We recently heard from an alert reader who runs marathons from time to time, full 26+ mile marathons. She had been reading one of the best books on running that she had ever found, she said. The book is Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, by Christopher McDougall, published in 2009. Because this reader knew that Ana Darcy was a marathoner herself, even running an Olympic marathon, she wanted to tell us about McDougall's book, which does indeed look remarkable.
The entry for the book at Amazon contains an interview with the author, which includes, in part, this question and answer:
Question: Born to Run explores the life and running habits of the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s Copper Canyon, arguably the greatest distance runners in the world. What are some of the secrets you learned from them?
Christopher McDougall: The key secret hit me like a thunderbolt. It was so simple, yet such a jolt. It was this: everything I’d been taught about running was wrong. We treat running in the modern world the same way we treat childbirth—it’s going to hurt, and requires special exercises and equipment, and the best you can hope for is to get it over with quickly with minimal damage.
Then I meet the Tarahumara, and they’re having a blast. They remember what it’s like to love running, and it lets them blaze through the canyons like dolphins rocketing through waves. ...the most important thing I picked up from my time in the Copper Canyons [was] the understanding that running can be fast and fun and spontaneous, and when it is, you feel like you can go forever. But all of that begins with your feet. Strange as it sounds, the Tarahumara taught me to change my relationship with the ground. Instead of hammering down on my heels, the way I’d been taught all my life, I learned to run lightly and gently on the balls of my feet. The day I mastered it was the last day I was ever injured.
This was not news to us. Remember: McDougall's book was published in 2009. The description of Ana Darcy's Olympic marathon may be found on page 148 of Distant Cousin, published in 2005: "Darcy seemed to be running on her toes, not her whole foot, like the other runners."
Whether Ana learned that technique from an Olympic coach or whether it was common practice on her home planet Thomo is uncertain.
In volume 5 of the Distant Cousin series (forthcoming), we meet husband and wife thusly: "The man, a head taller than the woman, had a bandanna tied around his head. The woman had her hair tied back in a pony tail which swung this way and that as she moved. Both ran on their toes, without their heels touching the packed dirt."
What I do know is that I myself used to run, in my salad days, back in the 1960's and 1970's. (Later, I converted to bicycling.) I always ran on the front part of the foot. I never had an injury either.
If you are a runner, you might try this technique, from Christopher McDougall and the extraterrestrial gold medalist, Ana Darcy Méndez!
Distant Cousin at Smashwords (free sample includes passage cited above)