Majo Srnik – Barefoot or Bust – To the Copper Canyons

The craze of barefoot running has seemingly died down since the release of the insanely famous book, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, featuring the tribe of super athletes who run in sandals across rugged terrain in the Copper Canyons of Mexico for days on end, called the Tarahumara. However, there are still some legitimate converts and fanatics for who this is way of life. Once again,  if you’ve been in that bunker avoiding the Apocalypse, find out more about the book Born to Run here. 

We chatted to Elite ultra runner, Majo Srnik who has left the Canadian winter behind him and is about to tackle the hot, dry conditions in the Caballo Blanco Copper Canyons 50 Mile Ultra in Mexico this Sunday March 5th. Majo has made his way with a bunch of other runners, including Barefoot Ted McDonald, who featured significantly in the book to take on this race which promises to be a once in a lifetime experience. Majo will be doing the race in his Luna Sandals because that’s how Majo rolls.

In 2016 Majo, completed the Tahoe 200 Miler, coming 8th and Sinister 7 100 Miler, placing 4th.

Find out below what his motivation is, how he approaches bare foot running and what going down to Mexico for this proverbial bucket list item means to him.

 How long have you been running in sandals or barefoot? 

MS: Well, I actually haven’t been running long distances for a long time. This is only my 6th year running now and competing in ultras. However since I started running I was always super motivated to go long and always looking forward to running a little further on my next run instead of focusing on speed. I never cared about speed actually, not even nowadays. I guess I just love running long and enjoying the nature around me. Once my running started to reach about the 30K distance, I noticed it was becoming a very painful experience. I just couldn’t imagine how people sustain so much pain when running. I knew something wasn’t right and I started digging into the cause. Friends recommended the book Born to Run. This was the game changer for me. Soon after I discovered the concept of barefoot running, which is not actually about literally running barefoot all the time, but about changing the way we run, learning proper ways to move, body posture, relaxation etc. Once you’re trying to move naturally you need to change your footwear and that’s where Luna Sandals or Vivobarefoot shoes came into the picture. It’s been 5 years since I haven’t had any other type of shoe on my feet, besides skiing boots. 

 What are your goals for the event Copper Canyons Ultra?

MS: Honestly, I am super excited about being part of the Luna team and perhaps personally becoming a part of the story I read about. I am super excited to just enjoy every minute being in the Copper Canyons and being able to run with Rarámuris (Tarahumara) and watching their feet, learning more about the running culture and the ways they live. So, I’m definitely not going there with big racing plans. It’s all about being in the moment and enjoying everything. 

 Will you do the whole race in sandals?

MS: Yeah absolutely looking forward to leaving shoes here in the frozen land (Canada)! 

  Did you do the whole of Tahoe 200 in sandals or also in Vivo?

MS: I ran about 230km in Sandals, made out of recycled Michelin Tires yes! Then my feet became super sensitive from all the dry sand and dusty trails as they started to kind of crack on the bottom, so I switched into my Vivobarefoot and finished in those. 

Majo at the Tahoe 200 Last year

  What are your race plans for the year?

MS: I want to use the trip to Mexico as kind of a season starter and in the lead up to the Caballo Blanco race running as much as I can, exploring the canyons, then running the actual race and come home with good mileage. After that maybe Calgary Marathon 50K, just because it’s there. Sinister 7 looks likely as I love that race and I will use it again to increase mileage. Iron legs 50 Miler is also likely since it’s four weeks before UTMB, which is definitely my focus race this year! After UTMB maybe I will do Beyond The Ultimate Desert Ultra in Africa if everything goes right. So, it should be a great year I guess. 

 How do you condition your body and feet to run so far in sandals and also over technical trail?

MS: Not sure how to answer this… you need to find the flow I guess, it feels very natural to me and super, super enjoyable! Also, you have to be open minded and stop thinking you’re going to trip everywhere and just listen to your body. It feels very right to me. 

 Ever hit your toe on a rock that hurt and you had to sit down?

MS: Yes! Once last year I was running down from Moose Mountain and I was looking up to the sky at a beautiful eagle flying by and kicked a rock. That was just stupid of me and no matter If I was in sandals or shoes the outcome would be exactly the same.

 What is your advice for anybody wanting to transition to barefoot?

MS: Definitely try find a great coach, someone who runs “barefoot ” and knows how to teach other people to run the same way. I actually kind of figured it out myself and I wasn’t exactly able to explain to others, so I went to Prague last year and started my barefoot coaching experience with Lee Saxby. The guy is amazing and definitely knows his stuff!  Also, you have to think about the fact you’re going to learn how to run once again and need to change the old habits. Time and distance goals will have to wait for a period. 

 How are you feeling about joining the Tarahumara and all those who have gone before you in the Copper Canyons and where it all started? 

MS: Yeah absolutely stoked about this! Like I said it’s dream come true for me! It means a lot to me being able to go there with Barefoot Ted and all those fantastic people so I’m super excited! 

Majo and the famous Barefoot Ted McDonald

Good luck Majo!

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