Sharing the amazing journey back to health from my barefoot and sandal running friend Randy Kreill.  I got to share some beautiful trails with Randy in Yellow Springs Ohio on a recent USAF trip.  Randy and I have civil discussions on diet.  He is all plant and I add some bacon 🙂  I wish the rest of the health care world would respect each other too on this topic.  Barefoot and Minimal runners at the heart of it are cut from the same cloth. Randy has not had a running injury in 6 years and he runs some crazy distances on gnarly trails. Enjoy Randy’s story.

It was a cold day for our run but sandals and Injinji socks do the trick

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Roughly five years ago, wearing 4MM thin huarache style kit sandals, I walked into Dr. Mark’s overflowing natural running clinic with practically bare feet at the New Balance Store in Dayton, Ohio. The staff directed me front and center to an open space where Mark recognized my sandals and talked about them and meeting with the owner of the small web based business creating them, Invisible Shoes. Barefoot running was a hot topic, some would say a fad. I had plans to test this idea for years, not weeks. Shoe companies were racing to produce minimalist “barefoot” shoes with just enough comfort to get runners to invest some money. Often these customers ran too far, too fast and felt pain. That pain and frustration led to where we are now, in more of a “maximalist shoe market”. The lessons from the Raramuri; the nomadic, cave and hut dwelling “running people”, living in the most remote parts of the Copper Canyons, have now been largely forgotten. Christopher McDougall’s best-selling book, “Born To Run”, brought the Raramuri to our attention in 2009.

Learning curves can be long and wide, but I stayed the course, learning from an early mistake of overtraining and running my first 50K on a stress fracture to the fibula. I also attempted to adopt the minimalist lifestyle and diet of the Raramuri. It’s now been well over five years of injury free running, and I’ve completed five 100-mile endurance runs, and well over twenty other ultras and marathons, usually wearing sandals, sans socks. I love feeling the sun, rain and wind on my toes. Bare toes running is usually my favorite way to feel nature. And the so-called runner’s high, it’s real. The more years I have chasing that high, the better. My training runs are sometimes fifty miles.

Listening closely to natural running experts like Steven Sashen, co-owner of Xero Shoes (formerly Invisible Shoes), Danny Dreyer, Ken Bob Saxton and Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, I simultaneously rehabbed and conditioned my body to handle running further, and sometimes faster. Productive discomfort became my friend. After decades of absence my abs are back. My ample food is well described as PFHC, Plant Fat, High Carb with as much whole or minimally processed food as I can manage. Following the Raramuri’s lead, where whole grains are better than processed bread or pasta. Chia seeds, polenta, veggies and beans are staples. Internationally famous running coach, Joe Vigil suggested, “eat like you are third world poor”. It’s been over six years now for my all plant sourced foods. The best Raramuri runners, subsistence farmers, could run hundreds of miles in hand made sandals over rough mountain trails. Cancer, heart disease and diabetes were virtually unheard of amongst hearty Raramuri.

I grew up with a dislike for vegetables. Shrimp soaked in butter was a food group to me. As a teen, running a few hundred feet gave me nasty side stitches. I needed to learn to run, breath and eat! Later, overweight at age 42, with high cholesterol, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Thyroid Cancer. Now 54, I’m stunned by the power of nutrition, positive focus and healthy motion. Dr. Ruth Heidrich’s testimony in “Born To Run” finally convinced me that PFHC would best minimize my risk of a cancer recurrence and be the optimal anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant fuel for ultra-distance running.

Race times are not much of a concern, but having a great time is. A running centered life for me is now more about transformation, adventure, longevity, enjoying like-minded people, enjoying beautiful places, feeling the earth with more senses, stretching deep into the productive discomfort zone every so often, and attempting to share what I’m learning.

The most important idea that I’d love to share is that we are runners at our core. By striving to become the best runner you can be at any age, you set yourself up to learn more about yourself, the environment, humanity, and simply feeling great in your own skin. Happy Trails.