In case you're not familiar with Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, from Amazon.com:
An epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt? Isolated by Mexico's deadly Copper Canyons, the blissful Tarahumara Indians have honed the ability to run hundreds of miles without rest or injury. In a riveting narrative, award-winning journalist and often-injured runner Christopher McDougall sets out to discover their secrets. In the process, he takes his readers from science labs at Harvard to the sun-baked valleys and freezing peaks across North America, where ever-growing numbers of ultra-runners are pushing their bodies to the limit, and, finally, to a climactic race in the Copper Canyons that pits America’s best ultra-runners against the tribe. McDougall’s incredible story will not only engage your mind but inspire your body when you realize that you, indeed all of us, were born to run.
It's mentioned in both Born to Run and ChiRunning that children are the inspiration for lots of barefoot runners. Children run for fun and they don't care about form. If you watch children carefully, their running form is what most runners consider terrible. But they are laughing the whole time they are running. Born to Run also points out that the best way to find your form for barefoot running is to imagine you are playing barefoot in the grass with a child when she runs toward the street and you have to run after her. Your body naturally snaps into the best running form without even thinking about it. Mike didn't have to imagine that, as one afternoon Muffin made a run for the parking area of the vacation cottages where we were staying. (Thankfully there were no moving cars, so she was scooped up and deposited safely back on the grass within a few seconds.) It really made Mike think about barefoot form -- after Muffin's safety of course -- and later that afternoon we went to a park so he could actually run barefoot.
I like wearing shoes. There's too much broken glass and pee on the sidewalks here, when there even are sidewalks, for me to run barefoot. I think there's definitely something to wearing minimal shoes rather than thick-heeled running shoes though. My calves have loosened up yet strengthened. I'm still having some toe problems, but Mike says he had the same problem and just like the calves, the toes will work themselves out.
And I'm thinking about running happy. I still have my Garmin to track my final time and distance but I rarely look at it while I'm running. I tell my mind to run seven miles and not worry about the time and I just do it. I watch kids play in the park. I admire women in their khurtas and running shoes. I have to admit that I get grouchy when large groups of slow walkers are blocking the path and seem to think I'm the rude one for saying "Excuse me" so I can pass by them. But I'm working on that.
Born to Run is about ultramarathon running and while I doubt I will ever reach that level of running (I'd love to try but it takes up too much time!) there was one incident in the book that inspired me more than anything else. Two people are head-to-head to win something like a 100-mile trail race. One is running with science, timing the pace, the rests, every snack, down to the second. The other runner is just out there having fun. The first runner gets pissed when the second runner passes for the win, with a smile on his face. The first runner is bitter because after all that hard work, he's supposed to be the winner and you're not supposed to be smiling after such a hard race.
After reading that, I decided I want to be the happy runner, not the bitter runner. Making that decision really seems to have taken off the pressure I'd placed on myself to be a "good" runner. What is a good runner, anyway? It's all in my head.
In related news, I downloaded the free sample of Scott Jurek's book, Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness. I'm glad I read the sample before buying the whole book. I couldn't stand his writing style. I found him to be much more sympathetic and likable in Born to Run.
(Image from ChrisMcDougall.com. I was not compensated for this post in any way. Books were purchased by me for personal reading.)