Born to Run to Robie Creek?

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My mom always said, "There are no mistakes. Only lessons."

Well, right about now a handful of weekend warriors are learning some hard lessons in classes called Achilles Tendonitis 101 and Theory of Shin Splints. The well-intentioned wannabe runners won coveted spots in the limited-field size sufferfest known as the Race to Robie Creek. Three weeks ago, when race registration opened, they entered the event with fleet feet, and three hours later, when race registration closed, their feet were still fleet. But now? Not so much.

With a mere six weeks until race day and spring fever spiking everyone's psychological climate control, one can hardly blame an eager beaver for having an overuse injury. I should know, I've been there.

It was in the dead of winter. Fresh off a read of Born To Run, Christopher McDougall's study of a tribe of mysterious, cliff-dwelling, long-distance runners in northern Mexico, I was inspired to run. So run I did.

Thinking I might truly have been Born To Run, I experimented with form techniques described in the book, including a little bit of barefoot running. Before long, I discovered that I was not in fact a Tarahumara Indian, and my biomechanics couldn't tolerate such a fast buildup to high mileage and no shoes. Having spent the last five years with my butt planted firmly on the seat of a bicycle, and the last 10 years wearing custom orthotics in anything but a flip-flop or a strappy heel, running barefoot had been an idea born of sheer lunacy on my part. I sustained an injury that couched me for nearly eight weeks.

So, to all the enthusiastic weekend warriors who are training for the Race to Robie Creek, learn the lesson from my mistake: Don't let your running program be a recipe for injury.

As for those of you who are injured already, cross-train your hearts out—you might still make it to the start line. If not, call me. I'll be the highest bidder for your bib number.