The modern day weather report, available at any given moment if there is internet access, is a boon to the barefoot runner. It may only be semi-reliable within any 24 hour period, and I may look out the window to verify the general trend, but more than one time it has helped me get in a run at an optimum time of day. Such was the case 4 days after I ran in the Shamrock Shuffle.
I had needed a rest day on my normal running day, the day before, and was considering another day of rest, when I checked the weather report. It informed me that that day was going to be the nicest by 20 degrees for nearly a week (high of 63°F compared to upcoming highs of 45°F). Even then, it would rain off and on, but mostly in the afternoon. It was time to seize the moment!
Even though I was pleased with my Shamrock Shuffle results, I had had some new problems with heart palpitations during the race. I didn’t want to find myself in a similar predicament out in the middle of another run, but I knew I needed to “get back on the horse” or resign myself to sitting on the couch for the rest of my life. Anyone who knows me, knows the couch idea is not a good one….
Since the heart palpitations hadn’t even started until about mile 5 in the race, I figured I might as well try a long distance run (long for me). I set a goal of 9 miles, but at a relaxed pace. I chose a route with a few hills because 1) Coach/Husband Greg said I needed more hill work, and 2) that is when the heart palpitations started, so I might as well test that much.
The pace was another matter. This was to be what I will call a “recovery run.” I’m not sure what other people’s recovery runs are like, but I wouldn’t be pushing the pace, meaning I wouldn’t require a certain pace of myself. I would relax and run, which may seem antithetical, but when I am able to run an 8:30 minute mile average for 6.2 miles, there is still some slack to be moving slower and still be running.
This slower pace was made more likely by the fact that I was going to be totally barefoot on a route with quite a bit of rough asphalt. I packed my Moc3’s in one hip bag, and my phone and lemonade mix in another. I left Kiwi, my dog and faithful running partner, gazing sadly at me from the yard. I didn’t want any other factors on the run this time. Just me and the elements.
It had already rained enough that morning to create large puddles, but I avoided them for the first couple of miles because my feet weren’t warmed up yet. When people ask me about barefoot running, they are usually surprised that I think about these things. They just figure that someone who runs without shoes is haphazard and possibly an idiot. I think the opposite is true. I am likely to be much more aware of my running surfaces and level of impact than a shod runner can be even if they are trying.
The hills in the first couple of miles went well. No heart sensations at all. Couldn’t even tell it was beating. 😉 There wouldn’t be any more real hills until the end of the run.
As soon as the first mile, I began to get hit with very occasional large drops of rain, but the sun came out to warm the pavement now and then. There were more dry spots than wet ones. About half way through the run, that all changed. Now, I wasn’t getting drenched, but the ground was completely wet. It was really the first time the temperature and the moisture combination has allowed me to run in the rain! My feet HAD warmed up enough by then, so I felt very happy about the whole situation.
Part of my run took me through a main street in town, where I hoped I wouldn’t cause an accident as I ran by bare footed. I was dressed like a runner in my neon orange shorts, long sleeve white running shirt, and yellow neon baseball style hat. I was running confidently, so I think there was only mild confusion. I saw a few faces, but mostly I was watching to make sure I was crossing streets safely. It takes a little more concentration to watch both traffic and glance at the ground.
The rain did make the ground feel a little different. Some of the sidewalks were a bit slippery, but mostly I think it moderated some of the roughness of the asphalt. Probably the same phenomenon that cars don’t like. It wasn’t enough slipperiness to lead to harmful rubbing on my soles, though. I definitely had plenty of traction and still had to be aware of how my feet were landing.
At about mile 8.5, my legs were getting tired, but I had another couple of miles to get home. Plus, I wanted to try the “big” 1/4 mile hill on the last of the route. About a block away from me, someone bellowed “… your shoes, baby!” I ignored them. They didn’t strike me as the teachable type. It did make me want to get away, so I picked up the pace a little.
I had made it up that hill and to mile 9.5, when my feet and my legs gave me the distinct message that they were done. Still half a mile from home, I called a daughter who was standing by in case I needed a ride. Have I mentioned that I love my mobile phone and I suggest that everyone carry one when they are running!? Right as I was calling her, it began to pour rain. I had to walk to stay warm.
When I got home I checked my feet, as is my habit. I think JRR Tolkien was a bit confused about why hobbits go barefoot. (See The Hobbit, chapter 1, about page 2) They have leathery feet BECAUSE of this healthy lifestyle choice! This being about my third year of doing so much barefoot activity, the soles of my feet are getting quite leathery. They are basically smooth and easy to clean. I naturally walk more quietly, plus I have amazing balance now, running or not. The tops of my feet are not hairy, partly because I’ve had laser hair removal, but I think I might be a hobbit! One on the Bagginses side, probably. And if I am, I am in the prime of my life. 🙂