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Enter a new space

May 25, 2010

Dear Readers,

Due to certain technical and administrative issues, I will be initiating a new blog for TRF at

For future updates, please refer to this new domain. The old blog will still be here if you want to refer to it so don’t worry.

The Editor



May 17, 2010

The US’s Scott Jurek, seven-time winner of the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run with

Arnulfo Quimare, Tarahumara ultrarunner.

Notice Jurek’s heel strike and Quimare’s forefoot landing, consistent with the the phenomenon observed in many runners today. The built up heel cushioning in many shoes compels the foot to land there, instead of the forefoot, which would be the case if the runner was transversing barefoot or wearing minimal footwear. like the Tarahumara Run Sandal. This is supposedly the proper way to run.

This issue has been thoroughly analysed by  Danny Abshire of Newton Running, a passionate advocate of “natural” running form. If you’re interested check out the older posts on this blog or the Newton website itself. As always, I’m expressing these opinions from an unbiased perspective, based  on what’s quite commonly known in the running community. It is still difficult to ascertain what’s right and what’s wrong and I believe there isn’t a fixed answer despite what many say. So don’t misquote me!

So on to the topic at hand. As I’ve slowly progressed in my running career, which has been rudely interrupted by insertional patellar tendonitis on both my damn knees, I’ve started to realise how far-reaching the effects of materialism and commercialisastion are. They’ve permeated many aspects of my life (  I love shoes and clothe and hair wax. I’m shallow, yes, I know), including the sport I so love. What with the latest apparel, shoes, accessories  and nutrition to make myself look cooler, more professional, more intimidating and FEEL faster. And yet I still think that I haven’t fallen too far, when I see men and women covering every extremity with compression fabric and decked from head to toe in all sorts of paraphernalia ranging from night vision Oakleys to Polar footpods with retro boosters. “Getting ready for war”, is what Andy commented to me once and I totally agree. It’s especially necessary when you’re setting off for a 5km jaunt round the neighbourhood…

Another bothersome thing that has emerged is the increased frequency of injury which seems to plague more and more of us. Damn, what happened to  joyous, pain-free running, where you could leave your troubles behind and return refreshed, with the strength and determination to face them? These days we seem to meet worse things on our runs such as shin splints and runner’s knee. It feels like we’re putting more and more into running and getting less and less out of it…

Was there ever a time  when things were less complicated? A time when running was just you, your mates and the wind in your face? Sure there was. If you want to experience that first love again and keep it with you for the rest of your natural existence, then step back in time (not really…) and meet the people who started it all.

The Tarahumara Indians are Mexican natives residing in the remote Copper Canyons. They are the world’s best runners ( yes, even surpassing our modern day heroes such as Gebreselassie, Bekele or Wanjiru), with ultra-distances being their forte. No one and no animal can beat them when it comes to endless running These guys bring running to a whole new level and essentially transform it into a work of art that becomes part of their entire way of life, but unfortunately, has been lost to the rest of the world with ever increasing modernisation, industrialisation and globalisation.

I thought there were four interesting areas of comparison between a modern-day runner and a Tarahumara runner. Well first and foremost would be what you can see on the outside. Usually we wear




Our Tarahumara compatriots wear this.

With regards to running shoe technology, I’m not trying to say that it’s bad or anything. Shoes cushion our feet, protect them from dirt and glass and give our friends something to oogle at. However, the advent of such protection would obviously led to a sharp drop in the robustness and durability of our feet and lower limbs. I mean if you think about it, ancient man didn’t have Nike Air, Asics Gel or Action-Reaction membrane tech. All they had were their God-given feet which they had to rely on to chase antelope, walk across the fields and journey from one settlement to another. I woder why, with advancements in shoe tech increasing at an exponential rate, are runners still encountering such a variety of disabling injuries. Some authorities say that a lack of proprioception is the culprit here, and that large chunky, cushy shoes are more of a bane than a boon in the long run, no pun intended. Why is proprioception so important? Because it comes packaged with good form and running economy. All that stuff which you’ve been hearing lately about landing under your center of gravity and not over-extending your stride? Surprise it’s actually not crap and should be taken seriously. “feeling the ground” is what some call it and being able to do so may help to repair various running gait anomalies  According to Eric Orton, an American endurance sports coach, people have to learn essential and fundamental form whenever they pick up a new sport. The same logic applies to running. Just that most people run any old how and that causes all sorts of problems.  So what we should do back to bare-foot running? Maybe. Let’s see what the Tarahumara’s wear.

The Tarahumara Runsandal. You’d think people’s feet would fall off after 10km of rocky terrain in these. Well they seem to work fine for our Mexican Indian counterparts. Perhaps thats why some very radical people from Vibram invented this.

If you ask me, minimal is good, but this is bordering on absurdity. One has to place the situation in context. If you spend your whole life running on rocks and sands barefoot, then fine. But us denizens have been pampered by parquet floors and smooth concrete. What’s more most society’s demand that we wear shoes. I don’t think that our feet are gonna be as tough as the Africans or the Tarahumara’s in this life time. We could train them to a certain extent, but in the end, better to stick with shoes and stay safe than to risk  ending your running sojourn prematurely. Besides did I mention that I love shoes? ( So in order to simulate barefoot running, we have brands like Newton, Nike, New Balance, Vibram and others coming up with shoes that help you to feel the ground but offer good protection at the same time. We’ll discuss this next time.)

Now, running barefoot or with minimal protection may not be entirely feasible for most of us. However there are other aspects of Tarahumara “training ” that we can incorporate into our own workouts. Firstly, we have to realise the importance of strength training, balance and coordination. Many don’t see the need to establish a strong foundation in these areas. Consequently, many exercises prescribed by physiotherapist usually serve to “wake” muscle groups which for some reason are not being actively utilised or perhaps establish neural connections which were probably overwhelmed by stronger ones. Eric Orton says that the Tarahumaras aren’t just outstanding runners, but superb athletes on a whole. It’s because there everyday lives involve so  much impromptu running, jumping, climbing, crawling and other Standard Obstacle Course look-alikes that Singaporean men only carry out a few times during their NS. This strengthens and injury-proofs their bodies against running mishaps. Tarahumara children build coordination and reflexes by passing a wooden ball with their feet as they dash through the forests. So you see, the main thing is to have a strong, efficient and agile body  to bolster your running prowess and minimise the drama caused by aches and pains that could have been cleverly avoided.

Right, we’ve taken a look at attire, foot-wear and supplementary training. The last thing I wanna talk about, and I’ll try to be very brief, is nutrition. In contrast to our rich diets of meat, processed foods and refined carbs, the Tarahumaras subsist mainly on whole grains, fruits and vegetables such as beans, squash, chilli peppers, and corn. Low glycemic index foods mostly. Their most potent food is apparently a seed called chia, which is crazily packed with omega 3s, proteins, fibres and antioxidants. While we drink

They drink

home-brewed corn beer, or this, a supersoldier serum made with chia seeds, water, sugar and lime juice. Zouk should start serving this.

In the end, if we’re game enough to try these things, we may just be able to obtain a fraction of that resilience and tranquility which is often so elusive. Then people could call us Tarahumaras as well.

Oh ya as an exemplary student from NUS, I must cite my references or risk disciplinary action, expulsion or imprisonment. The main sources of inspiration are Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall, the 220 Triathlon July 2009 issue,the TrailRunner March 2010 issue and the Men’s Health (Singapore) December 2009 issue =)

Adidas Sundown 2010 Marathon lead-up runs by SIS

May 11, 2010

Ok so we made it through thre 2XU run alive desptite certain things. I’m just so grateful. We still have the Newton 30km man. Let’s talk about something else…

TRF has partnered with SIS in a training endeavor for participants of  of the coming sundowner in May. People who signed up attend trainings twice a week; intervals on Thursdays and long runs on Saturdays. All the training is conducted at night to accomodate those in the workforce and to acclimatise the body to nocturnal endurance activity.

Over the past few weeks, the participants have slowly built up their levels of endurance and resistance. Slowly, but surely, they’ve gotten better at the game. Once upon of time, a couple of loops round the stadium would have knocked the wind out of their lungs. Now, they tackle 30km long runs and countless sets of 1km with ease! For most of them, their marathon dreams are just round the corner as the big day approaches.

I’m really thankful to my teammates for pitching in to help chaperon the runners during this busy period.What started out as some thing pretty apprehensive for us first -timers has blossomed into something rather successful thanks to everyone’s hard work and discipline. Let’s finish this victoriously with a smashing good time at the marathon!

test post

May 4, 2010

my sincerest apologies to  people who read this blog. theres been some problems which have been preventing me from blogging. i think everythings all rite now… hopefully haha. new posts will be up soon.


the editor

Newton Trail Shoe!!!! YEAH!!!!!!

February 4, 2010

• Highly breathable, fast-drying, debris-proof closed mesh
• Abrasion resistant collar lining
• Slip-proof laces with heel-securing double eyelets
• Lightweight flexible molded P.U. support frame
• Reinforced toe cap
• Reflective logo and heel tab
• Gusseted tongue

• Tuned Action/Reaction Technology™forefoot and heel
• Biomechanical metatarsal sensor plate
• Tuned firm high-rebound EVA
• Midfoot/rearfoot support chassis for added stability
• ETC anti-friction, anti-bacterial sockliner
• Accommodates orthotics

• High traction and durability rubber compound

Green Features
• 100% recycled laces, webbing, insole topcover
• 100% recycled box, packaging
• 10% recycled outersole rubber

The Momentum is an off-road guidance trainer designed for runners committed to a more efficient natural running style. It provides intelligent control for all foot types on all types of terrain, from groomed bridle paths to technical mountain trails.

Study: Humans Were Born To Run Barefoot by Christopher Joyce

January 30, 2010

Humans are excellent two-legged walkers. It’s one of the things that make us such successful creatures.

And there are some scientists who say we’re naturally born runners as well, that our bodies evolved to run. Now, anthropologist Dan Lieberman, one of the proponents of the “human runner” school, concludes that we do it better without shoes.

He says human ancestors needed to run well — both away from big animals and after small, tasty ones, for example. He


Shoes Or No Shoes, That Is The Question

It started at a lecture he gave before the Boston Marathon. A barefoot runner — someone who runs long distances without shoes — peppered the professor with questions he couldn’t answer. So Lieberman took him to his lab at Harvard University. He had him run over a flat metal plate that measures the collisional force of a footfall. Lieberman says runners generate a lot of collisional force.

“Most runners, when they land and they heel-strike — they land on their heel — they generate this sudden impulse, this sharp spike of force. So it’s like someone hitting you on the heel with a hammer, about 1 1/2 to 3 times your body weight,” he says.

Two runners: one with shoes, one without.

Benton et. al.Most shod runners land on their heels, which generates a sudden, sharp spike of force. Barefoot runners land farther forward, closer to the ball of their foot, which exerts much less force in comparison.

But Lieberman was surprised by the extremely low force readings made by the barefoot runner.

“He ran across the force plate, and he didn’t have [a high spike], and I thought, gee, that’s really amazing, and it kind of makes sense because that spike of force hurts, and I wonder if other barefoot runners do that.”

So Lieberman tested several groups of runners: Kenyans who’d been walking and running barefoot all their lives; Americans who grew up walking and running in shoes; and some who had switched from shoes to running barefoot.

On The Ball

Lieberman found that runners in shoes usually landed heel-first. Barefoot runners landed farther forward, either on the ball of their foot or somewhere in the middle of the foot, and then the heel came down — much less collisional force.

And people who switched from shoes to barefoot running eventually, without prompting, adopted the barefoot style. Lieberman, who runs marathons himself, says the reason is simple.

“It’s pain avoidance. It’s very easy to do. I mean, your body naturally tells you what to do,” he says.

Running shoes dampen the shock of a heel-first landing, so that’s probably why shod people run that way, Lieberman says.

But is that the most efficient way to run? Lieberman thinks not.

“Turns out that the way in which barefoot runners run seems to store up more energy,” he says.

More Spring Out Of The Step

To understand how that works, I talked to anthropologist Brian Richmond at George Washington University. He points out that the human foot has an arch with ligaments inside that stretch and contract with every footfall.

“It allows the arch of the foot and the calf muscles to act as a better spring and to store up energy, and then give it back in the beginning of the next step,” Richmond says.

Think of a compressed mattress spring pushed down and then released. Richmond agrees with Lieberman that the front-first landing of barefoot running probably capitalizes on that spring mechanism more than heel-first landing — it gets more spring out of the spring.

Richmond, in fact, has discovered fossilized footprints dating back 1.5 million years. Those human ancestors who left them had an arch. They were walking when they left the prints, but Richmond suspects that when they ran, they landed front-first.

“It looks like this is how our ancestors have been running for a million years or more,” he says. “It’s only been in the last 10,000 years that we’ve had any kind of shoes, really.”

Lieberman published his findings in the journal Nature. He received research funding from a company that makes “minimal” shoes, which mimic barefoot conditions, but he adds that he received no personal income from the company. He also says he’s not taking sides over which style of running is better or safer.

“I mean, I think we have to be really, really careful about what we do and don’t know. We have not done any injury studies; this is not an injury study,” he says. That’s next.

You guys and girls can access the main website and the video at

Do you Land-Lever-Lift or prefer the Windlass Mechanism

January 24, 2010

Danny Abshire describes landing , levering  and lifting as the correct way to run. The Newton way. The proper, correct and most efficient way to run. Here’s a run down taken from their website.

LAND lightly with your foot parallel to the ground under the center of your body mass.  This keeps impact shock off your heel, preventing braking action and reducing muscular damage. 

 As your midfoot/forefoot impacts the ground, you engage the Action/Reaction Technology™.  The membrane supporting the four external lugs absorbs shock and stores energy.  As you LEVER your foot forward, the lugs act as levers loaded up with energy.

Instead of using excessive muscle power and pushing off to begin a new stride, simply LIFT your foot off the ground.  The lugs will thrust out of the midsole chambers with a burst of energy that turns into forward propulsion.  

And yet here on the other side, we have Asics, the most popular brand of running shoe, and really, they are (just look around you, and not just in Singapore), to put it crudely, describing HEEL STRIKING AS A CONVENTIONAL RUNNING FORM! Oh my !@#$%. Sacrilege! Many in the  running community scream and faint! Here take a look at this brief description. You can read the whole thing yourself on the Asics America site.

According to Asics, the running gait is divided into two phases, the Stance and Swing.

The Stance phase comes first and here, the foot is in partial contact with the ground. This phase is further sub-divided into three stages. The Contact stage, which begins as the heel strikes the ground, involves bodily absorption of shock throught the foot and leg. It ends when the forefoot contacts the ground. The Midstance stage is where the foot and leg provide a stable and supportive base for the body to plac its weight on and pass over. The final stage, Propulsion, involves the Windlass Mechanism, where the big toe dorsi flexes , tightening the plantarfascia, raising the arch and pushing off from the forefoot. i you’re still cluless, the Windlass Mechanism refers to the coordinated action of the foot’s muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments to act as an efficient lever for pushing off.

After the Stance phase comes the Swing phase in which the foot is completely airborne. The foot enters the Stance phase when it contacts the ground again.

So you see my dilemma and confusion. i wonder how many of you feel the same way. Someone enlighten me!