March 22, 2016 by scratchtype1
5.8 miles tonight, barefoot. It had been a long time since I last ran barefoot, because I can be a wuss some and don’t like it when the travails of winter put a lot of grit and pebbles onto the road surfaces. I almost feared too that my feet had been softening up too much during the wintertime, working a job where the dress code insists I need to wear shoes and socks.
But out I went. Only a tee shirt and shorts, all the equipment that was needed to run. Well maybe not really. Only the equipment that was needed not to offend people’s sensibilities and public standards of decency.
Very quickly, after starting the watch and breaking into the running stride, I could quickly tell that the left foot’s landing was slightly off. Even though when running barefoot I use either thin sandals or the most minimalist shoes I have been able to find, the many miles of running in those had led the left foot into landing not quite right. How did I know that? I could feel it through all those nerves wired into the soles of the feet, the nerves that evolution put there to teach us how to run.
But after a few hundred yards, the foot was feeling right again and landing comfortably.
A little after 2 miles, a bicyclist caught up to me and slowed alongside me.
“How do you do that?” he yelled.
“I just run.”
And that’s the truth of it.
I suppose though it’s really hard sometimes for people to grasp. Our culture teaches us that shoes are necessities. Around that, we develop rationalizations and construct frameworks that tell us something can’t be done or is impossible somehow. Then, even though that bicyclist may have heard and read about people running barefoot, actually seeing it is a jolt.
I understand that. If there’s something that running, and running barefoot, and streaking has taught me, it’s that probably all of us have things that we casually put to the side as supremely difficult or impossible. I’ve written about the idea before in a blog post called “Beyond the Impossible.” Yet over the last few years I have found that those impossibles weren’t so impossible.
I once thought that as a type 1 diabetic it would be impossible or very difficult to do runs going up over an hour in time. I was wrong.
I once thought that it was impossible to run more than 150 miles in a month. I was wrong.
It seemed impossible to run a half-marathon in under 2 hours for me. I was wrong.
It seemed impossible to run every day of the week, even if only for a week or two. I was wrong.
It seemed impossible to run barefoot, enjoy it and love running.
Lordy, I was wrong.
Tonight’s run didn’t exactly go as planned. I had intended to keep it very easy and ready myself to run hard tomorrow morning with some intervals. But instead, the beauty of the sun, but cool enough air and wind, and the feel of the feet dancing over the asphalt and pebbles and patches of dried mud, I got fast and let the legs fly open like scissors that wanted to cut a path through the impossibilities of life. Electric scissors, all the nerves stimulated in the feet and transmitting information up to the brain. Live this, they said, learn this, they said. You were wrong but was it so bad to learn that you were wrong?
Not at all. I would be much poorer if I had never learned how I was wrong.