawsuits placed an "unreasonable burden" on the company. So for $40 million, the problem could go away.
The season-five pairing of dapper Don Draper and his fetching new wife, Megan from Montreal, have delighted fans of Mad Men. Their relationship, first consummated on a couch in Don's office, has moved to new terrain-- a swank, modernistic apartment that has already witnessed a burlesque strip tease by Megan at Don's surprise 40th birthday party, post-soiree cleaning by Megan in her black bra and panties that clearly excited Don, and a lover's quarrel following an ill-fated roadtrip to a Howard Johnson's. Now that Megan has decided to quit the ad game and go back to acting, she has time to play the stay-at-home wife. And what's great is her reluctance to wear shoes! She's a free spirit in her white-carpetted dominion. But she's no hippie. Her fashion tastes run more towards Carnaby Street than Woodstock. In a recent episode, Don comes home and finds his wife cooking without shoes. In the background, we hear a radio newsman reporting on President Johnson's trip to Southeast Asia where he demanded that North Vietnam surrender. Don says to his pot-stirring wife, "You shouldn't cook in bare feet." It's a great line, though one without any discernable logic. The following week's episode, we see barefoot Megan again in the apartment, dealing with the headstrong Draper gals-- young, bratty Sally and the newly chunky, overdressed and jealous ex-wife Betty.