The Outside Blog

Adventure : Running

Ragnar Puts the Team in Trail Running

Screen Shot 2013-01-25 at 2.22.28 PMNo more lonely trails. Photo: Courtesy of Ragnar

On January 22, the increasingly popular relay running series, Ragnar, announced that it is partnering with Salomon to launch the world’s first overnight trail running series. "For years we have dreamed of taking Ragnar to the trails and now it’s a reality," says Tanner Bell, who founded Ragnar Events a decade ago with a 200-mile team road race in Utah. Since then, the series has grown to 15 events in the U.S. and Canada, with nearly 100,000 racers competing last year.

The new two-day trail series will feature 120-mile courses and teams of four to eight runners. Unlike the road series, in which teammates who aren’t running drive by van to meet up with their runners at pre-determined transition points, Ragnar’s trail relays will consist of three loops run out of a central base camp à la traditional 24-hour mountain bike races. Not only does this alleviate the discomfort of cramping muscles during long car rides, but it also caters to parent runners who want to bring their kids to check out the action. Simply pitch a tent, set up a few chairs, and voila—front row seats to the race. (Kids must be at least 12 to enter.)

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Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Barefoot Running Form

Shutterstock_96353507Barefoot in the grass. Photo: Shutterstock

The science of barefoot running form hit the ground somewhat simply at first. In a January, 2010, Nature article, “Foot Strike Patterns and Collision Forces in Habitually Barefoot Versus Shod Runners," Harvard evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman and colleagues said that traditionally unshod populations likely ran with a soft forefoot or midfoot strike. They said that rearfoot strikes, or heel strikes, involved higher collision forces that could lead to repetitive stress injuries over time. Since staying healthy was important for survival, and survival for early humans may have included running long distances to forage or hunt, they hypothesized that forefoot or midfoot strikes were probably more common for barefoot runners. They also said that forefoot or midfoot strikes might protect today's runners, who often heel strike, against a high degree of impact-related injuries.

The scientific debate about running form picked up, with a lot of back and forth about the economy, injury rates, and performance benefits of foot strike patterns and running. Lieberman and co. added traction to their theory in 2012 when they published a study that said college cross-country runners with rearfoot strikes had a higher rate of repetitive stress injuries than those with midfoot and forefoot strikes. A 2012 lawsuit brought against Vibram for deceptive advertising about the supposed health benefits of their shoes added attention and debate. The science about foot strike patterns and barefoot running is young and far from conclusive.

This month, things got more convoluted. Lieberman's 2010 Nature study, which found a high rate of forefoot strike among traditionally barefooted runners, focused on one particular group of people, the Kalenjin of Kenya. A January study published in the journal PLOS One, “Variation in Foot Strike Patterns During Running Among Habitually Barefoot Populations,” looked at another group of traditionally unshod runners—the Daasanach of northern Kenya—and found they favored rearfoot striking.

Kevin Hatala of George Washington University and colleagues tested the footstrike patterns of 38 traditionally barefoot Daasanach adults and found that the majority ran with a rearfoot strike at endurance speeds. They impacted the earth with some part of their heels 72 percent of the time, a midfoot strike in 24 percent of trials, and forefoot strike four percent of the time. "We were surprised to see that the majority of Daasanach people ran by landing on their heels first and few landed on their forefoot,” Hatala said in a press release. “This contradicts the hypothesis that a forefoot strike characterizes the 'typical' running gait of habitually barefoot people."

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Expedition Watch: Jez Bragg Runs Across New Zealand

Screen Shot 2013-01-09 at 2.33.30 PMMan's best friend. Photo: JezBragg.Blogspot.com

In addition to the 50 sunsets and sunrises that ultrarunner Jez Bragg plans to take in while trying to run 2,000 miles across New Zealand's newest cross-country trail in the fastest time ever, there are less dramatic sites that require more of his attention. For example, there are seven sheep for every person in New Zealand, which means a lot of herding dogs. On day 18, at 3:30 p.m., Bragg was in the middle of a long run when he ran into a cowboy with five such dogs. The chance meeting led him to refocus his attention on the trail beneath him. "Five dogs means high statistical probability of dog poo," read a post on his blog, written from the perspective of his shoes, which had already trudged over more than 600 miles of terrain. "I am running almost 100km today, having my back pressed into dog poo would be the last straw."

Here's a bit more on Bragg's 50-day planned journey, in case you'd like to follow along.

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Will You Stay Drier Running or Walking in the Rain?

Yes, carrying an umbrella is the simplest way to stay dry when it's raining. For science's sake, let's just say it starts raining unexpectedly on a day when an umbrella just isn't a possibility and you have somewhere specific to be. What's the best way to get less wet while traveling to your destination?

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Brooks Board Shorts: A More Discreet Option for Running

210470_MS13R5_957_A (1)

Not everyone wants to show it all when they run. Slit-up-the-side, three-inch inseam, built-in underwear, nearly-a-speedo running shorts are about as revealing as you can get in public without getting arrested.

If that's not your look, Brooks Running is now making the Board Short, a pair of running shorts just for you. They look and feel like surf shorts, with a classic lace-up fly, a modern plaid print, and a full nine inches of inseam in a super supple stretchy fabric that won't get hung up as you click off the miles.

The shorts are so light, our tester reported, "more than once I looked down to make sure that I was still actually wearing something." In the Board Short, you'll be unencumbered and you'll dry fast—it's DWR coated—whether you're running, hiking, swimming, or cycling. Wear them all day long.

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