running blog

Clive Whaley

Left Sock Right Sock

Day 89 Marathon Training - Gym session

Just a gym session today, no running. I have increased most of the weights I use now and it seems like I've come a long way since it felt like my gym sessions were injuring me rather than helping me. Now that they've become a bit more routine and I've adapted to them, I think they are doing what they are supposed to i.e. building up my strength (especially in my legs) and developing my core. I think I'm a stronger and more balanced runner as a result - Hey, there's a boast!

But, as usual, there is something more important to talk about today …
I LOVE the fact that you can now buy running socks that have 'Left' and 'Right' markers on them, to ensure that you put them on the correct foot. I even have some that have "Running" written on them. Believe me, when you reach your 50s this is so useful. When I get to that moment when I've gone out the door and think, as I often do, "what the hell did I come out here for?" - it's great, I can take my shoes off, read the word 'running' on my socks and I instantly know what I'm meant to be doing.

I have been doing some research into this whole 'left sock/ right sock' thing and I have discovered the fascinating origins of this labelling. I highly recommend the book, "Born to Move Forwards (most of the time): How Humans discovered that hopping on one leg and crawling backwards were ineffective hunting strategies", by Heinrich Manhoover. He explains how our earliest ancestors were in danger of extinction until they discovered running forwards using both legs was the best way to survive.

But the most amazing part of the study was his discovery of some ancient cave paintings which prove once and for all, that early human beings had detachable feet. They could literally swap one foot for another. It wasn't long after they had discovered that two feet were better than one, that they also learned that there was a 'best foot' with 'best leg' combination and if they got this wrong it spelled disaster.

If they emerged from the cave with the natural 'left foot' attached to the right leg and vice versa, then it was only a matter of time before they provided the local tyrannosaurus rex with a very tasty meal. But on the other hand (that expression seems out of place) if they got the 'foot/leg' combo correct, they could run for 30 days and 30 nights without stopping. Many of them did and got hopelessly lost. But the ones that turned round and found their way home emerged to provide the vital ancestral link from that time to the elite marathon runners and parkrun volunteers of today.

It is of course sad, but inevitable, that the commercial marketing types have exploited this natural feature of the human body for their own gain. We can't resist buying these 'L' and 'R' socks because it's in our DNA. I know that when I put them on, I feel like I'm back in the cave, just about to pounce out, dodge a dinosaur and catch a fleet footed antelope before breakfast. We're suckers for anything that reminds us of our glorious natural history.

At times I feel like wearing nothing but my L & R socks and running around the local town, making a hunting cry and trying to catch whatever animals I find there. It is annoying that my attempts to recapture the spirit of what it was like all those years ago, has resulted in an anti-social behaviour order and I've been banned from most shops and pubs. However, they do still let me into the sports shop, to buy running socks.