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For the love of running

February 20, 2012

I know I said I was going to wear shoes to my son’s school in an effort to save his deteriorating reputation, but this week I will be at his school in my naked feet, running a 5K race benefitting the PTO. Not only will this be my first time barefoot at his school, but it will also be my first barefoot race, and I’ll admit to having a few reservations.

The shod stance
Barefoot runners have a completely different attitude and approach to running. You will not find barefoot runners plodding along with gritted teeth, looking like they’re about to collapse, forcing themselves to complete just one more mile. Shod runners, on the other hand? Well, I can’t tell you how many runners I have talked to who admit to disliking running and only do it because they want to lose weight or because it is the most convenient way to exercise.  Shod runners also tend to be competitive. They’ll run through the pain to finish a race, achieve a PR or simply prove that they won’t quit, even when for the sake of their health, they probably should.

The barefoot approach
Barefoot runners are different. Because every nerve in their feet connects to the ground with each step, they are much more in tune with their bodies. With childlike joy, they get out and run for the sheer thrill and experience, not caring how many calories they’re burning. They run at a pace that is comfortable and are not concerned with mileage or PRs. As I have taken off my shoes to run, I have found my attitude changing in this direction. I no longer push through pain. I recognize it for what it is: my body telling me to stop. Now I frequently go out for a run without a preconceived goal. I just run until I don’t feel like running anymore.

But I haven’t completely given up my competitive streak and the truth is, I can’t run as fast in my bare feet as I can in my Vibram FiveFingers. Last fall I ran the 5K race at my daughter’s school in my FiveFingers, finishing in 21 minutes and change. I was the first woman to cross the finish line by a couple of minutes, coming in second place overall, and it felt awesome.

Crossing the finish line in my FiveFingers at my daughter's school's 5K last fall.

However, I won’t be setting any records at my son’s school this Saturday. If I can do it in under 30 minutes, it’ll be a fluke, and knowing that I will be finishing with the back of the pack drives me crazy. Still, I will run barefooted because I know that in my FiveFingers I let my form get sloppy, which puts myself at a greater risk for injury. I started running barefoot so that I could do what I love for as long as I can—hopefully until I die. I know it seems counterintuitive to the shod world, but I am truly safer running without shoes than with shoes.

Four-letter running
Oh, and one more thing… Occasionally I hit a tiny piece of gravel on my runs which causes me sudden and instantaneous pain. I have an entirely different vocabulary for these moments, words that are more appropriate for R-rated war movies than elementary school fun runs. Well, so much for salvaging my son’s reputation.

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From → Running

2 Comments
  1. Elizabeth permalink

    You go girl! I am really impressed that you have accomplished this much. Byron still can’t fathom why Jack, Rachael and I never wear shoes.

  2. I got pulled in by your post comparing breastfeeding to barefooting. Great post. I do have a recommendation to help with the gravel on the roads. If you haven’t already found and read Barefoot Running Step by Step by Barefoot Ken Bob, I highly recommend it. I had been running barefoot for nearly a year when his book was released. After reading the first chapter, my running form changed significantly . . . for the better. Happy barefooting and keep up the good writing!

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