Seeing this book and the subtitle, I was intrigued, yet skeptical. If I follow my mind and run by feel, I will usually sleep in instead of run, and quit when I get tired. I have a hard enough time meeting my goals without giving into laziness! But Matt Fitzgerald offers up a slightly different way of thinking about training and running.
Reading Run made me realize that, while I have enjoyed reading many running books, the ones I enjoy most are the stories about people running, not so much the training or coaching books. Run fits the latter category. This book is directed at the serious runner, preferably one who has trained with a coach or a team. Fitzgerald does give a nod to the casual runner at times, but the target audience seems to be the more serious running crowd.
That's not to say a back-of-the-packer like me can't benefit from his teaching. To run by feel, run happy and confident. Fitzgerald gives the example of Dean Karnazes, who loves to run long distances more than just about anyone, running for hours and hours just for fun (as well as to raise money and awareness as he did in his recent coast-to-coast run). Then there's Haile Gebreselassie, who always runs with a smile. Confidence, Fitzgerald writes, comes from experience and training. So, for instance, if my training runs have been at a certain pace, I have more confidence that I can run that pace in a race.
Fitzgerald seems not to be a fan of training plans, those schedules that tell you weeks ahead of time what you'll run on a particular date in preparation for a race. However, unless a runner has a strong foundation from systematic training or coaching, or is one of that fraction of a fraction of a percent of us who is gifted with unusual speed or endurance, the running by feel plan will not get the runner race ready. When we train with a plan or a coach, Fitzgerald would say that every day we need to be willing to alter or even eliminate that day's plan, depending on how we feel.
As a practitioner of minimalist running, I was heartened by Fitzgerald's embrace of minimalism. He did dismiss the various stride training programs out there, like pose running and Chirunning, endorsing a simple change of footwear as a means to change stride:
"The only common running technique flaw that exists at the level of gross motor coordination is that of overstriding, which is cause by the wearing of shoes and is best corrected primarily by addressing footwear, not by learning an entirely new way to run. Indeed, I believe that if all runners ran barefoot, the various running technique systems would not exist. . . . Practicing running barefoot on grass, on sand, and/or on an at-home treadmill will get your neuromuscular system accustomed to making ground contact with a flat foot underneath the body's center of gravity. Wearing the lightest, least cushioned running shoes in which you are comfortable in your everyday training will help you transfer your barefoot running form over to your shod running."
He claims that shifting to minimalist shoes changed his stride from heel strike to mid-foot strike and solved his runner's knee problem. In fact, for running maladies in general, "eschewing pavement in favor of dirt is perhaps the most proven means of reducing injuries by reducing impact."
There's a lot of common sense in his book, and a lot of science. But beginner runners need not apply.