Every once in awhile in life you get the feeling that you are part of something big. Something that might really make a difference beyond just the small pool of people that you interact with on a regular basis. That was how I felt as I sat in a darkened conference room at the National Conservation Training Center on Sunday morning, listening to a recap of what I had learned over the previous two days.Blaise DuboisAs I indicated in my previous post, I spent the past weekend in Shepherdstown, WV attending a three-day course called “New Trends in the Prevention of Running Injuries.” The course is taught primarily by Blaise Dubois (see photo at left), a Canadian physiotherapist from Quebec City, with assistance from Sean Cannon, a physiotherapist and international level sprint canoe racer. I didn’t get a chance to look through course materials prior to arriving, and as such had little idea of what to expect. However, I figured that any knowledge I could glean about running injuries would be helpful, particularly since I am once again teaching Exercise Physiology this semester at my college. What I left with was near complete validation of just about everything I believe in with regard to running injury prevention and running footwear. I can’t tell you how good it feels to be in a room with a diverse group of forty-some people, including health care professionals, academics, shoe designers, writers, athletes, and form coaches who all largely agree that our current approach to running form and footwear is deeply flawed.I’ll start by saying that Blaise Dubois is an amazingly good speaker, and that he put an immense amount of work into developing the course (this was the first time it has been taught in the United States). He has the ability to mix humor and hard science in a way that makes his presentation engaging, convincing, and easy to follow, and his command of the relevant scientific literature is impressive. Blaise regularly works with top elite runners in Canada, and as evidence of his level of expertise, he recounted a story about how he once worked with Hicham el Guerrouj. If you don’t know who el Guerrouj is, look up who currently holds the world record for the 1500m or mile. Point being – Blaise has been entrusted to care for some of the best runners in the world, and it was reassuring to hear a highly accomplished physiotherapist talk quite honestly and frankly about the problems with modern shoes and how they alter natural running form. Blaise’s partner in teaching the course, Sean Cannon, also did a great job, and the two have a great back-and-forth and kept things light despite the complex nature of the topics being discussed. If you ever get a chance to attend this course, do it – it’s well worth it (for more info, visit the course website here).The expertise present in the room wasn’t just limited to Blaise and Sean. Other presenters included Jay Dicharry from the University of Virginia SPEED Clinic – quite possibly the most technologically advanced gait analysis lab in the world (check out this video series on Jay’s lab by Running Times). Dr. Ray McClanahan is a podiatrist at NW Foot & Ankle in Portland, Oregon who prefers to try and restore the foot to its natural state rather than rely on orthotic intervention as a first line of treatment for foot pathologies (he’s also a darn good runner with a 5K PR of 13:56!). Dr. Craig Richards, known best for writing the paper that questioned the role of modern running shoes in injury prevention, flew in from Australia to attend and speak. Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, a family physician from Shepherdstown and owner of the TR Treads Natural Running and Walking Store organized and spoke at the course. Other attendees include Danny Dreyer, form coach and author of Chi Running, Ian Adamson from Newton Running, Jeff Horowitz from Competitor.com, and Peter Vigneron from Runner’s World. The course is geared toward medical professionals, and a variety of physical therapists (many from the military), orthopedic physicians, chiropractors, and personal trainers were in attendance. It was really quite a diverse and highly knowledgeable crowd.