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Getting back to the fun in the run!

March 21, 2009


After training barefoot for almost two months the Mercer Island half marathon had arrived. I had battled cold weather, numb feet, and a chronic ankle injury during my training. I really wanted to run the marathon barefoot and I believe adding that pressure was the cause of me pushing my barefoot ability too far. The end result was the ankle injury that took away from training time and this left me questioning my ability to run without further injury.

How does an athlete come to the conclusion that the dreams they have had and the goals they have set might have to wait for another day? From the outside people may think the answer is simple, but in my mind it is far from simple process. My goals are fueled by pride and ego, two driving forces that have the ability to override common sense making the decision process anything but rational. My ego would rather risk injury than let a goal go unachieved and pride will mortgage the future for the spotlight today.

The thought of putting on a pair of racing flats for the first time in a couple of months for a shakedown run seemed like a failure, almost like my barefoot status would be taken away from me. I had started this all for the joy of running, the joy of feeling connected to earth barefoot, and that had all been consumed by pride and ego. I was actually worried about what people would think if I put on shoes to run. I was way off track and I wanted to get back to the humble beginnings of my barefoot journey. Those times were absent of expectations and the only goal was to have fun and learn to run like we were intended.

I had not run more than twelve miles in a week for the last month and I had decided to put on my shoes and go for a run to see how my ankle would feel. I was able to run without aggravating it and I still had thoughts about going barefoot Sunday morning. I would make it a decision to be made on race day even though deep down I had already given up on going barefoot. For some reason holding on to that last bit of hope gave me some comfort in coming to grips with my decision. Just reading this makes me laugh, you would think I was in the Olympics or something! Welcome to my world!

Race day had come and I packed my Five Fingers and racing flats into my bag and headed out the door barefoot. The weather was cold and wet making my decision not to run barefoot an easy one. I decided to make it about having fun and not risking injury. My plan was to run slow for the first half, work on my form, enjoy the people, and run my butt off at the end if I felt up to it. When I put the shoes on I was back on track, that dose of humility that I was not ready to run barefoot was like magic. The fear melted away and I realized that the only person that was concerned was me. I was free to run and have fun again and it didn’t matter if I had shoes on or not. The gun went off in the cold rain and I was happy to be there going for a run with bunch of nuts on Sunday morning. Nuts you say? We have to be nuts. Who else would pay to go for a run in the rain on a cold Sunday morning?

The first couple of miles most people go out pretty fast and this was no exception. I kept pace on my watch and slowed my pace within the second mile and settled in to an easy run at conversation pace with Tom. My body was feeling great and my ankle was perfect gliding along with little effort. The miles just rolled by and before I knew it I was at mile six in about 62 minutes. I felt really relaxed and I decided to shift gears and see if I could stay relaxed while running a quicker pace. Even though I was not running barefoot the training was paying off with a much improved form and efficiency. I was gliding along passing people who had passed me in the first six miles and it felt so fun. The miles continued to click off and I would look down at my watch and figure when I might finish. Wow I had never run this fast before could I keep it up? I was able to keep it up and I finished the final 7 miles in about 41 minutes and that was quite a feeling. Success would sum it up quite nicely.

Another great lesson in the journey of life, I had won in my mind and I felt at peace knowing I had made the right decision. I felt great, my ankle didn’t hurt, and I received a gift that was unexpected. I ran faster than I ever have before and it was in surrendering that led me to the freedom of running for fun. The journey continues!

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