Why do we have to run marathons or ultramarathons, preferably barefoot?
Compared to quadrupeds, humans are poor sprinters, but excellent long-distance runners. In my childhood, like all children around the world, I loved to run and, for 5 years, I would run and walk nearly 10 miles a day, naturally and happily barefoot, between my native village and the nearest elementary school. That was in the early 1960s in the region of Fouta Djallon, in Guinea (a former French colony in West Africa). Afterwards, I moved to the city to attend the high school. In 1973, I was granted a higher education scholarship and sent to Havana, where I got my degree of doctor of medicine in 1980...
A combination of exceptional circumstances helped me 30 years later, in Chicago, to get back the delight of running. Since then, I have been trying, through this website (www.sidy42k.com) and my exchanges with those I meet, to help as many people as possible to find again the motivation to run.
Getting out of our comfort to run 26.2 miles is a wise way to go
For some, running marathons or ultramarathons reflects a certain degree of madness, especially when you run barefoot. But those people are terribly wrong, because the historical and anthropological reality attests to the fact that long-distance running is, on the contrary, a heathy, normal and vital activity for humans. Furthermore, we should practice this activity in the most natural way, i.e. barefoot. And make no mistake: this is a completely free activity by definition, therefore accessible to everyone. All the rest is a matter of catching the motivation?
It’s because we now have convenient access to food, that we have categorized long-distance running as a "sport", but it is in fact just a kind of simulation of the persistent hunting and other forms of getting food that our ancestors had to perform for millions of years in order to survive and ensure the survival of their respective species.
We have obviously thought it wise to use our intelligence to free ourselves from all intense physical activity, by creating the conditions for a comfortable lifestyle our body is unfortunately not suited to, nor intended for. Hence the ever expanding epidemic of chronic noncommunicable diseases such as stress, depression, insomnia, overweight, diabetes, high blood pressure, other cardiovascular diseases or certain cancers, which paradoxically endanger our comfort, and even the survival of our species...
Fortunately, we have inherited, all of us, the exceptional endurance capabilities of our ancestors, but the motivation and delight for physical activity we enjoy in our early childhood dissipate at the latest in our teens, when our reptilian brain becomes certain that we are not any more living in those times when humans had to run or walk long distances to get their hands on the precious food. The good news is that running a few marathons or ultra-marathons would be enough to definitely bring back the intense pleasure of running, and put us, by the way, on the path of the natural and sustainable solution to many of our problems.
But why then barefoot?
Well, asking this question is, in a sense, to reverse the burden of proof, as walking or running barefoot is about not putting the shoes on, rather than taking them off. Therefore, we should in the first place question, quite legitimately, the belief in the benefits and the indispensable nature of wearing shoes. And ask ourselves, why should shoes become vital when our ancestors walked and ran barefoot for millions of years; they were able to travel long distances as often as necessary to feed themselves; all the organs of the human body are by definition perfectly suited to the accomplishment of their missions; even nowadays only certain humans wear shoes; and, finally, no other animal species uses these accessories?
When you see the physical and health condition of most athletes who have just completed a marathon or ultra-marathon, not to mention those who had to give up, it is easy to understand that, if our ancestors had been wearing our beautiful sneakers for their persistent hunting, they would likely have been unable to hunt as efficiently and frequently as necessary to meet their dietary needs. Their species could have disappeared prematurely. And, logically, we would not be discussing shoes here today, because we would not exist.
Thanks to advances in hygiene, medicine and pharmacy, we have finally mastered the acute diseases, mainly infectious diseases. The trouble is that we now expect the science to provide solutions and remedies to our chronic noncommunicable diseases, whose main cause is our regrettable physical inactivity, sometimes associated with an insatiable appetite.
In this regard, while the chronic noncommunicable diseases are now the only major public health challenge in rich countries, low- and middle-income countries are now suffering from what the World Health Organization (WHO) refers to as the “double burden of disease": “While these countries continue to deal with the problems of infectious diseases and undernutrition, they are also experiencing a rapid upsurge in noncommunicable disease risk factors such as obesity and overweight, particularly in urban settings”.