In the beginning there was darkness, and runners seemed lost, confused, chronically injured, always experimenting with “bigger is better” footwear as a potential remedy. Then a new “less is more” approach emerged, a radical way of thinking led by a handful of scientists, athletes, coaches, and charismatic best-selling author. They looked backward to the past for inspiration. Soon, a healer and educator came forth. Collectively, they would become the shepherds to a flock of broken-down, often-sidelined runners accustomed to wearing conventional running shoes.
As it were, this health-conscious individual lived in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, the oldest town in the state and just up the road (and river) from Harpers Ferry. His name is Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, a family physician and an elite runner, who, in his early 40s, can still reel off sub 2:40s at the Boston Marathon. Mark had a singular vision regarding the need to spread the gospel of natural and minimalist running to the masses. In early summer 2010, he opened the first minimalist running store in the nation. He called it Two Rivers Treads because culturally and historically vibrant Shepherdstown is located near the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers.
Mark and his tiny store became a fixture in the natural running community, Coaches, athletes, trainers, physical therapists, bloggers, and runners from near and far became connected to one another through Two Rivers Treads.
Then along came Bill Katovsky, a two-time Hawaii Ironman finisher, founder of Tri-Athlete magazine, and author and editor of several health and fitness books. He lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, but heard of Mark when he started his own blog Zero Drop in late fall 2010. He had just come out with his latest book, “Return to Fitness: Getting Back in Shape after Injury, Illness, or Prolonged Inactivity.” Though Katovsky has once been a multisport jock, he barely broke a sweat in his 40s. Nor did he run during that Lost Decade. So when he returned to fitness and running, he threw out his old running shoes with their big heels and cushiony treads, and after hours of frustrating and bewildering research on the Internet, finally bought a pair of minimalist running shoes that a trail-running acquaintance recommended, removed their insoles, and began his own journey that eventually took him to Mark’s doorstep.
Together, they decided to launch the Natural Running Center (NRC) to serve as a comprehensive web resource of information and education for all runners. They sensed new, seismic changes affecting the running world, changes that would only broaden and solidify, and they wanted to help shape this early-adopter’s movement via learning and sharing of helpful resources. In late winter 2011, they began mapping out the mission of the Natural Running Center and how best to objectively disseminate information, bring other like-minded individuals into the NRC fold, and yet avoid the distraction of mind-draining dogma and reckless bias.
To help them reach these goals, they reached out to Nick Pang, also a West Coaster, who was a self-described web technologist living with his family just north of Silicon Valley. For twenty-five years, Nick was a serious runner before he got injured in traditional running shoes. He then saw the light two years ago in minimal shoes. He gradually retooled his gait and form, and began to run injury-free. Based on his own experiences, in the summer of 2010, he created the Minimalist Running Shoes website that quickly became an important destination for anyone looking for shoe reviews in this rapidly expanding sector of the footwear market.
An advisory board of health, science, medical, and coaching experts was next created for the Natural Running Center. Its purpose was twofold: to exchange knowledge and ideas with one another; and to easily communicate their findings and writings with all runners.
And thus the Natural Running Center was born– a virtual home for this new “re-evolution” in running. Like our tagline says– “Learn, Evolve. Run!”
Natural Running Center Team
Executive Director…Mark Cucuzzella, M.D.
Creative & Editorial Director…Bill Katovsky
Web & Shoe Review Director…Nick Pang