Gustave Doré's illustration to Dante's Inferno. Plate I: Canto I, Opening lines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the middle of my training for a barefoot half marathon, I discovered that the old path was lost. Though I did NOT awaken in a dark wood, new thoughts splashed through the volatile chemical cocktail of my mind. The sexy electronic voice of the RunKeeper lady announced, “Time: blah blah minutes, blah blah Seconds. Distance: blah blah miles.” When she finished speaking, the adolescent voice of a blue haired, nose ringed teenage boy filled the void.
“Hey, where are your shoes guy?”
If you have read this blog at all, you will know those words bring out the Hulk in me. I created a podcast and wrote some posts about some of my kick-ass comebacks to that annoying question. (On New Years, I came close to punching a jerk who kept harassing me during my morning run.) But I ignored teenager this time. As he stood there blinking, his mouth slightly agape, I took a deep sip of the crisp Oregon air and realized that barefoot running has taught me three crucial lessons about my world.
The same terrain isn’t always the same.
The ever changing textures and temperature that the same patch of ground offers amazes me. The same route offers many varied delights that change according to the time of day, the weather, and the stride. Shod runners completely miss the world of sensations beneath their feet.
Crossing Comfort Zones Can Make Some People Cross.
When most adults see barefoot runners, they tend to assume that there is something wrong with the barefoot runner, not with their world view. Because they can’t run without shoes or or because they know nothing about barefoot running, they assume that what is true for them should be true for everyone else. That said, I have had interesting conversations with people who were genuinely interested in barefoot running. Breaking out of the comfort zone is good for your sole (Yes, I totally abuse that homophone). Every success I’ve enjoyed forced me to step outside the cozy prison of comfort.
I’m much stronger than I think. When my gaze hits the rough concrete before it gently lands on my feet, I marvel that my body can withstand the impacts of the unforgiving concrete. But it does. My feet, in fact, thrive on the hard pavement. I find it’s easier to run on asphalt than it is to run on the graveled part of the Tickle Creek Trail. Of course, the asphalt is not as soft as mud or grass, but it’s relatively comfortable, when your soles are up for it.
If you’ve never tried running without shoes, give it a try. Here are some resources to get started safely:
With my previous job, I got so busy I missed the tragic news about Born to Run legend Micah True (aka “Caballo Blanco“.)
It’s odd that someone I’ve never met or spoken to could have such a monumental influence on my life. You wouldn’t be reading this blog if it weren’t for Micha True’s manic itch to run crazy distances in even crazier terrain with the Raramuri.
That’s NOT hyperbole. I’m a barefoot runner because of Caballo Blanco. If it weren’t for him, MacDougal may never have written the bestselling bookBorn to Run and I wouldn’t have kicked off my shoes to run again.
Since I am slightly Irish, I give this famous blessing to the fallen Caballo Blanco.
May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.
(And by “God” I mean “universe”; and by “meet again,” I mean “meet at all in the great beyond.” And “Yes!” This is blessing given to the living. But all that crap ruins the rhyme scheme and sentiment. Somehow, I think Micah understands or would have understood, and he would have shown that understanding with a quick nod of his dusty head and a fleeting smile across his cracked lips, before he said, “Run Free, Brother, Run Free.”)
Have you always wanted to run a half marathon? Most people can achieve the feat. Unfortunately, many programs don’t give barefoot runners enough time to recuperate. This regime gives a person one day of rest between runs. The rest periods allow for recovery, thickening of the foot pads, and time to write blog posts. This program is also good for a person who is transitioning into minimalist/ “barefoot” shoes.
Maybe you ran a full marathon in 2011 and just want t take it easy this summer. Maybe you’re wondering which barefoot running shoes work best. You might ask yourself questions such as, “Are there running shoes for mid to long distances?”
Sandals are my personal choice for all distances. BUT I did buy a pair of Merrel Road Gloves for work and I love how comfortable they are. Vibrams five fingers suck!!!! They look stupid, they stink, and they give satanic blisters. They are the pandora’s box of running shoes. Next to sandals, Merrell’s are dang good. Enough five fingers, sports shoes, barefeet, running without shoes keyword stuffing. Onto the program:
The system focuses on “training the aerobic system” with foods and movement. It’s about learning to improve your endurance without sacrificing health. In fact, Dr. Maffetone reveals that endurance can lead to healthier, happier, and longer life. He also dispels the myths about training: “… the human engine doesn’t need to be fueled on suffering…”
If you’ve always wanted to run a marathon, a triathlon, or any other type of race that requires endurance, but were concerned about your health and time, buy this book.
I am recovering from a strained soleus. No I did NOT strain running barefoot. I strained it because I thought I was strengthening my Achilles. I did eccentric heel drops, an effective Achilles strengthener and treatment for sore Achilles, the heels drops overloaded my sore soleus, I kept doing them, turning a sore muscle into a full blown strain. That’s where the crappy bike riding comes in. Whilst riding, I realized why I am a barefoot runner and not a bicyclist. (I would just ride my unicycle, but the unicycle is different animal from the bike. It is much better. Unlike a two wheeled bike, the unicycle swings all of your leg and core into action. I know that just mounting it would put pressure on my tender soleus.)
Bicycles boil your but. Even the soft seats are a pain after a while. Having the constant pressure of the hard saddle leads to to a super sore, bruised butt.
Bicycles cost big bucks. They’re not exactly money pits and they do beat rising gas pricing. But they are expensive. And do require maintenance from time to time.
Ugly Clothes. You have to wear spandex shorts, a tight shirt, and a helmet, none of which are very comfortable or fashionable.
Flat tires and maintenance. Changing tires on the side of the road is a hassle, even if you have the right tools.
Just a quad workout. Yes, bikes do work your arms too, but the major muscle is the quad. My quads are fine, I hate they way they look when I bike a like. My leg feels out of balance. Barefoot running gives you sexy balanced legs and feet.