Over the weekend, I talked a little bit about my desire to get back into minimalist running and read the Chi Running book.  A reader named Nick offered to write a post about how ‘mindful running’ transformed his life.  I hope you enjoy his post (I especially like his tip not to set time goals for your first race of any distance!).


Nick says:  I got into minimal running about two years ago through “Born to Run,” and the practice just made so much sense to me. I’m now 46 and had always had Achilles tendonitis, walked with a slight limp, and wore orthotics.  Since transitioning (perhaps a little too fast and painfully – go very slowly, maybe just a few minutes a week to start!) to minimal footwear, I have thrown away my orthotics and have absolutely no problems in my knees, ankles, or feet and have a healthy gait. 

Nick Marathon

I only wear minimal shoes now, even if my ‘non-running’ life, using Vivo Barefoot shoes for work and Vivos, Fivefingers, or Merrell barefoot for everything else.


Minimal shoes on their own won’t guarantee great running technique so I also follow the ChiRunning method, which I find logical and motivating. It’s very mindful and stresses the importance of mastering good form, controlled falling, running with your engaged core rather than your legs and using “form focuses” to monitor your form throughout your run. My wife and I attended a ChiRunning workshop with Danny Dreyer in London last year and it was excellent.  I have had no running injuries following his simple methods. I also like Lee Saxby’s ebook “Proprioreception.”

To prepare for my first marathon, I read the “The Non-Marathon Runner’s Trainer” by David Whisett. I just used it for its simple mileage plan and some psychological hints whilst ignoring its nutritional advice and especially the suggestion to munch ibuprofen to lessen running pain (some pain is inevitable in training!). 


The Edinburgh marathon itself was such fun. I ran in a pair of Vivobarefoot Evos and 1000 mile tri-socks and carried a Camelbak for hydration. I set my watch to alarm at 20 minute intervals to remind me to drink water and after the first hour I also chewed an organic Clif Bar Shots Blok for energy every time I drank. I was smiling all the whole way round. My clear goals were to complete the marathon and to enjoy it and I achieved both.


I resisted all temptation to set a time goal as that would pointlessly increase the chance of failed goals and hence disappointment. I managed the first half at my training time, but was getting tired and slower after 20 miles, so I had to walk a little bit then regained my mojo and ran the last few miles to the finish. I was euphoric for five days and have just booked my place on next year’s Edinburgh marathon! 


Barefoot ChiRunning has changed my life markedly. I love running and being mindful about running rather than regarding it as some gruesome chore to keep me healthy and prolong my life. I walk and function better. I have much more energy and my mood and general sense of well-being and confidence are great as a result.


Do you actively think about your body position while running?  Ever read the Chi Running books?  And what do you think about setting time goals the first time around?  Yay or nay?



  • Meredith August 15, 2011, 8:36 pm

    I definitely agree about not setting time goals the first time around. I’m running my first half in October (was planning on running my third 10 K, but decided to switch!), and I’ll just be so proud to finish! Once I get an idea of the pace I can maintain for 21.1 KM, I can look at ways to improve on that!

  • Katie @ Peace Love and Oats August 15, 2011, 8:51 pm

    A physical therapist that analyzed my running style told me I wasn’t a good candidate for a minimalist shoe, so my question to Nick is, are there certain people who shouldn’t use minimalist shoes?

    • Nick August 16, 2011, 4:13 pm

      Hi Katie,
      I can only say that minimal shoes/barefooting and working on relearning the joyful natural running form I had as a child have worked for me. 10 years ago a podiatrist decided that only orthotics could cure my achilles problems. I read Born to Run, bought some Vibram KSOs and learned Chirunning. That leap of faith worked wonderfully for me and I threw out my orthotics with no ill effects. I am now a runner.

  • Sarah for Real August 15, 2011, 8:53 pm

    I think the different perspectives on running are really interesting. I’ve heard everything from, “just run” to really complicated scientific strategies.

    I think it’s ironic that even this “minimalist” runner has a technique that required him to take a workshop and read multiple books. I realize the “minimalist” word is mostly in reference to the shoes, but I think even in that, there’s absolutely nothing minimal about what he’s doing.

    Is running supposed to be this complicated? Or are people just “geeking out” over something they love and so it produces all these “techniques”? It overwhelms me.

    • Caitlin August 15, 2011, 8:56 pm

      Hah I think it’s just dorky runners geeking out and loving to talk about running!!!!

      • Sarah for Real August 15, 2011, 11:10 pm

        That’s good to hear. I’m all for being geeky!

        I’m still trying to figure out what works for me with running so all the different methods really become confusing. I guess it’s more a process of trial and error. Or, error and error as is my case thus far :/

        • Caitlin August 16, 2011, 9:19 am

          Haha mine has been a lot of error and error, too.

    • Baking N Books August 15, 2011, 10:11 pm

      I love this comment! We tend to over-analyze ALOT of things in life don’t we?

      Goal-setting…I think it’s really individual and depends on where your at and how significant the sport plays in your life.

      • Margaret August 16, 2011, 10:11 am

        Exactly! Some people set a goal not to set a goal. 🙂

    • Nick August 16, 2011, 4:26 pm

      It is entirely individual and I only know what has worked for me.
      Running is incredibly simple, but unlike any other sport, we’re not really taught how to do it. We run brilliantly as small children and we do it for sheer pleasure. We lean forward and run: controlled falling. However, cushioned running shoes, power running for school athletics and all the other distractions of modern life make it easy for us to forget how we used to run and lose the joy of it.
      Relearning the simplicity of natural running has been complicated (for me) because I have had to unlearn 40+ years of bad habits that have injured me and made running a painful chore or punishment.
      For me, it’s definitely been worth the effort.

  • Tami August 15, 2011, 8:53 pm

    I have a pair of 5 fingers but I don’t want to take the time to break them in for running so I just wear them out and about (to thehooro of my children!). I have a pair of Nike frees that I can run 4-5 mies in.

    I would like to run more in my 5 fingers someday

    I did read the chi running book and it all makes so much sense

  • cathy August 15, 2011, 8:55 pm

    GREAT discussion topic, caitlin! i love nick’s story!
    yoga and minimalist shoe-wearing have made me more mindful of my running form – i’ve lessened my heal strike. i read the chi running book, and don’t follow the method to a “t,” but took away some ideas (imagine a string out the top of your head, pulling you up).
    DO NOT set a time goal the first time out! set an enjoyment goal!!

    • Caitlin August 15, 2011, 8:56 pm

      OH YEAH! I love an enjoyment goal.

      • Nick August 16, 2011, 4:39 pm

        Thank you.
        I loved the way the Taraumara runners in Born to Run just loved to run and that it wasn’t a task but a treat. Caballo Blanco rewards himself for fixing his hut by going for a 200 mile trail run!
        Although I accept that distance running involves some pain, I don’t have the masochistic personality type that could do this if it was miserable and I was in agony. My overarching goal is very much to enjoy running for the rest of my life and not to injure myself doing it. Barefoot running as a very inexpensive source of pleasure and fulfilment.

  • mariepouliche August 15, 2011, 8:58 pm

    Thanks for that post! I’m currently training for my first marathon ( in 2 weeks, whoa!)and I read a lot of blogs where runners are disapointed of their pace, they are injured over and over again, they puke, etc.
    It made me questionning myself. Did I ran enough hills? Sould I’ve done more strenght training? What about that 10km that I didn’t run? I remember now that running is a hobby of mine, it helped A LOT with my anxiety issues and I love that feeling of running 32km (canadian girl ;)) and feel so proud no matter how much time it took me. There is enough stress in our life with work and family, a hobby shouldn’t be stressful too.
    Oh, I also have different set up for my Garmin. I realized that when I wasn’t feeling a run, it was because I was stress about a certain pace. Sometimes, it’s good to get the milage done and enjoy the scenary for a while 🙂

  • Army Amy* August 15, 2011, 9:17 pm

    I usually zone out while I run and pay little attention to my form. Sometimes that’s nice bc running is a stress reliever for me. It would be worthwhile to look into chi running so that I don’t injure myself over time. Great guest post!*

  • Hillary August 15, 2011, 9:25 pm

    I’ve had to pay a lot of attention to how I run lately—apparently I’m a heavy heel striker, and it’s causing me a boatload of pain. I never knew there was a “wrong” way to run! Paying attention to my gait has definitely helped.

  • Mary August 15, 2011, 9:30 pm

    I have a couple pair of vibrams, I don’t run in them though. Minimalist running is such an awesome movement, I don’t know if i’m cut out for it though…

  • Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife August 15, 2011, 9:37 pm

    That is very fascinating stuff! I usually pay attention to how I run, especially my upper body placement.

  • Angela @ MyPinkyToes August 15, 2011, 9:39 pm

    Thank you for sharing! I will definitely look into these books to read when training for my next event! My doctor recommended going minimalist to reduce my knee pain…it seems it could work if I tried!

  • Carin August 15, 2011, 11:00 pm

    I’ve run two marathons now (along with 4 halves, 10 x 10k and 3 other races – all since 1 May 2010!) and I really, really try not to set time goals, other than obviously aiming for a PB each time, fitness/mood/sleep/weather conditions permitting! It’s just not always going to happen and I don’t want to detract from the achievement of having completed it by being annoyed that I didn’t meet some arbitrary time goal.

    There are cut-off times in certain races and I let that be my goal – for example in my first half-marathon in Auckland, you had to reach the bridge in a certain time in order to run across (and not suffer the humiliation of being picked up and driven across)! That seemed a pretty good target to meet.

    I’m not super-fit, I’m older and I’m a new runner, so I’ve got to be realistic. I might be near the “back of the pack”, but I’m still doing it and for me, it’s about finishing, enjoying it and celebrating my achievement, not the time on my certificate. Just run and have fun!

    • Caitlin August 16, 2011, 9:25 am

      Yay! You rock!

      • Carin August 16, 2011, 5:20 pm

        Thanks honey – you rock too!

        I wish I’d had your insight and self-contemplation when I was younger – but I was too busy running to keep up with my life to do any actual running or to stand back and look at what I was doing to myself and with my life.

        I don’t think there’s any point in regerts because you can’t change the past, but I think that with your messages and healthy living example, your blog is changing other people’s ‘presents’ and futures – and that’s amazing. Keep it up, girl! x

  • Wendy August 15, 2011, 11:39 pm

    Yes! I now consider myself a very mindful runner. Though I haven’t read any bookds, I have been working on the Pose technique, which I believe is similar to Chi based on Nick’s description. I am also training for my first marathon, I don’t intend to set a time goal other than finish. On my long runs, I’ve been focusing on keeping a consistent pace throughout the run rather than maintaining, say, a 10 minute mile.

  • Lexi @ A Spoonful of Sunshine August 16, 2011, 12:16 am

    I wish I could have someone look at my stride, and let me know what would work best. I find that my hip flexor gets really, really sore if I run more than a few miles 🙁

  • Lexi @ A Spoonful of Sunshine August 16, 2011, 12:21 am

    I wish I could have someone look at my stride, and let me know what would work best. Lately, I find that my hip flexor gets really, really sore if I run more than a few miles 🙁

  • Lexi @ A Spoonful of Sunshine August 16, 2011, 12:22 am

    Sorry for the double comment! My computer is not a fan of me, apparently 🙂

  • Marika August 16, 2011, 3:47 am

    I absolutely agree with not having a time goal the first time you run a certain race distance.
    Also, I love how happy Nick looks in that picture! What a great race photo.

    • RJ August 16, 2011, 5:02 am

      As the proud wife I can safely say he grinned like this the WHOLE WAY! The weather was pretty horrible too. Very windy and the route followed the coastline. Having an excellent photographer as a friend helps with awesome race shots!

      • Caitlin August 16, 2011, 9:27 am


  • allpointswhole August 16, 2011, 6:42 am

    I absolutely love this post! Thanks for sharing!

  • Mia August 16, 2011, 6:52 am

    I set time goals for my self the first time I ran a half marathon, and I’m glad I did. I ran harder and faster than I ever thought was possible for me, and I think for me setting a time goal motivated me to push myself and test my limits. I guess my advice in terms of time goals would be: see how your training is going and then set a realistic goal for yourslef. Running came from more naturally to me than I expected, so I set a pretty competitive goal, but that may not be the case for everyone. At the same time though I think it’s important that if you didn’t meet your time goal to not be too disappointed about it…it’s not like any of us are trying to qualify for the olympics.

    • Caitlin August 16, 2011, 9:27 am

      Haha, true that.

  • Jennifer August 16, 2011, 7:47 am

    I’m running my first race (a marathon) in November and have set a time goal. I couldn’t imagine doing it without! I reckon I’ll get much more of a sense of achievement from my race if I run it as hard as I possibly can on the day, rather than just jogging/walking round in a leisurely fashion. OK, I know I’m new at this, but surely having an ambitious time goal will motivate me to keep my pace up when the going gets tough? That’s got to be a good thing, right? With no time goal, I’m sure it’s very easy at mile 18 to cave in to that little voice in your head which is telling you that you’re tired, everything hurts and that it’s ok to stop and walk now. I’d be so disappointed in myself if I did that.

    • Caitlin August 16, 2011, 9:28 am

      I think different things work for different people! One idea is to have a A, B, and C goal. I.e. A is “finish happy,” B is “finish under 5 hours, and C is your “everything went awesome goal.”

      • Nick August 16, 2011, 4:51 pm

        We’re all different.
        I know myself well enough to know that if, at mile 18, I was falling behind my time goal, I’d be feeling low and self-sabotaging. I’d be thinking “I’m failing, why go on? What a waste of all that training. Nick, you’re a loser”. Not a good outcome.
        Precisely because I didn’t set a time goal, I simply thought how hard this has become but how wonderful that I’m going to finish this. What an achievement. All that training was great and I want to do this again.
        That’s just my type-B personality probably.

  • Alaina August 16, 2011, 7:55 am

    What a great post! Thank you Nick!

    I never used to be to mindful of my form until this past weekend when I was running with my mom. She was behind me and she told me that I was slouching and to roll my shoulders back so that I was running straighter. I do notice that in race pictures I am definitely slouching. But the whole time we ran, I was thinking only of my shoulders and not so much on my running. I hardly run by feel anymore; I’m so conscious of how my form is. I even own the Chi Running book; I should probably read it. 🙂

  • amanda August 16, 2011, 9:01 am

    I really love how the barefoot/minimalist running movement has inspired people to run who never thought they would have enjoyed it. My brother always hated running and told my sister and I we were “crazy” for going on regular runs, but when he heard about barefoot running, it really turned on the switch! He has run a few 5ks and gotten into much better shape. He’s a runner! I’m not a minimalist runner myself, but I think it’s awesome that there are more running options.

  • Carolina John August 16, 2011, 9:10 am

    I switched to minimalist shoes a few months ago and love it! Really I started with the chi running form last year, even though I’ve never read the book or seen the dvd’s. There’s enough youtube clips and other bloggers form postings to pick up the basic technique.

    I’m thinking about doing a series of posts on technique, plan setting, and goal setting.

  • Cindy @ The Flipping Couple August 16, 2011, 10:12 am

    I’m really working on my stride right now, so I’m constantly thinking about form while I run. It’s exhausting! But worth it, because I’ve caused shin pain from my stride and am working on eliminating it. I’m trying to use the Pose method – has anyone tried it??

  • Becky @ Fit Chick on the Fly August 16, 2011, 12:33 pm

    Running my first half mary on October and I am NOT setting a time goal. I have a general idea of the time I’d like to finish at, but I’m not stuck on it because I don’t want to be disappointed. I know I will be happy to simply make it across the finish line. I’ve always been an athlete (competed at the collegiate level) but I’ve never been a long distance runner.

  • Nick August 16, 2011, 4:56 pm

    Thanks Caitlin for letting me post about my first marathon experience and thanks everyone for your kind comments.
    Here’s to happy trails and the joy of running.

  • Heather @ Bake, Run, Live August 16, 2011, 7:37 pm

    This is a great post! I didn’t set a goal for my first half and full marathon (I was weird enough to do Goofy’s challenge as my firsts). My only goal was to finish! I was really happy, and proud of myself for finishing both races at my training pace.

    I have been reading about Vibrams and really want a pair. Maybe for Christmas!

  • Carolina @ Peas in a Blog August 17, 2011, 8:56 am

    I’m actually very interested in reading this book, I’ve heard so much about it. Right now I’m about 11 weeks out of my first marathon so I’m scared to completely change my form & risk injury. After my marathon though I really want to explore barefoot running, form, etc. It sounds fascinating!

  • Alett August 23, 2011, 10:11 am

    I do actively think about body position while running as over the last year I have worked on switching from a heel-strike gait to a forefoot gait. It took about 10 months but I’ve notice a significant difference in lack of muscle fatigue over long distances. Mostly I focus on foot strike, arm position and not over striding.

    re: time goals.
    For my first marathon I just had a goal of having fun & finishing (no matter what it was a PR!). Ironically my first marathon is still my PR (even though I’ve done about 9 marathons now! LOL).

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