THANK YOU FOR VISITING SWEATSCIENCE.COM!
As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.
- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)
[UPDATE: After a few further e-mails, it’s become clear that Chris misspoke in his original interview with me, and said he’d been struggling with plantar fasciitis for “two years” when he meant to say “two months.” This certainly makes a difference in my general sense of the extent to which it was misleading to write that he hadn’t lost a day of running to injury since then.]
I got an e-mail from Chris McDougall earlier today, asking that I correct what he sees as the errors in my post from a few days ago. Here’s his account of my errors:
there are several mistakes in your post about me. i’ve told the story of my bout with PF publically and often, as in the outside magazine interview below. your version is incorrect.
1/ i wasn’t “felled” by PF. in fact, i never missed a day of running because of it.during that period, i ran with many sources, including amby burfoot, matt carpenter, scott jurek, tony kupricka, david horton — all of them tough runners, most of the runs on hard trails.
2/ I didn’t have it for two years; it bothered me for a few months.
3/ i wasn’t ‘stressed out’ about it because the publication date was nearing; on the contrary, i was still researching and writing. i considered it a formative learning experience, which is why i’ve spoken and written about it many times.
4/ my training in 2006 was vastly greater than 2010/2011. in 2006, i hit 100 miles a week, including two 50-mile runs and several weeks of high altitude in leadville. last year, i averaged maybe 30 miles a week. i was traveling nearly non-stop, squeezing in whatever workouts i could manage.
Here’s an excerpt from the transcript of our interview in 2009:
Imagine the situation I’m in. Because two years ago, I start researching this book. And the whole purpose of the book, premise of the book is that I’ve discovered the secret of lifelong injury-free running. And in the middle of writing the book, I come down with this ailment. And I can’t shake it. And I’m thinking, you know, I’m about to go out and promote a book. And I got this stinking injury. And I spent two years [UPDATE: Chris misspoke and meant to say “two months”] trying to get rid of it.
His points number 2 and 3 are directly contradicted by that quote. Obviously I’m not inside his head (or his foot), so I don’t know which version is more accurate. But I think my original blog entry was a fair account of what he told me.
As for point number 1, I’m happy to believe him if he says he hasn’t missed a day of running due to injury since then. And I never said he did. But I certainly felt (and still feel) that the impression left by writing “I haven’t lost a day of running to injury since” is at odds with the fact that, during that period, he travelled (again, according to his 2009 interview with me) to see “doctors in Germany, in London, in Detroit, in Indianapolis, in California… all kinds of different people” in unsuccessful attempts to get rid of the injury. If that’s not being “felled” by an injury, I don’t know what is.
Finally, I’m not sure why he’s calling point number 4 an “error.” He suggested that his improvement from 2006 to 2010/2011 could be explained by his use of the 100-up. I suggested that an alternate (and in my opinion more likely) explanation was that he had four years of consistent running behind him, instead of one year of high mileage. Running is cumulative, and many runners experience episodes like this. Obviously I’m just speculating, as is he himself.
Ultimately, I’m disappointed by this exchange. As I said in the initial post, I think McDougall has a great story to tell that has resonated with a lot people. That story is strong enough on its own merits; it doesn’t need to be made better than it already is.