Barefoot Monologues

A Journey of the Sole

The 100-up Challenge


A still from McDougall's 100-up video (click to URL)

The other day, Chris McDougall, NY Times columnist and author of Born to Run, published a piece on the importance of good running form called The Once and Future Way to Run. In it, he describes his concern over the way that barefoot and minimalist running footwear has not by itself deleted the heel strike, or magically created a bunch of runners with perfect form, as once surmised it would. He writes about the New York City Barefoot Run in September of this year, an event that I attended. During the run, Peter Larson, an evolutionary biologist at St. Anselm College, filmed all of the runner’s scantily-clad feet. And despite our lack of shoes, the video caught a ton of us heel striking.

I like to believe I wasn’t one of those heel strikers, but even still the thought makes me want to re-evaluate my form. For the last several months I have been perpetually injured. I have been in the mindset that my injuries have been caused by overuse or some other excuse that helps me to more easily reject the idea that my form needs work. But if I’m getting injured at all, something is missing. It’s either a lack of good form, strength, basic ability or a little of everything…I need an overhaul.

At the end of this article McDougall posted a video introducing what’s called the “100-up Method.” It’s an exercise developed in 1874 by a runner named W.S. George. George didn’t have enough time to run during his lunch hour, so he did this exercise instead. The 100-up exercise made him a smoother, lighter runner with perfect form, and over time he was able to earn world records in several distances.

So I watched the vid a few times and thought to myself, hey, what the hell, I’m going to do this. I’m giving myself this challenge: practice 100-up every day for a month, and see if it does anything. If I like the results, keep doing it.

Today I got to 68 “minor ups” before I wonked out. The rule is that as soon as your form starts to slide, you stop and call it a day. I look forward to seeing how this goes.

So Check out the video, folks. Try it for yourself. It might make a world of difference, it might not. But I think it’s worth a go. I hope you’ll check back in a little while and let me know how it went for you.

10 thoughts on “The 100-up Challenge

  1. Thank you for posting this. I’m not a barefoot runner, but I love the info you post as well as your running insight. I’m relatively new to running and totally addicted. However, I’m currently out of commission due to plantar fasciitis. This vid is great advice and I bet will help tons in my own overhaul. Thanks for your own advice as well. Love reading your blog!

    • Thank you! Plantar fasciitis sucks. Hope you get it resolved quickly and get back to running ASAP. Perhaps look into natural running and good form, it has helped me quite a lot. Thanks for reading!

  2. Great post! I’ll have to try this – very interesting.

  3. Trisha, my friend Justin Owings (who I think you met at the NYC Barefoot Run) just set up a site called Might be cool to take the 30-day challenge he proposes and share your results on his website.

  4. Hey Trisha, I just discovered your blog after Googling the 100 Up challenge….I’ve just read Chris’s article in the Times and watched the video too.

    I presume that the progression from ‘minor’ to ‘major’ is based on your ability to perform 100 ‘minors’ perfectly before moving onto trying to perform 100 ‘majors’ perfectly?

    I’m now adding this challenge / drill to my daily routine for sure. It just feels so great & natural.

    Thanks for the post and the blog.


    • Thanks for reading, Mark. I’m new to the 100-up, certainly, but yes I do gather that once you get the minor 100 up down pat, you move on. What I think I’m going to do is wait until I can get to 100 without burning hip flexor muscles, and then move on. I may even propose to always do a set of minors before a set of majors, just to warm up. I’ll be posting my thoughts weekly.

  5. I’m relatively new to the whole idea of barefoot running… but it all makes sense to me and I’m slowly becoming a believer… especially with the injuries i get. Thanks for the video of the 100-up, I’m gonna try it out.

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