There are two marathon wins in the news right now. The first is by Dr. Mark Cucuzzella in the Air Force Marathon near Dayton, OH, who, though often touted as a barefoot runner, wore minimalist shoes. The other win was in the Fox Valley Marathon (just west of Chicago), which was one by Tim Cunningham from Charlottesville, VA. Tim really did run the whole race barefoot.
I don’t get it.
I’ve written before about Dr. Cucuzzella, and titled it Schizophrenia He really does advocate barefoot running, but I also really wonder why he ran this marathon with shoes on. If one really believes in the value of barefoot running, why stop when it really matters?
Let’s see what Dr. Cucuzzella says in the article, in answer to a question:
Given that a majority of your training is barefoot, what are the differences in racing shod?
I want something with a close to barefoot feel; that is a firm shoe with no heel elevation. Also need a nice toe-box so I can use my “Correct Toes”. These keep my big toe in the right position for stability and spring. You can run faster on this course in shoes than barefoot. There are lots of rough stretches of pavement which would be tough at 6 minute pace in bare feet. To race a marathon you need to be in total relaxation mode and let it go. Barefoot on unfamiliar textured terrain is a challenge in itself. You can go more reckless in shoes too as you can get away with flying down the hills, and which is a good thing in a race. The Newtons are different as they are not traditional soft foam, but rather a firm TPU membrane with recoil properties. To me this enhances efficiency, and does not sap it away like traditional EVA.
So, he was concerned about the terrain, rough pavement.
I suspect he needs to listen to Ken Bob Saxton more. Rough terrain is generally not a problem if you are running right.
Dr. Cucuzzella got asked another question:
Will you ever run a full marathon barefoot?
Sure, I need to find a nice scenic course with a good smooth road. I would not “race” this either and rather focus on smooth technique and enjoying the day. I ran Big Sur several years ago. This would be a nice barefoot run, or Napa Valley and finish with a nice glass of red.
Again, he wants smooth, and seems to think that is necessary for a barefoot marathon.
Actually, maybe I shouldn’t say too much more here. I’m not much of a runner, and I’m certainly not an elite runner. Dr. Cucuzzella won the race in 2:38. Maybe it is the case that in order to have that sort of time you really do need the “tool” of footwear to go that fast for that long. It is kind of like the swimmers who are wearing those super-slick body suits and can go quite a bit faster because of it.
But let me highlight the real barefoot marathon win.
Tim Cunningham’s time was 2:56, so he didn’t compete against the truly elite. But he did do just fine, even on rough bridge crossings and through wet weather.
Here’s a picture of him with a group crossing over one of those bridges (you may have to squint to make him out). He seems to be doing fine.
It is interesting to compare the forms of the different runners.
It turns out the Mr. Cunningham is a clown. Literally. He’s president of Clowns without Borders, a non-profit group that sends clowns to refugee camps to lighten the mood there. So that led to this headline in another story about his win: Barefoot clown triumphant at Fox Valley Marathon.
It seems they also had a problem knowing that he won the race. There was some sort of issue (I can’t quite figure it out from the story) in that he did not have the usual shoe clip (duh!) but wore an anklet bracelet instead that somehow missed him. So they had to go back to videotape to confirm his win.
And here is he just about to cross the finish line:
Congratulations to both runners, but especially to Tim Cunningham.