Run Simple: A Minimalist Approach to Fitness and Well Being Book Review

I’ll endeavor to keep this review of Run Simple: A Minimalist Approach to Fitness and Well-Being succinct as writing much about a book embracing simplicity is ironic.

Background on Author Duncan Larkin

Run Simple - book review


In the early to mid-2000s, Run Simple author Duncan Larkin kept a blog called Roads, Mills, Laps in which he waxed eloquent about running, philosophy, history, American culture, and the merging of these subjects inside his noggin’. (A website by the Roads, Mills, Laps name is still kept by Larkin as his hub for all things authorial, but those blogging jewels of yore are no longer online.) Larkin wrote about suffering through speed workouts, creepsters he encountered during runs, running for hours with no water or food, historical figures he wished would come alive, the future of McMansion America, and more. The quality of his writing was as high as it gets, so I reeled with excitement whenever Larkin queued up a new post.

In 2010, Larkin wrote Oxygen Debt (my review), a fictional running novel. That story read as what I imagine it would be like to watch a reality show about a psychiatric ward full of runners. I simultaneously wanted to look away so that I would spare the characters their (fictional) dignity and to keep reading so that I could find out precisely how (fictionally) insane they were. Oxygen Debt scared the pants off me — I worry there are people in this world as wonky as the book’s characters — and I remained hooked on Larkin’s writing.

Larkin’s been a freelance writer for a while, and last summer he started writing for iRunFar.

The Run-Down on Run Simple

He has now authored into the totally new-for-him genre of how-to manuals with Run Simple. Larkin argues with this book that running is the basic act of propelling oneself across the Earth and that we do not need to complexify it with convoluted workouts, strange dietary choices, music players, gym memberships, and heart-rate monitors. Like an onion, Larkin uses his and others’ running experience to deconstruct our sport to its core.

Larkin proffers lots of advice on how to simplify our relationship with running:

  • He says the first step is to recognize that the power to be a runner/better runner rests within our anatomy, not within something we purchase.
  • The human body generates much feedback when we run. If we listen to these signals instead of using technology to mask and ignore them, we will become more intuitive runners.
  • A simplified running schedule can generate better results because it may allow you to run more consistently and without injury.
  • Runners should to do a couple extra, non-running exercises to address muscle imbalances generated by running and to keep the core strong. These exercises don’t need to be done in a gym, though.
  • Eat real, clean food. Not crappy stuff that’s been refined two million times. Just a lot of fruit, vegetables, and protein.
  • You don’t need expensive running gadgets and clothing. There are perfectly good options without exorbitant price tags.
  • Invest intellectually in race day. Plan for its details so your race stays simple.
  • Try not to play head games. A runner is a runner is a runner and you are one. Larkin offers wisdom on dealing with the games that can arise in runners’ minds.

Also, Larkin calls upon the experience of several elite runners who take stripped-down approaches to running and racing, including Toby Tanser, Lauren Fleshman, Anton Krupicka, and Brad Hudson. Each of these runners is a living example of how running success can be achieved through running simple.

My Take

So, was there anything left of running when I shut the book’s back cover? Yes, the desire to put on a pair of shoes and run forever. Full confession, Larkin is preaching to the choir in me. I am far more interested in how running takes me to beautiful places and puts me in the company of like-minded people than I am in the technicalities of the sport.

Like Larkin, I am afraid of heart-rate monitors and almost as wary of GPS devices. Wearing them, I feel like I’m in The Hunger Games and someone’s about to sic a liger on me. My body gives me plain-as-day feedback on what shoes it does and doesn’t like, so shoe experimentation can be akin to stuffing round pegs into square holes. I like lots of quiet, so music playing from earbuds for too long makes me want to chuck myself off a cliff. I wear running shoes and clothing long after people have started to make fun of me for something looking tattered or “so 2006.”

To be clear, this is not a book about running barefoot or being unprepared for the variables one could encounter over the course of, say, a long mountain run. Larkin is neither for nor against barefooting/wearing minimalist shoes; he says to wear the shoes that work for your feet and not your buddy Joe’s or what the shoe reviewer in a magazine says is good stuff. And Larkin sure wants you to dress and carry exactly what you need for a healthy, happy run; he just wants you to remember that it’s your legs and heart that will make you a better runner rather than what’s in your pack.

Are there any downsides to running simple, I wonder? The only plausible one I see is that, by simplifying the kinds of workouts one does, one may be losing fitness gains that could come from workout diversity. I think Larkin banks on the fact that happier running is often more successful running and that removing some workout diversity may allow someone to run more consistently and without injury. I’ll let you be the judge on whether this is a possible downside for you.

I’m headed out for my afternoon run shortly. It’s a recovery week for me, so today I’ll run a couple flat, slow miles. I know the route well and I don’t care my pace, so I’ll leave the watch at home. It’s a chilly October day, so I will need a pair of tights and a jacket. I’ve got the trusty shoes I always wear; they look a little worse for the wear but they run well. I’ve got my head, legs, lungs, and heart fully attached and ready to go, though my quadriceps are still tired from a recent race. I’m taking with me one more thing, a thought from Larkin in Run Simple, “Running may seem like a complex activity; it’s not… Keep at it.”

Call for Comments and a Giveaway

[Contest Closed] We’re giving away three copies of Run Simple! This is a book about going simple, going “old school.” To enter the contest, leave a comment in the comments section of this post by November 12 at 11:59 Mountain Time, answering the following: What’s one simple/minimalist/old-school thing you’ve done with your running that’s led to success or a breakthrough? The three best comments we choose will win a copy of Run Simple.
Here are the three winning comments.
i just run. sometimes longer, sometimes shorter, lots of times up and down hills, in the mountains as often as i can. i love the ups, tolerate the downs, and don’t enjoy the track at all (so i don’t run around them). I seek to do my best in races, but when the best isn’t a PR, i find ways to be happy with the performance i gave that day. then there’s yoga, ultimate, toddler walks, and alllll the other things… :)
Trail Clown
If you give me a copy of the book, I will renounce my blog name (Trail Clown) and simply post comments under my real name. I know everyone is tired of the nickname and the comments that go with it. If that is not enough incentive to give someone a free book, I don’t know what is!
And if you need a real, serious excuse, I definitely went old school this past year. I gave up my sponsorships (Nike,McDonalds, etc.), my coaches (I am now coached by a pantheon of gods), my toe shoes (I now run on cinder blocks tied with organic string), my gadgets (no more watch, I use a sundial taped to my chest) and my bad diet (I only eat unrefined weeds from my garden). I still fly to races, but I only fly on Fed Ex cargo planes, sitting between boxes.
-Charlie M.
One thing that I have done to simplify my running is to smile. I know that sounds a little strange but I remember always running when I was a kid and I loved it. It never hurt or felt awkward it simply felt joyful and free. Now as I run, I smile and bring back those feelings. When there are boulders in the trail instead of following the path around like most people I adjust my stride so I can leap off the top like a kid would. Since I have started smiling and stopped worrying so much about everything else they have become easier and more joyful. When I get home I have a perma smile and I have had many more of “That run was totally AWESOME” type moments!!
Meghan Hicks

is's Managing Editor and the author of 'Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running.' The converted road runner finished her first trail ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world's wildest places.

There are 20 comments

  1. Kev

    the simplest, most minimal thing i've done to make me a more successful runner was to stop considering myself a runner. About a year ago, i tried getting into running and ended up hurt and disappointed. I had some concerned "i told you so," speeches from family members and friends since i have cerebral palsy on my right side and most think i shouldn't be running. I brushed most of that off and took a step back to really consider how to get better. I decided walking a lot in minimal shoes might be the gateway. I don't drive and walking always came easy to me, so why not see how far i can take it? I started walking every single day, long or short, it didn't matter. i just wanted to do something outside every day. After a great spring, i started being able to add in a run every now and then this summer. i thought that was awesome! Now i can run whenever i want, really, but i don't consider it a necessity since walking can keep me in just as good a shape. I'm hoping next year i'll be able to get into some really long walk/runs over 25 miles. People around town swear they see me running EVERY DAY, but i honestly run less than a week a month — and usually i don't string together running days. When i do run though, i wear cheap beat up shorts from walmart, cheap bulk buy hanes tshirts and a lot of the time, no socks. I've even been seen running in a pair of "flip flops" (xeroshoes). I think with the base i've laid down this year that i can start experimenting with different shoes to see what my bad foot likes and doesn't like. Altra's instincts have been pretty good, but a bit of a raised heel may solve a few issues i have. i can't wait to find out.

  2. Andre Cruz

    Thanks for sharing.

    That´s what I believe.

    I sold my garmin, just cause of that, to start to hearing my body.

    Go simple is the main issue of running, for me.

    I´ll try to buy this book at amazon.

    See u, bye from Brazil.

  3. Nigel

    Last month I ran the Haliburton 50m wearing a garbage bag because it rained the whole time and I wanted something light and waterproff. It worked and everybody eles was wearing like $100 plus jackets. Every time I ran by somebody I would say "hear comes the garbage man" and I got lots of people laughing.

  4. Trail Clown

    If you give me a copy of the book, I will renounce my blog name (Trail Clown) and simply post comments under my real name. I know everyone is tired of the nickname and the comments that go with it. If that is not enough incentive to give someone a free book, I don't know what is!

    And if you need a real, serious excuse, I definitely went old school this past year. I gave up my sponsorships (Nike,McDonalds, etc.), my coaches (I am now coached by a pantheon of gods), my toe shoes (I now run on cinder blocks tied with organic string), my gadgets (no more watch, I use a sundial taped to my chest) and my bad diet (I only eat unrefined weeds from my garden). I still fly to races, but I only fly on Fed Ex cargo planes, sitting between boxes.

    Charlie M.

  5. Jorge Fernandez

    Keep it simple! dont get attached to a schedule, if you feel like running: RUN!

    Short run: go for it, feel like you want to keep going: do a second lap!


  6. Brad

    My running started to improve when I ditched the schedules and pace charts and just started running by feel and only ran when I felt like it. If I feel like hitting a spin class or elliptical workout or even weights than I do and I'll save the run for another day.

  7. astroyam

    I agree with all of these points. I especially benefit from the whole foods stuff as opposed to synthetic 'sports foods'.

    One point though: I recently got a coach for 3 months, and I have to say it was great and it corresponded with the period with the least body tweaks, most training, and I consistently loved the workouts.

    So there's more than one way to skin a cat.

  8. shine

    Love that philosophy – run simple.

    It jives very well with the quote "Running is a lifestyle and an art. I'm far more interested in the magic of it than the mechanics." -Lorraine Molle


  9. Jamie

    Thanks for sharing, Meghan.

    For myself, I stopped worrying as much about specific workouts and focused more on what I enjoy: trail running, mostly up and down. This has led to me running more consistently and getting more joy out of the runs.

    Every time I used to try and stick to a schedule, or use a coach or training plan, I ended up injured. But once I dropped that and ran for myself, other than a sprained ankle or two, I haven't had to deal with any injuries for several years now.

  10. Nancy Bruning

    The simplest thing I've done is to start an outdoor fitness class incorporating simple stretches and strengthening exercises. We do this circuit-style, making our way through a large park with hills and steps, and stopping at informally designated "exercise stations" –really just park benches or stone walls that are in an out of the way spot and/or with a good view. We never use any exercise equipment, but rather choose from a menu of exercises on a videotape I made for a nonprofit park group, "101 Things to Do on a Park Bench." By this simple strategy of adding upper body, core, and lower body strengthening and flexibility movements in 360 degrees (all directions) we make running or walking complete, and counterbalance any overuse that occurs by moving in just a single plane. Keeps everyone coming back again and again, after 8 years!

  11. Ned Barrett

    One of the reasons I love running in the summer is running in short-shorts, a barely-there t-shirt (I like running with a shirt most of the time), a hat, my watch, a running vest for water and "food," and that's it. Over 30 years I have tried running with music a few times–I hate it. The heart-rate monitor seems a little silly to me, and GPS doesn't work in our southern hardwood forests. The real truth of running is running–

    That said, do I really need to buy a book to teach me how to keep my gear to a minimum? Kind of like buying a heart rate monitor to see if I'm working hard.

  12. Robin

    Well for me it was simple, I run with my dogs. Ever notice how much fun they have running? They don't care what time you get up to run, how far you run, in fact the farther the better for them. They don't complain about the weather – oh snow great! oh rain and mud, even better!!! They put everything back into perspective for me while running….and I run farther, faster, and happier!!! Love my girls Roxie and Berkeley…..

  13. Carolyn Hennessey

    When I simplify my running, I run like my dogs. 1. I start off slowly. This is when the dogs get a chance to sniff every bush, pee and poop without me telling them to hurry up. I get a chance to notice what's changed on the trail or in my neighborhood since the last time we ran the route. 2. I'll run like my younger dog Gifford. He likes to run fast and then stop, look around and start off again slowly, then sprint ahead again only to repeat the sequence. The lengths of speed and slower running is varied and untimed. I follow Giff in this pattern until I can't run any farther. 3. My other dog, Buddy likes to veer off in all directions to explore. So when I take his lead, we might begin on one trail or street, but then change directions "just to see" what might be around the next corner or in another neighborhood. Running like my dogs takes the pressure off and provides freedom to enjoy the moment. It helps me listen to what's going on in my body and get reacquanted with my surroundings.

  14. Danny

    After leaving college and the not-exactly-structured-but-certainly-not-unstructured context of the running club, I moved to Seattle and threw out any semblance of training plan and schedule leading up to the White River 50. Every weekend and many weekdays I'd get out onto the trails. If I thought I'd be out for 3+ hours, I'd bring along some water and food, but otherwise I'd head out with shoes, shorts, and happiness — a couple times I'd leave the shoes and at one trail 5k I left the shorts.

    More importantly, whether out on the trails or on roads closer to home, I'd do what the day presented. Feeling good with some extra energy bubbling over? How about a fatlek in the true sense of the word; not a structured 3 minutes on, two minutes off, but running fast for a while until I didn't feel like running fast anymore, taking a break, and picking it up again. Feeling playful? Take a turn down that trail there to find the most technical descents to bounce down. Feeling like some pain will do me good? Get to that high point as quickly as possible. Feeling tired? Take it easy and enjoy some good recovery miles.

    Maybe I didn't hit race day at peak fitness, but then again, maybe I did. I finished with a PR and after a bit of knee pain in the middle miles had a surge of energy and ran the last 13 miles. Above all, I was happy in training and racing, and that, to me, is success.

  15. Jeremy

    One thing that I have done to simplify my running is to smile. I know that sounds a little strange but I remember always running when I was a kid and I loved it. It never hurt or felt awkward it simply felt joyful and free. Now as I run, I smile and bring back those feelings. When there are boulders in the trail instead of following the path around like most people I adjust my stride so I can leap off the top like a kid would. Since I have started smiling and stopped worrying so much about everything else they have become easier and more joyful. When I get home I have a perma smile and I have had many more of "That run was totally AWESOME" type moments!!

  16. David

    After stripping things down – minimal shoes, rarely socks, occasional barefoot runs, no music, vegetarian diet, ditching the GPS – I've been able to run happy and healthy 7 days a week. Not saying the diet or barefoot/minimal style is for everyone, just found what works for me.

  17. Jeff

    Foot games! After watching how Kilian Jornet almost dances down the trail, I periodically add my own whimsical jigs to my runs. I skip, I sidle, I run backwards, I do little tap dances down and up technical sections. It's good for leg strengthening, but it's also great fun! In the end, it's why most of us run.

  18. Allen "smilely&

    Simple running, what a concept…2 years ago, I was engaged in the Battle of the Bulge, my bulge, that is, aka, my evenly distributed fatness. A couple of my friends told me they were doing a ½ Ironman triathlon. I was like, “wow!!!” 70.3 miles of self-induced hell, that sounds awesome, I’ll do it… So, I did, I ran, biked, and swam what seemed endless miles. 4 months later…I did it! What happened along the way were lots of minor injuries, and they started adding up. See, I started running unable to run, having 2 bad knees; my doctor said that I wouldn’t be able to run without surgery…yikes! So, I bought the braces, the expensive shoes, cool clothing, and name brands, of course. None of that helped. However, along the way, I starting running with old-school natural runners, mostly shod & some un-shod (barefoot), and little by little, I stopped worrying about PR’s, brand-name stuff and focused on my form, one mile at a time. Soon after, I didn’t need the knee supports, pronation control, etc…Flash forward, I no longer run with pain, I run with joy, by keeping it simple, less shoe, sometimes no shoes; eating real food, plenty of water, lots of fruit, veggies and protein [and lots of PB & J’s, plus, the occasional pizza] and I’ve reduced my personal circumference by 28 lbs. Simplify, simplify, simplify…is where the credit is due; less is more. Thanks for letting me share my story.

  19. Patrick

    When I do speed work, I usually run by feel with an old-school watch with hands rather than an exact digital one. I run hard, but if I am sick or need to recover more, it is a slower pace, my body knows this and I don't overdo it. If I am feeling great, I can kick it up, PR's, who cares.

  20. Bradley

    I run everyday. Every day. My rest days are 20 minutes, easy running, to keep things lubed. I think consistency is the key to decreasing the likelihood of injury.

  21. Andy

    Not sure I've "done" anything with my running, or that I've had success or a breakthrough. I have always eschewed structured workouts, GPSs, monitors, etc. (own none of these) in favor of "running free." Some hill repeats is probably about as structured as I get. I do wear a cheapo $20 digital watch to be sure I don't just keep running and miss other commitments (e.g., work), though I leave it at home at least once in a while when I don't have to be somewhere soon. The only change has been a shift to minimalist shoes about a year ago, which I do believe has helped my running become faster, less injury prone, and more fun. Have I had breakthroughs? No. But does my running gradually keep getting better, faster, and more fun despite pushing 50? Yes. Life is very complicated. Running, on balance, must remain simple.

  22. Stephanie Bales

    I don't own a GPS, I don't worry about pace or distance, I do most of my training based on how long I run. I completed my fist two 50k races this summer. I enjoyed the experience and have remained injury free since not focusing on spped.

  23. Mat Grills

    I know it is cliche, but my moment of clarity was getting out of shoes. I am now running about 80% in Luna Sandals (Barefoot Teds company for thoes who dont know) and 20% barefoot. From being a heavy heel striker and someone who was ALWAYS trying to find the new and best way to recover from my runs, I am now running light, my stride has completly changed and I am doin between 100-160km per week with minimal tiredness (appart from overall good body tiredness from the volume). Changes my running and life! Love it!!!

  24. yroc

    ordered both of larkin's running books, thanks for the referral.

    recent simple approach thing: ran javelina jundred last weekend, and for the first time before a race put zero effort in advance to pace charts or thinking about time or timing out what to put in what drop back etc. just brought one drop bag for clothes and favorite snacks, and figured that whatever would happen would happen. also went without a crew or pacer, too keep things simple. and it felt great!

  25. Jeremy C

    One simple thing: run up mountains lots

    This year I gave up with a regimented training schedule. I started running by feel. Some days easy, some days hard. ALWAYS lots of hills. ALWAYS lots of trails. Weekly long runs. Mostly running in places I loved (trails and mountains). Ran some ultras. I trained hard, but on my own terms. I ran my first marathon this fall having run on roads less than 10 times in the prior 4 months, and with less than 5 "marathon specific" workouts. I ran well under 2:40. Had I been following a marathon training program, I would have loathed many workouts, would have been more likely to be injured (by feeling the need not to skip a planned workout). Would I have run a few minutes faster? Maybe, but who cares. I spent my season doing what I loved, running on mountain trails and kept it simple.

  26. Jonathan

    I started running two years ago and within a year I was preparing for my first marathon. Those 4 months of preparation were the most single-minded, obsessed, over-analyzed months of my life. It was a cold, wet winter and so was the marathon itself. Shortly after, I found out I have a manageable touch of Aspergers, which in hindsight explains a lot. I have to follow strict routines or I go bananas. When I went out for my daily run, it would be on a course I had run before, faster than my self-imposed schedule indicated, wearing the same gear as always, regardless of the weather or my physical condition. Sure, some runs were pure bliss, but mostly they were just hard work. A check box that had to be ticked every single day. I had to do at least 10k more than my already ridiculous weekly schedule said I had to, regardless the risk of injuring myself.

    The thing that completely changed running for me, as well as every day life, is forcing myself to step out of my comfort zone and not plan ahead, improvise, do silly things and keep it simple. Run up and down the same 100ft hill for an hour and lie down on the grass until the rabbits start sniffing at your feet. Accept an invitation to a marathon a week before the race and do another one a week later. Run with other people, let them set the pace. Ditch as much gear as possible, just shoes, shorts and shirt will do just fine. Don't go for a personal best every single time. Skip a day or two if you feel like you need it. 

    I haven't run in a week due to an achilles tendon issue and it seems like it will take a while to heal, but I'm fine, really. I never thought being this impulsive could get me fitter than I've ever been. The experiences of the last month or so have left me contemplating which ultra I'll sign up for. Which is kind of how I ended up on IRF…

  27. amg

    I hate running with music. I prefer to run alone rather than with a running buddy. I love just taking the time to look about and take in the passing scenery and think about not much at all. I have however always had a mental block about listening to my body. One thing I have started doing lately on early morning runs is on the straight, smooth sections of road is to occassionally close my eyes for a 4-5 seconds at a time – it is amazing how the body's sensory feedback appears to kick up a few gears when you can't see! It has made me much more aware of what my body is telling me. BTW, I live in the country with hardly any cars about – probably not recommended for city/suburban running :)

  28. Kristin Z

    i just run. sometimes longer, sometimes shorter, lots of times up and down hills, in the mountains as often as i can. i love the ups, tolerate the downs, and don't enjoy the track at all (so i don't run around them). I seek to do my best in races, but when the best isn't a PR, i find ways to be happy with the performance i gave that day. then there's yoga, ultimate, toddler walks, and alllll the other things… :)

  29. boisean

    Didn't really care much for this book. Overly simplistic, and not really offering much to the experienced runner. On the subject of saving money on a host of running related items, I agree that it is certainly possible to do, but…I think you get what you pay for to a great degree as far as the shoes go and it's just unfortunate that the 'market' can command the high prices that they do. Gadgets are easy to do without, but I have to disagree with him on 'cheap' clothing as well. 'Simply' put, newer materials are far superior in comfort and thermal regulation than the 'devil' that is cotton, so I'll pay for good clothes too.

    1. amg

      I have to agree with some of that. I have a pair of shorts with a liner and a quick-dry t-shirt (pretty cheap version) and I never get a rash etc. Put if I run in a pair of football shorts and a normal cotton t-shirt, then I flare up with rashes on inner thighs and nips after about 40 mins!

  30. Kris

    I used to carry water or a sports drink on almost every run. Partly as a consequence of what I learned from Tim Noake's book, "Waterlogged", I stopped carrying water on runs under about 90 minutes, and I don't carry a sports drink or sports foods unless the run will last 2 hours or more. I think I was psychologically dependent on fluids, and I'd been misled into thinking that I needed to maintain perfectly constant blood glucose levels all the time. Now, when I do carry fluids on my long runs, I find I am drinking to thirst rather than drinking habitually just because the liquid is available.

  31. David

    I just started running this year at age 36. The simplicity is what really attracted me to running. I don't have any background in organized running, so everything is new to me and I love learning about all aspects of running. I found myself focusing too much on going farther and faster. I switched to mainly trails to help ease some knee pain and now try to stay off roads. The simplicity now is being away from traffic and noise and enjoying nature. I still wear my Garmin and enjoy trying different types of shoes, but my simplicity is in the escape from the stress of life and fully enjoying running itself.

  32. Beck Butler

    Smiling – laughing. I sit in on my pace for either a marathon run or a training run and when it feels good as I cruise on pace, which it invariably does, it makes me grin and cheer. Then I feel like I can just keep running – not because I am running towards a medal or a finish, but because it feels so great to just be running.

  33. Reid L.

    OLD RACE STRATEGY: Figure out desired splits and when I'll run a certain pace and where I'll change it.

    OLD RESULTS: blow-ups and disappointment in my performances.

    SIMPLIFIED RACE STRATEGY: chat with folks the first miles, whether that's 3-10 for shorter races or 15-25 for the longer ones. This keeps me from going out too fast, and more importantly starts or deepens relationships.

    SIMPLIFIED RESULTS: better times with respect to enjoyment and speed.

  34. korey

    I'm sure someone already said it up there but I few months back I ditched my GPS and stopped trying to push myself to a specific pace on the screen. When I feel good I run hard and when I don't… I don't.
    I've bested my times on certain routes by 4 to 30 minutes since then and I've increased my running time substantially.
    I'm happier to boot!

  35. joseph smith (yes re

    Sometimes you need to just throw out the predetermined plan and make running about adventure and exploration. When I began training for my first Wasatch 100 last year, I picked up a copy of the Wasatch Hiking Trails map. Having grown up in the Wasatch, I was blown away by all the trails we have access to between Farmington and Sundance. I realized that the reason why I had missed out on all this greatness is because I was too caught up in following a plan. Regardless of the season, just get out doors and explore new trails, run, hike, scramble, bushwhack, do whatever it takes to just get out and enjoy all that mother nature has to offer. Nothing can be as simple and fulfilling and running in nature.

  36. Cheri hall

    I always try to keep it simple. Running would not be running if you made it complicated . Sometimes I will run in jeans and a pair of boots. Running is a run anywhere any time. You can wear clothes or even go naked. Just run!

  37. Andrea

    I run for the sheer pleasure of it and have my entire life. I don't need much when I run which keeps things naturally simple. It's just my dog and I out in the foothill canyons -water and a snack if I will be running longer than a couple of hours. Sometimes I do listen to music (it's a mental massage for my brain); other times, I listen for the sounds of wildlife.

    My runs are a peaceful respite from my rather busy and stressful life. :-)

  38. Neil

    I love my gadgets, love my fancy Salomon shirt, my Kinvara's and Altra's , my awesome light, my new and updated hydration vest, keeping track of my stats on Strava etc etc.

    I love to run but i also love the whole enchilada that goes with running as well.

  39. Morten

    Sounds like a great book.

    The most "simple" thing I have done with my running is to regard every run as a break. In my hectic life work, family, commuting, economy and so one occupies my mind for almost every minute that I am awake. When I am out running I am relaxing, and resting in the thought that right now I doing exactly the right thing. I am present in the moment, and even though my body is working hard, my mind is relaxing. By focusing on my relaxed mind I seem to get much more endurance.

  40. Sniffer

    I ran the Duluth 50K a couple of weeks ago. I forgot my nathan waterbottle/with watch attached. Right before the race, stopped by a gas station grabbed the smallest water bottle and some duck tape, made a little hand sleeve and off I went.

    I might have ran it slower than my goal, but I enjoyed every mile of it and felt little concern for my time.

  41. Chris Trawick

    What a great concept for a book on running; simplicity. For me, I have found breakthrough success when I chose to leave all of my devices at home, and just go do what my body enables me to do: Run.

    I'm a big advocate for technology, and It's not a bad thing. But, you can get so easily wrapped up in the details of your performance that you lose sight of why you're out there on the trail in the first place. I find that stripping everything away except shirts and shoes, helps me do just that.

  42. Marty

    Keeping it simple is not just about ditching the "micro" elements, those that you wear or carry. For really long runs I think "Macro" level. It's an irony that we think we are going simple by ditching everything we carry, and then place all those items in drop bags for races, or even expecting a race Aid Stations to supply our needs. It takes efforts, cars, gas, people, planning, shuttles, etc to do all that. For me, simple equals self-supported, self-sufficient. I may carry more, and be slower, but my "macro" set up time and impact is much, much lower. My last "race", I drove 20 minutes to a trail head, carried 10 pound of supplies, and ran 63 miles. NO drop bags, no aid stations, no race. Simple.

  43. Warren R.

    I improvise my running routes for every run. I head out in a general direction and make up the route as I go, focusing on running for a certain amount of time rather than worrying about miles. No GPS/Heart Monitor/etc., only an old wal-mart watch that my sister bought me for X-mas over 10 years ago.

  44. Steph

    For the past few months I've stopped using gels and chews for long run nutrition. I don't like them and lots of the time they're full of stuff I don't want to be ingesting. So I've started to incorporate more "real" food on runs.

  45. Sam Jurek

    "Ultrarunning, what a funny sport, you don't need to understand it; you just need to feel it." -Tim Olson in his 2012 WS100 race report

    Although I fail to put simplicity into my own terms, Tim's words sum up my viewpoint. My fortunate (and relative) recent running success has be a function of bringing back the simplicity of the sport. I had typically concerned myself with weekly mileage, speed workouts, tempo runs, and hitting my "30-minute post-run window" for refueling. When you stop comparing yourself to others and your previous PRs and focus on doing what you love, success – and more importantly – happiness, flourish and ultimately lead you down whatever path you are supposed to be on. Whether that's a track athlete, marathoner, or trail runner doesn't matter, what matters is that you are exercising yourself in the things which bring you happiness.

  46. Gydle (aka Mary)

    I never wear a watch, even in races. No heart monitor, no GPS. I run as I feel, don't know how far I'll go until I'm a couple miles in and see how it's going. My favorite attire is a cotton t-shirt and a pair of 10-year-old Patagonia baggies shorts. It's only when I enter a race and see everyone in their technical fibers, with their iPods and heart monitors and GPSs and watches that I realize I run "minimalist". I agree wholheartedly with an earlier commenter – that running is my "break" and my renewal time. Not another thing to "work on"

  47. Tim

    I'm not sure whether I'm a simple runner, but I've found that training plans don't work for me. With a life with a full career and a large family to tend to, I've found that the only running I can do is simple running: run commutes and morning or evening exploration runs around the most beautiful citrus, avocado, field crops and, recently, pumpkins anywhere. Like others, I seldom have a set plan but just go, depending on whatever is in bloom, flower, or bud, whether the stars, moon, sunrise or sunset beckon, or whether a particular hill calls my name as I approach. Eventually I end up where I intended, sometimes earlier or later, bit usually refreshed and better for it.

    Then in youth track season this is all out the window and intervals replace the lot for a few months.

  48. A. Pace

    Robin & Carolyn hit on it, but I think running with dogs informs the feel tremendously. I mush too, so I see that pure dog joy daily in either pursuit, & in it there is no pretense & no dissemblance, no stress & no abstract contemplation– it is among the purest things I've ever seen. Can't think of a better thing to strive for in running than that.

  49. Dawn L

    The act or running itself is an act of simplicity when approached as such. One only has to put shoes on their feet (or not if you prefer barefoot) and then one foot in front of the other to experience the pure joy it can give. It is the "extras" that can rob you of connecting to that joy and the freedom that only running can give. We can all have this experience if willing and able to turn off our obsession with monitoring our bodies and just experience "getting lost" in the run and nature- which is really what it is all about.

  50. Will H

    As a simple training maxim… when in doubt, do less. If you're wondering whether to run a couple more miles, run an extra 400m rep on the track, pick up the pace today, etc… Don't. This gets back to the idea that consistency is key to long term success and injury prevention that Meghan mentions. This isn't to say you should never run long or run hard, but if you have any doubts about whether or not it's a good idea to do something more or faster I think it's wise to "just say no." Now, do I actually follow this simple advice? No comment.

  51. Marcus

    The minimalist thing that I've done that has improved my running and increased my enjoyment was spawned by a race-partner's complaint toward me. During an adventure race, I was transitioning with my camelbak hose in my mouth. My partner shouts, "what are you doing!?" and I said, "I'm hydrating."

    He then tells me, "let's go! you can drink when the race is over!!"

    I think about that incident often when I'm over-gearing for a long slow run and then, remind myself to not worry about running without some things. Not only has this improved my enjoyment, but it's also improved my mental toughness.

  52. jracecar

    I think about water, and I run until I see something that interests me. I look at that thing until I am done, and then I run more and think about water.

  53. Johnny

    After a year of trying to meet training plans for specific pace goals and stay in certain heart rate parameters for different types of runs I realized I was losing my passion for the sport. Apparently my furry running companion noticed this too so she decided to eat my Suunto heart rate monitor and foot pod. Although I was mad at the mangy mutt I quickly realized how freeing simply stepping out your door and exploring the mountains on foot is. (something I realized when I started running but had forgotten) Although I love improving my abilities I decided to make the switch from training plans to running streak. Instead of worrying about times and heart rate I now just focus on consistency. Get out the door and running at least a mile everyday has both increased my passion for the sport and my abilities. I’m going on 1 month but I can already fill the effects of consistency on my ability to both preform and recover from my most grueling mountain adventures. Perhaps my dog knew she would be getting some extra trail time when she destroyed my gear.

    1. Bartman


      To you goes the honor of receiving my vote for the "best comment of the month". And a high paw to your four footed loyal companion. Made my day!


  54. nick w

    I left the heart rate monitor behind and started to run "free" by feeling with my body and listening to my breathing to determine when I am going fast enough.

  55. Anthony Waller

    My biggest running breakthrough came when I started running more miles.

    Plain and simple.

    Always enjoyed reading Duncan's writing. Remember laughing out loud at some

    of his descriptions on his great Indian running adventure…

  56. Stephanie Suvak

    I'm sitting now at my podiatrist's office. My
    frostbitten ankles from a 100 mile race a month ago has prohibited me from running
    since. Running was my stress reliever, my time for myself. I feel mentally running's absence. All I want to do is feel the thrill of bombing a downhill again. Once I am back on the trail, I will never again take a day for granted. One foot in front of the other keeps me sane and secure like nothing else.

  57. Mic Medeska

    The one thing that has dramatically improved my running is one day a week I run at a local fun run. I never know what to expect when I get there, from mileage to whom I will be running with. It means that midweek I get a complete shock to the system of planning runs/route/pace/trail. Will I run 3 miles as fast as I can to keep up with Darrin? Or will I be running 7 miles at an easy pace to chat with Susie? I'm a solo runner and trainer, but running once weekly with a group has made me faster, made me get out there when I normally may skip a day, but has also made me only run 3 miles (if that's the run for the day) when I could probably have run 12. I love it.

  58. Stephen Purdy

    My simple/ minimalist/ old school thing that has led to a 'minor' breakthrough is focusing on the weight transfer from side to side. Starting with a small, quick hip turn that allows more of your weight to be transferred from foot to foot, thereby landing with more force on the ground, and resulting with more spring in your step.

    Thanks for the articles …

  59. Gavin

    Hi Stephanie,

    How are your ankles? In my last ultra, I was afraid that my feet were frostbitten because they felt as hard as rocks (It was raining). Any thoughts on how to avoid getting frostbite ?

  60. Meghan Hicks

    boisean, thanks for your comment.

    In case you missed it in the book, among Duncan's advice for 'doing running on the cheap,' he recommends that we only wear 'cheap' clothes if they are comfortable for us. His example was cotton socks and t-shirts, as some people can wear them without issue and some people can't. He tells folks who have problems with said cotton to use an appropriate-to-them alternative.

    I, for one, can get away with wearing cotton t-shirts on runs of less than a couple hours, so I sometimes do. But cotton socks would be the death of my toes on any long run. I, thus, wouldn't touch the things, ever.

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