What about looking at the terrestrial environment? Running on hard, flat surfaces repeatedly is asking for it.
What about equipment? How would changing footwear or getting rid of shoes all-together change things? We don’t necessarily do to well in the expensive products.
What about an individual’s social environment? Why are they running? Is it enjoyable? Is there a deep psychology reason for wanting/needing to run? Is running a marathon or half marathon just ‘what everybody’s doing’?
What type of personality is an individual bringing to their activity? Emotions are strong in that they have the capacity to change us; how we see the world, our approach to whatever we endeavor, and most definitely how we move.
What came before? What type of lifestyle have they lived? What was/is the long-term adaptation to the specific activity(ies) that they partook.
How about diet? What about all the possibilities with one's nutrition? Different cultures have vastly different diets.
Then there’s the activity itself… Is running, especially long distance running good for you? There’s been research on showing both sides of this one, from the basic idea that cardiovascular/aerobic exercise is excellent for health, to distance running/marathons are bad for your heart; increasing plaque in the coronary arteries. Increased bone density vs. the repetitive stress injuries…
An excellent book that has received a lot of attention is “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. The book was an excellent story regarding ultra-running, the Tarahumara people of Mexico, shoes, and how humans are ‘built’ for running. My fear though is that most people missed the most important aspect of the book; the Tarahumara people, their culture and environment. What most people took is that we can/should go run long distances and run barefoot or at least with minimal footwear.
What the Tarahumara are not is probably more important than who they are with regards to their astounding health and ability to perform amazing running feats. They do not bring a “Type A” personality to their running (Type A personalities can bring some pretty serious health implications to the table). They don’t attempt to accumulate a specific number of miles each week, following a specific routine. Most of their running is ‘community’ based in their ball game they play while covering long distances. They don’t have a sedentary culture centered on the individual and “advanced” technology. They don’t wear the type of footwear that Western culture grows up with.
… And… this is important… their ecological environment is extremely varied; huge canyons of constantly changing terrain, making their running into an extremely random activity… far different from the monotonous steady-state drudgery that most view as long distance running. This is another case and point regarding the variation principle I alluded to in a previous post. The type of terrain forces changes in speeds and movements, making the Tarahumara’s form of running far different from being a repetitive steady-state activity; variation is necessary for health.
See more of everything to understand what’s really going on.