About 7 years ago, a young Megan Leon signed up for one of my Team Over The Top (TOTT) youth running clinics. Learning to run barefoot was part of the clinic.
At the age of 13, Megan showed no fear of going barefoot – during my drills and runs on different surfaces. Fast forward to July, 2015 and Megan is back training with me and my TOTT gang. Unbeknownst to me, Megan decided to start running full-on barefoot on her own through the streets of our hometown – Port Credit, Ontario, Canada. When word got back to me, I issued a challenge – get to 10 kilometres running barefoot and I will do a run with you. Never expecting Megan to reach the goal, I felt the promise would not need to be fulfilled. Well, Megan announced last week that she indeed WAS up to running 10 kilometres. The coach, being a man of his word, said “Ok, Megs, we’re on – Wednesday, July 22 at 6:00 p.m. for a 50 minute ‘Natural Method” barefoot run before our normal 7:00 p.m. hour long group training session”. The following account (with accompanying photos) will leave you speechless:
- I got Megan kicked in by running her over rough asphalt, chopped up concrete, street curbs and wooden garden retention walls on our way into the bush and trails of Rattray Marsh (she was not used to this BUT never quit)
- running up a series of steps, Megan worked on springing forward and landing light (see photo)
- this was followed by push-off push ups against a wooden retaining fence (see photo)
- I then had Megan run down and up through dense brush and rugged dirt terrain (see photo). The key was to get her balanced and low
- from there, it was slogging through the bog in the centre of the marsh. Megan somehow missed stepping on the snapping turtles and sinking into the muck – keeping herself braced and lifting her knees to push forward (see photo)
- after leaving the bog, the next challenge was cupping the feet whilst running in the trench of odd-shaped stone (see photo). Note the forward lean and intense bracing of the body to minimize impact. Megan somehow survived this
- coming out of the trench led to squat pull-ups on the rail around one of the wooden bridges (see photo). With fatigue setting in, Megan increased her focus
- next, it was running along giant logs and leaping back into the brush (see photo). Note Megan’s superb balance and sheer joy of the moment
- running along one of the many wooden bridges (see photo) forced Megan to land light (I wanted NO impact noise) and brace against gravity to protect her knees and hips. This is a fantastic injury-prevention exercise
- from the bridge, it was down into the river bed and climbing out (see photo). This forced Megan to adapt her style to the terrain and get the hell out of there in one piece – nice job
- scooting along the rugged pebble path exiting the marsh is one of my favourite shots of Megan running barefoot (see photo). She’s not perfect technically BUT she IS running low and forward whilst scooting over the pebbles
- to finish off the Natural Method run, Megan hopped onto a narrow wooden beam (see photo) and fought to maintain balance. Note how her feet grip the beam to enhance balance. She then completed my hour long natural running clinic session with nary a complaint…
This was new territory for Megan but she handled it wonderfully. Her biggest challenge is landing light on the mid-foot whilst keeping the knees bent.
Like virtually ALL runners who have not mastered my Squat-Scoot technique of tight, light, compact and forward running, landing locked-kneed and LOUD is a major injury-inducing reality.
By the end of our run, Megan was back to bracing against gravity and landing light – NO knee pain and a faster pace.
Congrats, my young Queen’s University student! You thrived a tough barefoot running session with the old coach…not easy!! Who’s next???