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Guerrilla War Against the Running World: How to Make a Dent in the Universe

Posted by on Mar 3, 2011 | 13 Comments

I am going to change the running world.

That has been my goal for some time.  Lots of runners run with horrible form.  This bad form result in injuries and unnecessary pain.  These injuries and the resulting pain force people into inactivity.  This inactivity leads to health problems, many related to obesity.  This culminates in poor quality of life and possibly premature death.

I want to change that.  I want to make a dent in the universe.

How?

I want to reshape the way we think about running. I want to reverse the industry trend of using cushioned, supportive, motion-controlling foot coffins to mask shitty running form. I want to shift the running form paradigm from masking bad form to teaching good form.

Can one person really make a significant difference?  Can one person help to reshape a multi-billion dollar behemoth?  Of course!

We have a tendency to dramatically underestimate our own abilities.  I’m a pretty normal guy.  I have a day job I drag myself to each day.  I take out the trash, have a raging coffee addiction, complain about the weather, and watch reruns of ‘Arrested Development’ on Netflix.  [sidebar- anyone ever notice how Portia DeRossi says “anything”?]

Anyway, despite being certifiably average, I do possess two traits that allows me unlimited freedom to take on the giant running industry- I am pretty good at observing people’s behaviors and I ignore gatekeepers.

The observing people thing is a function of my experimental psychology education.  Before becoming a high school psychology teacher, I trained to be an experimental psychologist.  I’d recommend it; I learned many useful skills.

The ignoring gatekeepers thing is probably a function of my disdain for authority.  In any walk of life, there will be individuals that tell you you cannot do something.  They also dispense a litany of justifications, most of which are illogical and only serve to limit creativity and freedom or secure and maintain some type of monopoly.  Unfortunately, gatekeepers are there for a reason- to keep you out.  Ignoring gatekeepers requires another skill I seem to have- finding unorthodox methods to evade gatekeepers.

These skills have allowed me to take on the running industry.  More importantly, they have allowed me to influence the general running public which purchases merchandise from said industry.

My Goals

The running industry is pretty big… it brings in somewhere in the ballpark of $50-$70 billion dollars per year.  My budget is essentially $10/ month.  How could I possibly influence this industry?  Use guerrilla warfare!

The first step is to develop clearly define goals, which are:

  • Teach people about good running form (barefoot form, of course),
  • Promote barefoot and minimalist shoe running,
  • Change the opinions of running form in the minds of the general running public,
  • Change the opinions of running form within the running industry.

The first two goals are designed to influence a receptive audience.  This would include people that actively seek out information on good running form or barefoot/minimalist shoe running.  The last two goals are meant to influence people that do not actively seek out information.  To accomplish these goals, I follow a pretty basic plan that involves developing win-win relationships and utilizing every shortcut ad workaround possible.

The War Plan

Step 1: Set up a simple business model that is scalable and will allow me an adequate platform to disseminate information. This is the purpose of BRU.  It is a single member LLC with no employees.  It required no startup cash and has no debt.  It is impossible for the structure of the business to lose money.  The website is nothing special, it is WordPress on a hosting plan that costs $4 per month.

Step 2:  Learn from anyone and everyone. Knowledge opens doors.  More specifically, knowledge gives you the power to avoid gatekeepers.  I have no formal web design training, yet developed a website that cracks the top 40,000 in the US.  It’s more popular the the Road Runners Club of America website.  I have no training as a writer, publisher, or marketer, but I wrote, published, and marketed a book that cracked the top 1,000 books sold on Amazon… out of 1.2 million.  The point- lots can be accomplished by learning from others and using a few guerrilla tactics to avoid gatekeepers.  Ninety-nine percent of my readers are smarter than me… if I can do this stuff, so can you!

Step 3: Share information on forums and other similar online communities. Ah, the power of the interwebs!  In this step, I communicate with other like-minded people to refine my own ideas and make build a basic network of friends.  My preferred communities are Runners World, Ted’s Google Group, and the BRS.

Step 4: Share information via my blog and other websites. I’m a fan of the open information movement.  Everything I write is posted online somewhere in some form and available for free.  Most of it is concentrated here on this site or on my old blog.  This is a near-perfect method of communication.   It is cheap and easy to access.  Most importantly, there are no gatekeepers on the Internet… not even Google.  Last month, both sites were read 85,000 times.  Not bad for $4.

Step 5:  Write articles for websites and magazines.  My website will only reach the people that seek it out.  To cast a wider net, I write articles for other websites and magazines in the running industry.  Most have the same basic information about good running form.  This also serves the purpose of giving my writing credibility, which helps bypass those pesky gatekeepers.  Not only is this free, I even make a little bit of money from some of the writing.  FYI- you can become a pretty decent writer without a fancy degree or specialized training.  I haven’t taken a writing class since 10th grade.  Thanks Mrs. Pletcher!  ;-)

Step 6: Give interviews. This serves the same purpose of the above, but usually involves different media (radio, TV, and newspapers).  Again, the goal is to cast as wide of a net as possible.  Cost = $0.

Step 7: Make videos. I’m still developing this one, but it is another free medium that can spread information quickly and efficiently.  You don’t need to attend film school to produce decent material.  Again, the trick is to avoid gatekeepers and do your own thing.  YouTube is a wonderful thing.

Step 8: Write a book. My book sort of happened by accident, but turned out to be a great move.  Writing a book is a great way to spread information.  Writing a book instantly gives you and your information instant credibility.  Unfortunately, there are a ton of gatekeepers in the book-writing industry.  Luckily, modern technology makes it pretty easy to avoid these gatekeepers altogether.

Step 9: Conduct clinics. This hands-on contact serves two purposes.  First, it allows me to meet the people I teach.  This is great for building relationships that will allow us to help each other down the road.  Second, it gives me the opportunity to learn from my students’ expertise.  This guerrilla war requires a wide range of skills and knowledge… the more I can learn the better.

Step 10: Support those that came before me and have similar goals. I wasn’t the first to teach about barefoot running.  I had my own mentors, and I credit them whenever possible.  They gave me a gift that changed my life.  They also have the same basic goals.  The more support I can throw their way, the more effective we will be.  My big three are Ken Bob, Ted, and Rick.  I also like to throw out Ken Bob’s Yahoo group.  All of these helped along the way.  It is also useful to leverage those that have somewhat similar goals like ChiRunning, POSE, Evolution Running, and Good Form Running.

Step 11: Help those that developed at the same time. In the early days of this war, there were a handful of people that started blogging or started websites.  This includes people like Angie, Shelley, or Justin’s Birthday Shoes.  I help them whenever possible.  I’ll also toss ‘Born to Run’ in this category.  Again, we have the same basic goals.

Step 12: Help those that came after me. This is the same deal as the other groups above.  I can leverage my own traffic to help build their traffic.  These things have a tendency to snowball.  Working together develops synergy and helps create a wider net.  We end up with a loose confederation of friends working together to spread the same message.  This grassroots movement has incredible influence on the running public.

Step 13: Shape the running industry from the inside. This is a tricky fine line.  The running public buys good from the running industry, thus drives their product development.  The industry markets their products, which drives consumer behaviors.  People buy bad form-inducing shoes because that’s what the industry markets.  The industry produces and markets the foot coffins because the public buys them.  It is a difficult-to-break vicious cycle that cannot be broken in a short period of time.

However, it can be broken with slow, consistent change.  All of the above steps create an ever-growing niche.  This niche creates a demand for minimalist shoes.  Small companies emerge to fill this demand.  Ever-larger companies jump in to capture some of the market.  My goal is to do what I can to help these companies develop their products to leverage their influence over the general running public.  While I can do a lot with my Guerrilla tactics, it REALLY helps the cause when the industry you’re fighting starts defecting to your side. My goal is to use that support to educate, not just sell shoes.  Finding companies willing to educate about good form reaches that section of the general running public that doesn’t seek out the information from above.  I’m not a fan of actively converting people to barefoot and minimalist shoe running.  I prefer to wait for them to come to me.  However, I am more than happy to help the running industry itself convert people.  ;-)

Step 14: Have as much fun as possible while doing the above. I take my goals very seriously.  Myself… not so much.  If this journey wasn’t fun and exciting, I wouldn’t be doing it.  Fulfilling the goal is intrinsically rewarding, but the experiences are a blast!  The people I meet and the adventures I experience make this worthwhile.

Want to Make Your Own Dent?

Maybe you agree with my goals and want to help.  Great!  Just start doing some of the above steps.  I’m here to help.  Maybe you have a different dent you’d like to make.  Either way, don’t underestimate your ability to make a significant impact in the world around you.  Set some goals.  Identify what has to be done to reach the goals.  Learn the required skills to circumvent the gatekeepers.  Make it happen.

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13 Comments

  1. Kate Matthews
    March 8, 2011

    I would love to attend a clinic! Any possibility of doing one in Ann Arbor?

  2. Bob (Downtown Runner)
    March 3, 2011

    You know I’m with you Jason!

  3. Bryanna
    March 3, 2011

    Thank you for what you do. I am new to barefoot running, and I am gathering so much information from you.

  4. Tom Doyle
    March 3, 2011

    Attending your clinic last Fall inspired me toward barefoot running. I realize that the Vibrams are just a tool to keep me running when conditions are bad for barefooting.

    You actually showed us the soles of your feet. They were very smooth – not what I expected. I suggest you make a video using a foot cam. It seems that the skin to road connection is hard to accept for many people. The running world needs to meet your feet.

  5. Britt Mueller
    March 3, 2011

    Thanks for the awsome site and great reviews on minamilist shoes. It has given me what I needed to see the light and start running again. I got myself a pair of the women’s Merrels and a DIY kit of Luna’s huaraches (which are the best shoe ever!), takes a little time, but I am now up to a few miles. I am also working on not falling over crippled in pain from just two steps completely barefoot on a dirt road, what virgin feet I have. I hope by the end of the summer I will be able to comfortable run barefoot on a trail.

    Thanks again, I don’t think I would be having such great success with my barefoot running progress if it wasn’t for your site.

  6. Jen
    March 3, 2011

    Love your goals. It really is so true, one person really can make a difference. It happened at my child’s school a couple of weeks ago. I’ve never felt so empowered…ever.
    I’m glad my eyes were opened to the world of barefoot running and minimalist running and want to share it with everyone I know. When something makes life better, of course we want to share it! Great post! I’ve linked to your videos in my most recent post.

  7. briderdt
    March 3, 2011

    I remember a quote I saw once (wish I could remember who said it):

    Any one who thinks they’re too small to make a difference hasn’t spent a night in a tent with a mosquito.

  8. Scott
    March 3, 2011

    Awesome post but I would make one change. Move #14 to #1.

    I don’t know if the order was prioritized but making it fun will make most of the other stuff fall in line(especially for people who don’t even run yet)

  9. Nathan Matthews
    March 3, 2011

    Form education is key! It never fails that every time I go on a run I see some poor soul running with a heel strike in VFF’s! Makes me so mad. Mad at Vibram really – I was quite surprised when I opened up my box of Vibrams and there wasn’t even a leaflet or anything on proper running form.

    • James
      March 3, 2011

      I don’t see how one can heel strike in VFFs. That would be painful! The very first time I ran in VFFs, I instinctively changed my form instantly. Maybe I’m a rarity.

      • David
        March 3, 2011

        I am not going to lie I was one of those morons! Last summer I bought my first pair of VFF while training for my first race ever (10 mile) I walked around everyday in them and trained in my Adidas Responses. I walked and eventually started running in my VFF by heel striking badly. I finished the race barely, I walked half of the last 4 miles due to bad hip pain. Then after that I started doing my homework on proper form and realized I was retarded for putting my body through that. This winter I came across this website and now have really good form and started running barefoot even in these cold MI winters. I will never heel strike again or wear those things called shoes.

  10. Kirk Milan (Boying)
    March 3, 2011

    I fully support your goal. I am a convert myself… and I also want to change people’s opinion about barefoot and minimalist running.

  11. Kirk Milan (Boying)
    March 3, 2011

    I fully support your goal. I am a convert myself… and I also want to change people’s opinion about barefoot and minimalist running.